Everyone knows the famous Christmas song that says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." That is definitely true right now for Major League Baseball fans who are caught up in the magic of the off-season.
Rumors are flying, players are signing and trades are happening. What baseball fan doesn't like to think about their favorite team reshaping its roster to make a World Series run in 2009? The Tampa Bay Rays of this season gave every baseball fan hope that even though their favorite team stunk last year, the playoffs and World Series are possible next season.
Los Angeles Dodgers fans are no different. This off-season has been full of questions and drama for the Dodgers, mainly centered around the enigmatic Manny Ramirez and whether or not he is going to re-sign.
Although baseball's winter meetings are over, it's safe to say that the Dodgers are far from making changes to their roster. The Dodgers don't have a bonafide shortstop, they lack power in the outfield and they only have three-fifths of a starting rotation.
How do the Dodgers look at each position that is filled for 2009? Glad you asked!
First base: This is one position at which the Dodgers appear set for many years to come. No one will mistake James Loney with Ryan Howard, but he is an above-average fielder, hits for average and hits well with runners in scoring position and is a solid clubhouse presence.
Second base: Ditto for this position after the solid play of rookie Blake DeWitt the last couple months of the season. DeWitt looked more comfortable at the plate and in the field and should be entrenched second for many years.
Third base: Casey Blake gave the Dodgers a solid third baseman for the first time since Adrian Beltre manned the position. You can go ahead and pencil Blake in for about 25 home runs, 80-plus RBIs, solid defense and a great clubhouse attitude.
Left field: Ramirez will probably be back at this position, but if he isn't Juan Pierre or Andre Ethier will platoon there. Pierre will steal you a bunch of bases and spark some scoring, but he throws like Johnny Damon on steroids and is a liability with his arm.
Center field: If Ramirez is back, then Matt Kemp will anchor this spot. Kemp might overrun some bases, but he is a five-tool player who is just going to continue to improve. Let's hope the Dodgers can dump...I mean trade...Andruw Jones to someone so he will be another team's headache.
Right field: If Ramirez is back...does this sound like a broken record? Ethier will be in right field. Ethier is a solid fielder with a good arm. He is also a great contact hitter who will hit around 20 home runs in a full season.
Starting rotation: Chad Billingsley may be a No. 1 starter in a couple years, but he isn't one now. Ditto for Clayton Kershaw. Hiroki Kuroda is a reliable No. 3 starter, but the Dodgers are in trouble unless they sign a pitcher or two or make a trade.
Bullpen: Even if the Dodgers to bring back Takashi Saito, it looks like the closer's role is big Jonathan Broxton's to lose. Broxton filled in for Saito the last couple months of the season and did a good enough job for the Dodgers not to feel the need to sign someone like Brian Fuentes or Trevor Hoffman. Middle relief will be an area of concern for the Dodgers after losing Joe Beimel and Chan Ho Park. Youngsters will be called upon to fill these roles.