Dodgers' Loaded Roster Primed to Buck MLB Trends, Repeat as World Series Champs

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistOctober 30, 2020

Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts celebrates his RBI single against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

Winning the World Series is hard. Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers, who waited 32 years between their 1988 title and the one they clinched on Tuesday over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Winning more than one World Series in a row? Based on recent history, that's downright Herculean. 

Since 1979shortly after the dawn of MLB's free-agent eraonly two clubs have repeated as champions: the Toronto Blue Jays (1992-93) and the New York Yankees (1998-2000). 

After the Yanks' three-peat, a trio of teams have won multiple Commissioner's Trophies: the Boston Red Sox (2004, '07, '13 and '18), the St. Louis Cardinals (2006, '11) and the San Francisco Giants ('10, '12, '14). But no franchise has gone back-to-back.

Can the Dodgers buck the trend? That remains to be seen. 

An offseason of trades, free-agent signings and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will shape the 2021 campaign in difficult-to-predict ways. Once the '21 season begins, the vagaries of fate will assume command.

That said, Los Angeles is uniquely equipped to end baseball's repeat-champion drought for three major reasons.

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Let's explore them.

        

Reason No. 1: A Loaded Roster, Deep Farm System and Nearly Bottomless Pockets

OK, technically that's three reasons. But they're inextricably linked.

The Dodgers will retain most of their 2020 squad. National League MVP hopeful Mookie Betts, 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger and 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager form a potent offensive triumvirate and all are on the correct side of 30. 

In the starting rotation, emerging aces Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Julio Urias join still-effective three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.

Important contributors such as third baseman Justin Turner, utility man Enrique Hernandez and relievers Pedro Baez and Blake Treinen could bolt via free agency. But Los Angeles has the resources to retain or replace them.

The massive-market Dodgers boasted MLB's No. 3 payroll in 2020. Re-upping Baez and Treinen is doable, as is signing bullpen arms such as Liam Hendriks, Brandon Workman and Ken Giles.

Los Angeles has a deep farm system we ranked No. 12 after the 2020 trade deadline. Righty Brusdar Graterol graduated to an essential bullpen role and Gavin Lux may be the future at second base. But L.A. could dangle its enticing young talent for the right trade target.

That includes shortstop Francisco Lindor. The four-time All-Star is entering his age-27 go-round and has been linked to the Dodgers. He'll be a free agent after the 2021 season unless he's signed to an extension.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Penny-pinching Cleveland almost assuredly can't afford to extend Lindor. But the Dodgers proved with Betts that they're willing and able to reel in a superstar and lock him up for the long haul.

The Dodgers don't need Lindor to repeat. But his five-tool abilities wouldn't hurt their cause. 

The bottom line is this: Los Angeles has the cash, prospects and incumbent weapons to put forth a powerhouse in '21.

        

Reason No. 2: A Relatively Soft National League

The San Diego Padres added pieces at the 2020 trade deadline and feature the dynamic twosome of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado.

After dispatching the Friars in a division series sweep, Los Angeles fell behind 3-1 in its NLCS tussle with NL East champion Atlanta before roaring back to win the pennant.

San Diego and Atlanta ought to be worthy foes in 2021. The rest of the Senior Circuit, however, is a muddled mess.

Other than the Pittsburgh Pirates, few NL clubs look like surefire non-factors. But with parity, often, comes widespread mediocrity.

Los Angeles won't coast to a repeat National League title in '21. But it may not face a gauntlet of top-shelf challengers, either.

         

Reason No. 3: A Chip on Their Shoulder

After waiting more than 30 years, the Dodgers got the monkey off their back. Yet there's an asterisk attached to their trophy in the eyes of some.

Los Angeles finished the regular season with a .717 winning percentage. Over a full 162-game slate, that would have translated to 116 wins, which would have tied L.A. with the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners for the most victories all-time.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

But the Dodgers only played 60 regular-season contests. Fair or not, their 2020 title will be judged against the backdrop of a truncated season.

That should give the Dodgers extra motivation to prove this was no fluke.

Winning it all again in 2021 won't merely make them the first repeat champs in more than 20 years. It will give retroactive credibility to their '20 title.

And it will prove they're up for a Herculean task.