The Los Angeles Dodgers proved in 2013 that they were a force to be reckoned with, winning 62 of their last 90 regular-season games and falling two wins short of their first World Series appearance since 1988.
They'll head into 2014 with one of the best rotations in the game, led by Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, and plenty of star power in the lineup. Yasiel Puig enters his first full big league season and a healthy Matt Kemp will be out to prove that he's still one of the best players in the game.
A bullpen with closer Kenley Jansen and youngsters Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow, who are each coming off of terrific rookie seasons, gave the team a solid foundation with a few more good arms who could arrive soon from down on the farm. Depth was far from strong, though.
But three key free-agent signings in a span of 18 days—Brian Wilson agreed to re-sign on Dec. 5, J.P. Howell agreed to re-sign on Dec. 16 and Chris Perez agreed to a one-year deal earlier today that was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports—has the 'pen in great shape.
In fact, they have a chance to be the best group of relievers in club history. Yes, even better than the 2003 bullpen that featured a dominant closer, Eric Gagne, who was perfect in 55 save opportunities while posting a 1.20 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 15.0 K/9, and two other pitchers, Guillermo Mota and Paul Quantril, with sub-2.00 ERAs.
Here's a look at my current projection that can be found over at MLBDepthCharts.com.
CL Kenley Jansen, RHP: 53 Sv, 2.10 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, 13.3 K/9 over last 2 seasons
SU Brian Wilson, RHP: 171 career Sv, 19.2 IP, ER, 12 H, 6 BB, 21 K w/ LAD in 2013
SU Chris Perez, RHP: 123 Sv, 3.19 ERA, 3.5 BB/9, 8.2 K/9 since 2010
MID Paco Rodriguez, LHP: 20 holds, 2.32 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, 10.4 K/9 in 2013
MID Brandon League, RHP: Prior to poor 2013: 59 sv, 3.38 ERA from 2008-12
MID LHP J.P. Howell, LHP: 2.03 ERA, held left-handed batters to .452 OPS
LR: Jamey Wright, RHP: 3.32 ERA over last three seasons
Trade Bait or Next in Line at Triple-A
Chris Withrow, RHP: 2.60 ERA, 3.4 BB/9, 11.2 K/9 in 26 relief appearances in 2013
That's a very well-rounded group with a good mix of experience, youth, power and attitude. How do they stack up against the rest of the league, though? I think they could be the best, and no worse than the top five.
Here's a look at six other bullpens who you could make a pretty good case for being the best in the game. I've ranked them from sixth to first.
Be sure to make your case in the comments section and let me know where you think the Dodgers belong.