How much pressure is Don Mattingly under this year?
With new ownership that's created a seemingly unlimited payroll, the Los Angeles Dodgers will likely be involved in any rumor involving a player for years to come.
Whether it's a trade or free-agent signing, the Dodgers are what the New York Yankees used to be, considered to be in the mix for anyone who can help them win, regardless of the cost.
Three weeks remain until the Dodgers report for spring training in Glendale, Ariz. The roster is overflowing with more players than general manager Ned Colletti can take into the season, which will likely result in plenty of transactions between now and the Dodgers' April 1 season opener.
But of the rumors currently floating around the Dodgers and manager Don Mattingly, which are fact and which are fiction? Let's take a look.
Will any MLB manager be under more pressure this upcoming season than Don Mattingly?
The Dodgers' Opening Day payroll will exceed $200 million. After adding Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Brandon League and Zack Greinke over the past six months, the expectations are sky-high.
At the very least, Mattingly will be expected to make the playoffs.
But it's possible that anything less than a World Series championship could result in Mattingly being dismissed. If the team gets off to a bad start or doesn't seem to be getting his players to respond, he might not even make it through the season.
Mattingly is in the final year of his three-year contract. A manager with little job security might be perceived as ineffective, especially with a team expected to win big. Players signed for multiple years might tune out Mattingly, figuring he won't be around long.
According to the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke, Mattingly asked the Dodgers to exercise his contract option for 2014. The team declined, which effectively put the manager on notice.
Publicly, the Dodgers front office might say that everything will take care of itself if the team wins as expected. That might be true. But the message is clear: Win or else.
Fact or Fiction? Fact
How confident are the Dodgers in Luis Cruz as their third baseman?
Cruz is projected to be the starter after a strong 2012 season during which he hit .297 with a .753 OPS. According to FanGraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating, he also fielded his position well, saving nearly seven more runs defensively than the average third baseman.
But was that performance a one-year fluke for Cruz? In his previous three MLB seasons, his highest batting average was .235. His highest OPS was .588.
Though the Dodgers are apparently willing to give Cruz a shot, they might want some insurance. According to the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin, the team wants to talk to Scott Rolen about a possible contract.
Rolen batted .254 with a .716 OPS, eight home runs and 39 RBI last year with the Cincinnati Reds. He was limited to 92 games because of a shoulder injury.
If Cruz can't handle third base, however, the Dodgers already have in-house options. First among them could be Jerry Hairston Jr., who says he'll retire if the Dodgers win the World Series. Sliding Hanley Ramirez from shortstop is also an option, though he likely wouldn't agree with such a move.
Fact or Fiction? Fiction
Matt Kemp began the 2012 season looking like the National League MVP. In April, he hit .417 with a 1.383 OPS, 12 home runs and 25 RBI.
But hamstring and shoulder injuries eventually limited Kemp to 106 games. He finished the year batting .303 with a .906 OPS, 23 homers and 96 RBI.
During the offseason, Kemp underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. With spring training just three weeks away, Kemp admitted to the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin that he hasn't resumed full baseball drills.
Can he possibly be ready for Opening Day?
As Shaikin explains, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez underwent similar surgery in October 2010 and was ready to play when the San Diego Padres opened the season. Gonzalez didn't play much during spring training and had a lackluster April, but still ended the season with 27 home runs and 101 RBI.
While it could take another two to three months for Kemp to get back to form, the Dodgers are expecting him to be in the lineup on April 1.
Fact or Fiction? Fiction
Despite signing Brandon League to a three-year, $22.5 million deal and having Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario and Matt Guerrier already in their bullpen, the Dodgers apparently feel they need one more reliever.
That need became even more acute with the news that left-hander Scott Elbert required arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow. It's the second procedure performed on his elbow in five months. MLB.com's Ken Gurnick reports that Elbert could miss the entire 2013 season as a result.
The Dodgers signed lefty J.P. Howell to a one-year contract that could be worth up to $4.6 million if he meets incentive clauses in the deal. But the team probably wants at least one more left-hander in its bullpen.
Southpaw relievers still available on the free-agent market, according to MLB Trade Rumors, include Will Ohman, Rich Hill and J.C. Romero.
Fact or Fiction? Fact
At various points during the offseason, rumors of the Dodgers looking into trading Andre Ethier were gaining heat.
According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the Dodgers were shopping Ethier around MLB, hoping to unload him and open up a spot for Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher.
Publicly, the Dodgers have always said that they don't intend to trade Ethier. However, the five-year, $85 million contract extension that the team signed Ethier to in June overestimated the market for Ethier and corner outfielders in general. Swisher, for example, signed with the Cleveland Indians for four years and $56 million.
While Bourn is still available on the free-agent market and questions persist about Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford being ready for Opening Day, rumors of the Dodgers possibly trading Ethier could still have life.
But at this point of the offseason, with spring training three weeks away, the Dodgers appear to be set with their outfield. While the team may have explored its options, Ethier should be in right field for the Dodgers on April 1.
Fact or Fiction: Fiction
Follow @iancass on Twitter.