After a year of tumult with the status of the Dodgers ownership, the team finally has ownership in place in the Stan Kasten/Magic Johnson group. With that issue settled, all of the focus can turn to the on-field product, where the Dodgers return NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp. Put those two on any team, with any supporting cast, and you've at least got a semblance of a contender. Given the crew that GM Ned Coletti assembled this offseason, Kershaw and Kemp are going to need to do a lot to get LA into contention.
Depth Chart (as of 3/28)
C: AJ Ellis
1B: James Loney
2B: Mark Ellis
SS: Dee Gordon
3B: Juan Uribe
LF: Juan Rivera
CF: Matt Kemp
RF: Andre Ethier
SP: Clayton Kershaw
SP: Chad Billingsley
SP: Ted Lilly
SP: Aaron Harang
SP: Chris Capuano
CL: Javy Guerra
The Dodgers brought in a lot of players this offseason, but not many will make a huge impact on the team. Los Angeles brought in a trio of utility infielders, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr, and Adam Kennedy, and will be starting Ellis at second base this year. Left fielder Juan Rivera is also a new addition to the team, but the guaranteed money given to him seems a little silly after he was straight up released earlier this year. The Dodgers also signed a pair of veterans to fill out the back of their rotation in Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano. Veteran reliever Todd Coffey was also brought in this offseason.
Former catcher Rod Barjas left town, choosing Pittsburgh as his destination. The left side of the infield, Casey Blake and Jamey Carroll, also left as free agents. The Dodgers also lost a host of pitchers, such as long-time closer Jonathan Broxton, oft-injured reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, the enigmatic Vicente Padilla, erratic starter Jon Garland, and veteran standby Hiroki Kuroda.
Los Angeles doesn't have much going on here. Catcher Tim Federowicz, acquired in last season's puzzling Trayvon Robinson/Erik Bedard swap at the deadline. Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi got a brief stint with the Dodgers last year and could end up in the rotation later this year if any of the veterans in the rotation struggle.
Ellis is starting at second, but Kennedy and Hairston could easily steal at bats from him (since they're all essentially the same player). Hairston could also threaten Juan Uribe for playing time at third. There could be a battle brewing at the closer's spot, where Javy Guerra, who took over for Broxton last year, is the incumbent. Guerra may eventually lose his job to the flamethrowing strikeout artist that is Kenley Jansen.
Promising young starter Rubby de la Rosa had Tommy John last August, and probably won't pitch this season. Reliever Blake Hawksworth will also miss a large chunk of time after elbow surgery. Potential utilityman Ivan DeJesus Jr has a strained oblique, and won't be ready for Opening Day....not that he'd crack the roster with the oodles of veteran backup infielders on the team.
Does Clayton Kershaw have enough help in the rotation to lead this team to a playoff berth?
Kershaw and Kemp both have 8 fWAR seasons again, and get huge contributions from Ethier, Loney and Billingsley. The Dodgers dethrone the Diamondbacks and hated rival Giants in the NL West race.
Kershaw and Kemp take a step back, though not a monumental one. They get no help from anyone else on the team, as no other player amasses more than 2 fWAR. LA duels with the Padres for the worst record in the division.
I don't think the Dodgers really have enough to contend this year, but with Kemp and Kershaw still in the fold for next season, look for that as a huge breakthrough. As for this season, I think they'll just bounce around the .500 mark for most of the season.
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