Heading out of the 2008 season, many Los Angeles Dodgers fans were saying that the team would die a slow, painful death if they didn't sign Manny Ramirez during the offseason. But as the Dodgers head into spring training without Manny, as of today, it is apparent that the team is solid even if they don't sign him.
The infield, with the recent addition of Orlando Hudson, is one of the top infields in baseball. James Loney at first base, Orlando Hudson at second, Rafael Furcal at short and Casey Blake at third give the Dodgers one of the best fielding and hitting infields in baseball.
Loney and Blake are both capable of hitting 25 plus home runs. Both can hit in the clutch and both can play the field like a gold glover. Furcal and Hudson will make-up one of the best infield combos the Dodgers have seen since Izturis and Cora. Not to mention they can both hit.
The outfield, even without Manny, is as solid as they come. Matt Kemp, Andre Either and Juan Pierre leave very little to be desired. Kemp can hit for power, Either can drive in runs and Pierre can help the Dodgers be one of the fastest teams in baseball.
The only issue the Dodgers have heading into the season is the lack of a real No. 1 starter.
Billingsley is too young to truly understand just how good he is. Sure he had some great performances last season, but this season he will be facing batters and managers who now have something to study about him and how he pitches. If he doesn't switch it up, he may very well get hammered.
If Jason Schmidt stays healthy, he could be the shinning star in the rotation. Randy Wolf is a washed-up has-been and should not have been signed.
Clayton Kershaw is a great pitcher, but he needs a bit of an attitude adjustment. His complaints last season about getting sent to the minors to make room for Penny was a sign of his youth, but he needs to get it in check if he wants to succeed in this game.
The bullpen is pretty solid as well, but it remains to be seen if Broxton has the stamina to be a closer for 162 games. He is a great set-up man, but his closing skills leave a little to be desired. It would have been better for the Dodgers to hold on to Saito for one more season. He is as close to lights out as any closer in baseball.
Even though the Dodgers will still be contenders without or without Manny, the truth is that the Dodgers could be unstoppable with him.
Ned Colletti is a master of putting teams together and should be commended for assembling a solid Dodger squad. He left room for Manny, but did not sacrifice anything in the process. Though if they do sign Manny, they will most likely have to trade one of their outfielders, mostly likely Pierre, for some pitching.
If the team stays healthy and they can get another starting pitcher, look for the Dodgers to repeat as National League West Winners.