Los Angeles Dodgers: New Year's Resolutions in 2014
It's that time of year again. Everyone is swearing off junk food, buying gym memberships and looking up local charities in order to hit their New Year's resolutions. But if the Dodgers want to return to the NLCS and have another shot at the World Series, they better make a few of their own.
With the re-signings of Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell and Juan Uribe, the Dodgers addressed their biggest needs in the offseason. They strengthened the bullpen further with Chris Perez and Jamey Wright coming to Los Angeles. Dan Haren was brought in on a one-year deal to give the rotation a slight boost.
The starting lineup is ready to roll with the only identifiable weakness at catcher, where A.J. Ellis is slightly offensively challenged. There's a question mark at second base with the unproven rookie Alexander Guerrero taking over, and plenty of injury questions between Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez.
So as good as the Dodgers may look on paper, there are plenty of things that can still be tweaked. Which resolutions should GM Ned Colletti, owner Stan Kasten and manager Don Mattingly be making for the new year? Read on to find out.
Get in Shape
And I don't mean cutting down on carbs and hitting the gym. Most professional athletes are already freaks in that regard. This is more geared toward the general health of the players on the team, especially ones who have had multiple injuries in the past.
They should resolve to keep all hamstrings, shoulders, ankles, thumbs and other unspecified joints in peak physical form to avoid having to fill holes with utility players like last year—especially because this year's version of the Dodgers has very little depth in case of emergency. That being said...
Have Reinforcements Ready
...the bench is still thin. Way too thin. If the season were to start today, the Dodgers would be looking at a bench of Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke, Tim Federowicz, Dee Gordon and Justin Sellers. The latter two especially represent a massive drop-off from the starters in comparison to last year's squad.
Even though the free-agent market isn't booming with top-tier backups, the Dodgers would do well to bring back someone like Michael Young, who can play multiple infield positions, or take a flier on someone like Alexei Casilla or Delmon Young. Even if they aren't stars anymore, these guys can be better options to fill in for injured starters.
Complete the Rotation
Now that Masahiro Tanaka has been posted, the Dodgers are likely the front-runners to land his services. He would slot in as a nice No. 3 in an already-stacked rotation and give the Dodgers the most fearsome top four in all of baseball.
But, if that option falls through, the Dodgers would be smart to grab one more starter to complement Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren. They can't count on Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett to stay healthy, so they should bring in another veteran like A.J. Burnett or Matt Garza just in case.
Extend the Stars
Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez are still without contract extensions. That's a sentence no Dodgers fans wanted to see approaching the new year. Kershaw especially needs to get whatever he wants to remain in Dodger blue for the foreseeable future.
The Dodgers have the money to do it, and what better way to start off 2014 than to invigorate the fanbase by giving both players new deals? Kershaw could be looking at seven years or more and around $200 million. It's a large chunk of change, but well worth the purchase.
No More Management Rifts
Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti held a very interesting press conference after the season ended, which was more or less like pulling teeth out of a rabid, fanged horse. It consisted of reporters firing questions at both of them about Mattingly's "lame duck" manager status.
It's this writer's belief that Mattingly should get a multi-year deal, but if that doesn't happen, the least the two could do is not bring it up during the season. Even if it's no distraction internally, nobody wants to hear about that situation all summer long. And with the L.A. media all over it, that would be unavoidable.