This past season was the Los Angeles Dodgers' best in the last 20 years. They won the N.L. West despite a mediocre 84-78 record. They were successful, mostly, due to their great pitching, especially in the bullpen, where they had the second-lowest ERA in the N.L., only behind the Phillies.
They also had solid starting pitching, and they also got a pretty good hitter by the name of Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline. They won their first playoff series since the 1988 World Series victory over the Athletics, as they swept the favorite Chicago Cubs in the NLDS. However, they couldn't advance to the World Series, as they fell to the Phillies in five games in the NLCS.
There are already several question marks about the Dodgers going into the offseason. They have several key free agents that they have to decide what to do with. Their main free agents are Manny Ramirez (most important), Rafael Furcal, Derek Lowe, Jeff Kent, Joe Beimel, Nomar Garciaparra, Casey Blake, Greg Maddux, and Brad Penny (team option).
As of right now, there are only a few positions that are locked up for next season. The starting catcher is going to be All Star Russell Martin, the first baseman is James Loney, the second baseman will most likely be Blake DeWitt, and the outfield is going to include Matt Kemp in center and Andre Ethier in right field.
However, there are big questions about who is going to start at shortstop, third base, and in left field, as the three starters in those positions could all leave the team via free agency. The team is going to try to re-sign both Furcal and Blake to two or three-year contracts, but it is going to be very difficult for the team to afford to sign Manny, especially with the huge amount of money his agent Scott Boras is expecting over four or five years.
The most likely lineup for the Dodgers next season is Martin at catcher, Loney at first, DeWitt at second, Furcal at shortstop, Blake at third, and either an outfield of Ethier, Andruw Jones, and Kemp (left to right) or Pierre, Kemp, and Ethier (left to right).
The starting rotation is also a huge question mark, as the only locks to be in the rotation for next season are Billingsley, Kuroda, and Kershaw. However, there is a pretty good chance that the Dodgers will strongly go after ace left-hander CC Sabathia, as he is looking to sign with a team in Southern California and in the N.L. because he likes to bat.
If they were to sign Sabathia, then the Dodgers would have one of the best rotations in the game, as they would put out Sabathia, Billingsley, Kuroda, and Kershaw along with an unknown fifth starter. They would also still have one of the best bullpens in the game, as the only free agent relief pitcher is Beimel, and he is likely going to re-sign with the club.
Overall, the Dodgers must either re-sign Manny to keep their offense very good or sign Sabathia—if they can't sign Manny—in order to go all out in pitching and hope their young field players get better after another year with some good experience in the postseason.
The Dodgers should be a playoff team next season, especially considering the weak division they play in, and if they signed Sabathia, they would have a great one, two, and three in the rotation, especially in the postseason, which would give them a great chance to go deep in the playoffs again, as pitching is what matters most in the postseason.