We recently reviewed a number of misleading offseason narratives being spun about each team in the National League West.
Incorrect reads about the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres were brilliantly detailed here.
The number one popular narrative about the Los Angeles Dodgers as Spring Training 2018 winds down is that LA has done virtually nothing this offseason. No big-name trades, no high end free agent signings.
It is a narrative which is, to keep the cliché vibe going, is either way off base or a huge swing and a miss (please choose only one).
While LA has dithered, the storyline goes, throughout this offseason other MLB “premier league” teams improved themselves significantly through free agency and trades.
The Cubs signed SP Yu Darvish (6 yrs/$126m), SP Tyler Chatwood (3yrs/$38m), and RP Brandon Morrow (2 years/$21m). The Houston Astros traded for Pittsburgh SP Gerrit Cole, and Boston finally did snag free agent OF J.D. Martinez (5 yrs/$110m).
So what about these moribund Los Angeles Dodgers? While the team certainly wanted to stay under the $197 million MLB competitive balance tax, that’s hardly the whole story.
This is a team with four key assets that made the need for a major trade or free agent signing irrelevant:
- A core of proven superstar run producers in SS Corey Seager, 3B Justin Turner, and 1B Cody Bellinger.
Backed up by high-end professional hitters OF Chris Taylor, catchers Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal, RF Yasiel Puig, and super utilityman Enrique Hernandez.
- The 21st century analytics model for a multi-layered approach to mixing and matching starting pitching and the bullpen. Anchored by the best pitcher in the game, Clayton Kershaw.
- In 2017 the most effective bullpen in the National League (3.38 ERA); in 2016 the best bullpen in the Majors (3.35 ERA).
- A minor league organization that has been ranked in baseball’s top ten each of the past three years (Baseball America).
This is also a team, an organization, that is multi-layered and deep. Built to sustain the predictable player injuries that occur every season to every team.
The Dodgers recently lost 3B Justin Turner for at least a month and a half due to a Spring Training broken wrist injury. The team’s depth will allow them to cover the loss of Turner in-house with league-average or better replacements from the 25-man (or 40-man) roster.
The Dodgers not only survived those key injuries last season, they excelled.
The San Francisco Giants recently lost ace Madison Bumgarner for three months after a Spring Training line-drive fractured his pitching hand. But the Giants are a one-dimensional squad with not even league-average back-up. They cannot stand the loss of any starter on their 25-man roster for any significant length of time.
So that Dodger team that won 104 games in 2017, which promoted National League Rookie of the year Clay Bellinger in mid-April, and which got to Game 7 of the World Series against the champion Houston Astros?
The most important big moves for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 and 2019 involve determining which of their talented minor league players will be joining the big team, and when.
This is an organization that makes its biggest impact by building and improving the franchise’s infrastructure, adding health and nutrition components and cutting-edge training techniques to player development, and using analytics to help identify exceptional first year player draft picks and international player signings.
The team’s relatively new Guggenheim ownership group has made a series of very smart decisions over the past five years in a successful effort to rebound from the mistakes and excesses of the Dodgers’ previous owners.
It’s taken time to turn everything around in Los Angeles, but the end goal wasn’t just to make some sporadic appearances in the postseason.
The Dodgers have won the NL West Division each of the past five seasons, and this is an organization built to take that challenge on for many years to come. The exceptional front office team of CEO Stan Kasten, President of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman, and GM Farhan Zaidi wouldn’t settle for less.
So when will LA get their next World Series win? As Yankee legend Yogi Berra might have put it, “You can’t win the Series if you don’t get there”.