Since the new ownership group took over in 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent aggressively in pursuit of their first World Series title since 1988.
They reached the NLCS last season, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in six games, and those two look like the top two teams in the National League once again this coming year as things stand right now.
Compared to last winter when the team signed Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, among others, it's been a relatively quiet offseason for the Dodgers this year.
Cuban defector Alex Guerrero was signed to serve as the team's everyday second baseman, Dan Haren was added as the No. 5 starter and Juan Uribe was re-signed to a two-year deal at third base.
The bullpen has been the main area of focus though, as Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell were re-signed, and Chris Perez and Jamey Wright were brought aboard as well to help bridge the gap from their solid starting rotation to closer Kenley Jansen.
According to MLBDepthCharts, here is a look at how the Dodgers' Opening Day roster could look if the team stands pat between now and the start of the season:
|Projected 2014 Opening Day Roster|
|Starting Lineup||2013 Stats|
|1. LF Carl Crawford||435 AB, .283/.329/.407, 30 2B, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 62 R|
|2. RF Yasiel Puig||382 AB, .319/.391/.534, 21 2B, 19 HR, 42 RBI, 66 R|
|3. SS Hanley Ramirez||304 AB, .345/.402/.638, 25 2B, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 62 R|
|4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez||583 AB, .293/.342/.461, 32 2B, 22 HR, 100 RBI, 69 R|
|5. CF Matt Kemp||263 AB, .270/.328/.395, 15 2B, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 35 R|
|6. 3B Juan Uribe||388 AB, .278/.331/.438, 22 2B, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 47 R|
|7. C A.J. Ellis||390 AB, .238/.318/.364, 17 2B, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 43 R|
|8. 2B Alex Guerrero||*328 AB, .290/.402/.576, 12 2B, 21 HR, 51 RBI, 51 R|
|C Tim Federowicz||160 AB, .231/.275/.356, 8 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 12 R|
|1B/OF Scott Van Slyke||129 AB, .240/.342/.465, 8 2B, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 13 R|
|IF Dee Gordon||94 AB, .234/.314/.298, 1 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 9 R|
|OF Andre Ethier||482 AB, .272/.360/.423, 33 2B, 12 HR, 52 RBI, 54 R|
|OF Mike Baxter||132 AB, .189/.303/.250, 6 2B, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 14 R|
|Starting Rotation||2013 Stats|
|1. LHP Clayton Kershaw||33 GS, 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 232 K, 236 IP|
|2. RHP Zack Greinke||28 GS, 15-4, 2.63 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 148 K, 177.2 IP|
|3. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu||30 GS, 14-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 154 K, 192 IP|
|4. RHP Josh Beckett||8 GS, 0-5, 5.19 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 41 K, 43.1 IP|
|5. RHP Dan Haren||30 GS, 10-14, 4.67 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 151 K, 169.2 IP|
|MR RHP Jamey Wright||66 G, 2-2, 0 SV, 3.09 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 65 K, 70 IP|
|MR LHP J.P. Howell||67 G, 4-1, 0 SV, 2.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 54 K, 62 IP|
|MR RHP Brandon League||58 G, 6-4, 14 SV, 5.30 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 28 K, 54.1 IP|
|MR LHP Paco Rodriguez||76 G, 3-4, 2 SV, 2.32 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 63 K, 54.1 IP|
|SU RHP Chris Perez||54 G, 5-3, 25 SV, 4.33 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 54 K, 54 IP|
|SU RHP Brian Wilson||18 G, 2-1, 0 SV, 0.66 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 13 K, 13.2 IP|
|CL RHP Kenley Jansen||75 G, 4-3, 28 SV, 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 111 K, 76.2 IP|
|*2012 stats in Cuba|
That certainly looks like a team that can contend for a title in the season ahead, but there is a question of depth. Stars Matt Kemp, Zack Greinke and Hanley Ramirez all missed significant time, and there were other minor injuries throughout the season.
Granted, every team has to deal with injuries during the course of the year, but a Dodgers team looking to make a legitimate run at a World Series title may need to consider adding another piece or two before the offseason is over.
Let's take a closer look at the Dodgers' depth position by position.
The Dodgers have gone with A.J. Ellis as their starting catcher the past two seasons, and the job is his once again this year. After a breakout offensive season in 2012 in which he posted a .786 OPS, he took a step back this past year, as that number dropped to .682.
The 32-year-old remains a plus defensive option, though, as he threw out 44 percent of base stealers and was a finalist for the NL Gold Glove.
Should he go down with an injury, Tim Federowicz is again penciled in as the backup. The 26-year-old has never seen extended playing time at the big league level, but was a .288/.355/.451 hitter over six minor league seasons and is an above-average fielder.
He should be able to hold his own if the team needed him to step in as the starter. Veteran Drew Butera is also on the 40-man roster, and J.C. Boscan was added as a minor league free agent.
The Dodgers have a pair of impact hitters on the infield in Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, and they will be counted on to be the team's primary run producers once again this season.
Gonzalez led the team in home runs (22) and RBI (100) last season, while Ramirez would have been in the NL MVP conversation if he had played more than 86 games.
For as much credit as Yasiel Puig got for sparking the team's turnaround, Ramirez was just as important in getting things on track; the team was 55-31 with him in the lineup and 37-39 without him.
The other two infield positions are more of a question mark, with Cuban defector Alex Guerrero replacing Mark Ellis as the everyday second baseman and Juan Uribe back to man the hot corner.
Guerrero sat out the 2013 season after being left off Team Cuba for the World Baseball Classic, but the 27-year-old has shown plus offensive skills throughout his time in Cuba. The team gave him a four-year, $28 million deal, and with Ellis gone is relying heavily on his ability to hold down the position.
It cost the team $15 million over two years to bring Uribe back, and in a thin market for third basemen he was really the Dodgers' only option. The veteran had a solid season in 2013, but it's hard to forget he hit just .199/.262/.289 in his first two years with the Dodgers and will be 34 this coming season.
Speedster Dee Gordon is the only backup infielder projected to make the Opening Day roster, but he has had his own offensive struggles since an impressive rookie season in 2011. He has also never played a game at third base in his major league career.
Utility man Justin Sellers is also on the 40-man roster, and Brendan Harris was signed to a minor league deal in free agency, but neither player is a legitimate option to step into everyday at-bats if someone goes down.
The Dodgers have the benefit of four plus outfield options, and while they were open to the idea of moving one of them this offseason, it looks like they will enter the season with all four still on the roster.
Considering all four were healthy at the same time for a grand total of one game last season, holding on to all of them looks to have been in the best interest of the team.
Matt Kemp (hamstring, shoulder, ankle), Carl Crawford (hamstring) and Andre Ethier (ankle) all missed time last season with injuries, opening the door for Yasiel Puig to not only make his debut, but step into an everyday role and thrive.
The team would love nothing more than to get healthy seasons out of dynamic table-setter Crawford and five-tool talent Kemp, and it's unlikely that Yasiel Puig is going to find himself on the bench. So for now, it looks like Ethier and his $15.5 million salary will open the year as the team's fourth outfielder.
Scott Van Slyke and waiver pickup Mike Baxter also have a good chance to make the Opening Day roster, while 26-year-old Nick Buss, who hit .303/.363/.525 with 17 home runs and 100 RBI at Triple-A last season, is also on the 40-man roster.
Top prospect Joc Pederson could make his big league debut in 2014 as well, after hitting .278/.381/.497 with 22 home runs and 31 steals for Chattanooga in 2013. His emergence could further pave the way for someone to be moved, but for now the Dodgers look to have plenty of depth in the outfield.
The Dodgers staff is fronted by the best pitcher in the game today, and 25-year-old Clayton Kershaw will be there for the long haul after agreeing to a record seven-year, $215 million contract on Wednesday, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, with details via CBS Sports' Matt Snyder.
The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw have agreed on a seven year, $215 million contract, sources have told ESPN. Out after five— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 15, 2014
That makes him the highest-paid pitcher of all time, and rightfully so. He's claimed three straight NL ERA titles and is coming off the best season of his already illustrious career. A poor showing in the NLCS (0-2, 6.30 ERA) should have him entering the season hungry as well.
Behind him, the team's signings of Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu last offseason went as well as anyone could have hoped, as they gave the team a pair of front-line arms behind Kershaw.
Greinke cost them $147 million over six years, and after a slow start he turned in a dominant second half, going 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA over his final 14 starts.
There were questions as to how Ryu would perform in the MLB after coming over from South Korea, but he more than held his own as the No. 3 starter, finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Beyond those three there are questions, though, as Josh Beckett and free-agent signing Dan Haren are currently slated to fill out the rotation.
Beckett made eight starts in 2013 before being shelved, eventually undergoing shoulder surgery, and the 33-year-old will be looking to get things back on track.
As for Haren, his 10-14 record and 4.67 ERA are not impressive on the surface, but he looked like the Haren of old down the stretch in 2013. He was 6-4 with a 3.52 ERA in the second half and 2-1 with a 1.44 ERA in his final four starts.
Given the health questions of Beckett and the uncertainly as to which Haren will show up in 2014, rotation depth will likely be a factor for the Dodgers.
Here is a look at their starting pitching depth behind those five guys:
|Los Angeles Dodgers' Starting Pitching Depth|
|RHP Stephen Fife||MLB||12 G, 10 GS, 4-4, 3.86 ERA, 45 K, 58.1 IP|
|RHP Matt Magill||MLB||6 G, 6 GS, 0-2, 6.51 ERA, 26 K, 27.2 IP|
|RHP Seth Rosin||AAA||26 G, 23 GS, 9-6, 4.33 ERA, 96 K, 126.2 IP|
|RHP Chad Billingsley||MLB||2 G, 2 GS, 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 6 K, 12 IP|
|RHP Zach Lee||AA||28 G, 25 GS, 10-10, 3.22 ERA, 131 K, 142.2 IP|
|LHP Chris Reed||AA||29 G, 25 GS, 4-11, 3.86 ERA, 106 K, 137.2 IP|
|RHP Ross Stripling||A+/AA||27 G, 22 GS, 8-4, 2.82 ERA, 117 K, 127.2 IP|
Stephen Fife pitched well when called upon last year, and Rule 5 pick Seth Rosin could get a chance to earn a bullpen spot to serve as a swingman.
Chad Billingsley underwent Tommy John surgery on April 24 and likely won't be ready for the start of the season, but he could also provide some solid depth once he is cleared to play.
On the whole, though, the team does not have a comfortable amount of starting pitching depth at this point. Adding another starter, whether it's by making a splash and adding Masahiro Tanaka or signing a low-cost veteran, looks like a need.
The Dodgers bullpen posted a 3.49 ERA last season, good for 13th-best in MLB. However, beyond the foursome of Kenley Jansen, Paco Rodriguez, Ronald Belisario and J.P. Howell ,the remainder of the 'pen was a revolving door for much of the year.
Jansen has emerged as one of the most overpowering closers in all of baseball, and it didn't take him long to unseat Brandon League in the ninth-inning role last year.
Howell and midseason addition Brian Wilson were both re-signed this offseason, while the team also added Chris Perez and Jamey Wright. Belisario was nontendered, but the bullpen as a whole looks to be stronger this season than it was last year.
As far as depth, Chris Withrow (26 G, 2.60 ERA) was solid last season and should get a chance to win a bullpen spot out of camp. Javy Guerra and top prospects Onelki Garcia, Jose Dominguez and Yimi Garcia should all got a look as well.
After reaching the NLCS last season, the Dodgers look poised to run the NL West for the foreseeable future. If they can avoid the slow start that plagued them last year, the best record in the National League certainly seems within reach as they look to unseat the St. Louis Cardinals as NL champions.
Good as the Dodgers roster may look on paper, though, there are some injury and depth questions. They are particularly thin on the infield, which is especially risky considering they are relying on an unknown commodity in Alex Guerrero at second base.
The starting rotation, while easily among the best in baseball, is also lacking in depth; the team could be in trouble if a starter or two is hit with an injury.
It's debatable whether or not the Dodgers need to make a splash signing like Masahiro Tanaka before the offseason comes to a close, but adding some more depth seems like a must.
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