What Dodgers Must Do This Offseason to Recover from Failed Blockbuster Trade
The Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves playing their 162nd game of the season on Wednesday with absolutely nothing to play for.
At least for this season.
With their loss to the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday, the Dodgers were officially eliminated from playoff contention. This despite the fact they added sluggers Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez, brought in Josh Beckett and Joe Blanton to bolster the rotation, added Shane Victorino to fortify the top of the batting order, all the right pieces they felt they needed to get over the hump.
It still didn't work.
Before even making these deals, the Dodgers raced out to the best record in baseball. Then came the injury to star center fielder Matt Kemp, followed by a 9-17 slump. After adding almost $300 million in overall payroll commitments, they still came up one game short.
The trade that brought Gonzalez, Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto was supposed to be the final stroke from the brush of GM Ned Colletti. Following the trade, the Dodgers went 17-18—not exactly playoff-caliber.
Now, Colletti, team president Stan Kasten and others must huddle in a bunker somewhere in LA and figure out what went wrong, and what they need to do to right the ship for next season.
Here are some suggestions.
1. Forget About What Happened and Focus on Next Season
Chemistry can be a funny thing in baseball, or in any sport for that matter. You can put a cavalcade of stars on the same team and just expect that they will blow away the opposition night after night.
The 2011 Miami Heat immediately comes to mind.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together in the summer of 2010 and everyone naturally expected the Heat to win right away.
That didn't happen. It took another year.
That could well be the case for the Los Angeles Dodgers as well.
One look at this team and anyone can see the talent is evident. Reliever Jamey Wright is one of them.
"We’ll get a little hungry this offseason and come back do some damage next season."
I happen to agree, the Dodgers indeed could be scary next season. While many will talk about all of the trades messing with chemistry, there simply wasn't enough time for this team to gel as a unit.
However, give them an offseason, get everyone healthy (Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley) and this team could indeed inflict some damage next season.
2. Bolster Starting Pitching
There is a very good chance that the Los Angeles Dodgers could be starting the 2013 season without two of their top starting pitchers.
Chad Billingsley, out since late August with pain in his right elbow, will continue rehabbing that elbow at the Dodgers' training facility in Arizona. It has yet to be determined that he needs Tommy John surgery, but if that diagnosis comes, Billingsley is out for the season.
Ace Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to pitch the final game of the season against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday. However, he's been playing with lingering pain in his right hip. If surgery is required, Kershaw could be out until at least mid-May.
Ted Lilly, out since late may with left shoulder discomfort, underwent arthroscopic surgery two weeks ago in what was described as a "cleanup" surgery. Lilly is expected to be fully healthy by spring training. However, Lilly turns 37 in January, so will he able to bounce back quickly?
Three main cogs in the Dodgers' rotation, and three major question marks.
You can bet the farm that GM Ned Colletti will be on the lookout for quality impact starters.
3. Explore a Deal with Miami Marlins
Considering the disappointing season experienced by Miami, it might behoove Los Angeles Dodgers GM Ned Colletti to make a call and explore some options.
First and foremost, ask about Josh Johnson. Johnson has one more season remaining on his four-year, $39 million contract and got through the entire season without injury. Considering Johnson's previous history of shoulder issues, that's a major plus.
Second, it wouldn't hurt to inquire about Jose Reyes' availability. Yes, there's a bit of a logjam on the left side of the infield for the Dodgers. Hanley Ramirez, Luis Cruz and Dee Gordon, along with an injured Juan Uribe, are currently in place.
However, Reyes is only on the books for $10 million next season, and with expiring contracts for Uribe and Ted Lilly after next season, it at least creates a little wiggle room.
It's at the very least something to think about.
4. Hang onto Brandon League
As mentioned in an earlier slide, chemistry can be a funny thing. Sometimes for players, switching teams can alter their inner chemistry as well.
Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Brandon League underwent that inner chemistry change following his trade from the Seattle Mariners.
"Right around the trade deadline I said to myself, `The only thing that can turn this season around is if I get traded to a contending team,"' League said last week. " `It doesn't matter if I close. Just go to a contending team, make a playoff push, that's the only thing that can turn this season around for me.'
It definitely happened. League has allowed only one earned run since August 17, a span of 21 appearance covering 22.1 innings. League collected two wins and six saves during that period as well.
League, however, is a free agent, and at $5 million this year could see a raise. It may behoove the Dodgers to convince League that a two-or-three deal to stay in LA would be a wise career move.
Plus, closer Kenley Jansen will be undergoing offseason surgery to correct an atrial fibrillation issue in his heart. Having a back-up plan doesn't sound like such a bad idea.
5. Do NOT Fire Don Mattingly
With all that's happened with the Los Angeles Dodgers since the beginning of last season, it would be understandable for manager Don Mattingly to feel like he walked into an impossible situation.
However, even with the drama of the front office last season, Mattingly guided his team to a winning record. This season, more changes occurred and Mattingly again dealt with many behind the scenes issues, not to mention a rash of injuries and personnel changes.
The disappointing end to the 2012 season was not in any way Mattingly's fault. GM Ned Colletti pretty much confirmed that by announcing that Mattingly would be back next season.
For all the fans looking for a scapegoat, Mattingly is not that person. He has kept a level head through all of the vast amounts of drama and change, and the players have his back.
"He's the ultimate player's manager," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "I never played for anybody quite like him. He opens every Spring Training, and the first thing he promises us is he'll never forget how hard this game was to play. I've had coaches in the past who kind of forget that. It's a tough, tough game."
It is a tough game. And it's even tougher when dealing with off-the-field distractions. Give Mattingly a year without those distractions, and we'll see just how effective he can be.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.