With the 2013 baseball season over, the sting of a six-game NLCS loss still fresh in Dodgers fans hearts, it's time to do one of two things:
- Pretend to care about the NBA, NFL, or NHL
- Or, count down the days until pitchers and catchers report for the 2014 MLB season.
Sure, you could combine those tasks, but I prefer focusing on the latter. With a checkbook deeper than the Pacific Ocean and a wish list as long as Highway 1, the Dodgers' front office will definitely be focusing its efforts on improving the team before next season rolls around.
And aside from some players who need some basic R-and-R to heal injuries, the Dodgers are already in great shape to return to the postseason and make a run at the World Series. In fact, oddsmakers currently have Los Angeles as a hefty favorite to win the 2014 title.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. There are still plenty of weaknesses that can be shored up before the Dodgers are again put on display at Chavez Ravine. This will serve as your all-inclusive guide to making sure the only sting Dodgers fans feel next October is from the spray of champagne.
By the way, since you were wondering, that magical date is approximately 100 days away.
Well, duh. If the Dodgers do nothing more than drop the large stack of cash it's going to take to extend their ace this winter, they've succeeded. Apparently, Kershaw doesn't want to negotiate during the regular season, so the Dodgers would be smart to lock up their future two-time Cy Young winner before he wins a third and the price tag gets higher.
Amazingly enough, Juan Uribe might be the best free-agent option at third base, unless the Dodgers want to swing a trade or fill the gap with a guy like Nick Punto until prospect Corey Seager is ready to make his debut. Another possibility for the front office to explore is trading for or signing a starting shortstop and pushing Hanley Ramirez back to the hot corner.
Either one would significantly bolster any starting rotation—adding them to the Dodgers' terrific threesome of Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu would be an embarrassment of riches. Personally, I'm a proponent of signing Tanaka and leaving Price, who would cost a large sum of prospects, out of it.
The Dodgers actually had a great bullpen in 2013, but it stumbled a bit down the stretch. Young guns like Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow are dependable, but questions remain about their full-season durability.
With Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell, Edinson Volquez and Carlos Marmol possibly walking, the Dodgers could make a run at Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour or any number of other relievers dotting a loaded free-agent market.
All four veteran backup infielders (Punto, Skip Schumaker, Michael Young and Jerry Hairston Jr.) are free agents. Mark Ellis and Uribe could end up elsewhere, too. So the Dodgers need to work on bringing back one or two from that group to play bench roles, as well as add a little power.
Ideally, a guy like Eric Chavez would fit perfectly as a backup corner infielder, and an aging, veteran bat like Lance Berkman (bonus points for switch-hitting!) would be a nice late-game pinch-hitting option.