2013 Hot Stove - Dodgers

Overall Assessment: What a difference a year can make.  From the verge of bankruptcy orchestrated by a distracted owner successfully tearing down a vaunted franchise to a group of owners buying the market and putting the cachet back in the Dodger name.  Frank McCourt may argue that if he had an opportunity to complete his negotiation of a local television contract things would be different, but he was negotiating through weakness, an act of desparation to recover from the throes of bankruptcy.  He never could have pulled off the local television contract the Guggenheim partners pulled off.  With the new ownership the Dodgers have transformed themselves from penny pinching street bums to the richest franchise in baseball, surpassing the Yankees in salary.  Now the biggest challenge, will all that money result in a championship?

Hot Stove Season: The biggest thing the Dodgers did was over the summer when they acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.  Despite those acquistions the Dodgers lost ground on the Giants even after the players arrival.  All that was left to do in 2013 was some tinkering.  The only significant trade the Dodgers have made during the offseason was acquiring Skip Schumaker from the Cardinals for Jake Lemmerman.  Their biggest free agent moves helped stock their starting rotation, signing Zack Greinke and successfully posting for Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and then agreeing to a contract.  If Ryu bombs and the Dodgers want to send him to the minors Ryu would have to give his consent, a dangerous clause negotiated in a contract and a bad precedent for the Dodgers to make.  Seung-Yeop Lee tried to negotiate similar language in his contract a number of years ago but at that time the Dodgers refused and Lee ended up going from Korea to Japan.

Strength: On paper they have a pretty strong team.  A one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top of the rotation would be a combination no team would want to face, especially during a playoff series.  Matt Kemp still has the potential to put up MVP numbers in centerfield, but he needs to avoid injuries.  Adrian Gonzalez can still drive in runs from first base but he is a quiet player not expected to provide leadership to a team that needs a leader.  The Dodger dimensions may restrict some of their offensive potential, but they should be able to still score runs.

Weakness: They have a number of question marks.  The left side of the infield has a lot of questions between the unproven Luis Cruz, who has been released a few times in his career and the poor defense of Hanley Ramirez, who often times does not come to the park motivated to play.  Who plays third and short may be decided in the spring, but Ramirez is the favorite at this point.  Andre Ethier needs to show he can hit lefthanders, otherwise he will end up a platoon player.  The acquistion of Schumaker showed their lack of confidence in who they already have at second (Nick Punto and Mark Ellis) and the bullpen lacks a true closer.  Carl Crawford will be a weakness if he plays with the skills and motivation of his post Ray days.  A lot of potential weaknesses for a team with a salary over $200 million.

Top Position Prospect: They paid a lot of money for Cuban defector Yasiel Puig.  He has the talent to take over one of the outfield spots in 2014 should either Crawford or Ethier fail to live up to their abilities.  He has the five tools you look for in a player, power, speed, arm, can hit for average and play defense.  Only time will tell whether he uses those tools properly.

Top Pitching Prospect: The rumors were the Dodgers drafted Zach Lee because they had no intention of signing him.  He would ask for an exorbitant amount of money and who could blame the Dodgers for not signing him.  Well, the Dodgers ended up paying a lot of money to sign him ($5 million plus bonus).  He’s been promoted aggressively and his numbers have suffered for it.  He has four pretty good pitches with a fastball that usually sits in the low 90s.

Watch out for: Onelki Garcia, another Cuban defector who could not establish foreign residency, making him part of the 2012 draft.  The Dodgers selected him in the third round.  His agent wanted a multimillion dollar contract but he had to settle for six figures because of established bonus rules that put a ceiling on what the Dodgers could give Garcia as a third round pick.  He will turn 24 next year so he could advance quickly.  The lefthander throws in the low 90s with enough of a repetorie to make it in the starting rotation.

Top Rookie Prospect: This will be a veteran team.  The player with the best shot of winning rookie of the year will be KBO veteran Hyun-Jin Ryu.  The pudgy lefthander can get his fastball in the low 90s but rules the plate with his change.

Projected on Paper Finish: It will be an embarrassing season if the Dodgers do not finish first.  It will be an affirmation that there are a number of character problems on this team who don’t have or have lost the ability to win.  They should be motivated by that to win the division.

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