Don’t think for one second that I am going to dwell on the Giants winning their second World Series title in three season because it ain’t gonna happen. And while I tip my hat to the Giants for their accomplishment (but not to their pot-smoking, bus burning, window smashing fans), what the Giants did is, quite frankly, ancient history and it’s time to move on.
It has been well documented here on ThinkBlueLA.com and on the TBLA forum that I and several others honestly believe that 2013 will be the year of the Dodgers and quite possibly the beginning of a potential dynasty. I haven’t just said this out of spite for the Giants (of which I have plenty), but rather because of a number of known factors.
First and foremost was the ownership issue. Although we as Dodger fans had to endure the painful destruction of our beloved team, we knew that eventually McCourt and his filth would be gone and that, with the assistance and scrutiny of MLB, new owners would be brought in who would undoubtedly bring with them some very smart baseball people – and this has occurred.
Second – because the last two owners of the Dodgers (News Corp and the McCourts) allowed its once outstanding farm system to completely fall by the wayside, it was basically of little use to the franchise. Granted, there were several home grown greats to eventually make their way to the Big club, but the once prolific U.S. and international Dodgers farm systems all but perished. But even while McCourt was on his way out, Logan White and De Jon Watson (along with several domestic and international scouting experts) began keeping an eye on the prospect scene and once the Guggenheim Baseball Group took over, rebuilding the Dodgers farm system immediately became a top priority. As a result, we are now witnessing a tremendous build up of young talent within the Dodgers organization and the future is very bright. The thing to remember, however, is that it generally takes anywhere from three to five years before these young prospects are MLB ready – if they are not traded away, that is.
Third – “It takes money to make money,” or in the case of the Dodgers, you have to spend money to reap the rewards; but nobody expected the Guggenheim Group to spend the kind of money that they did this past season – nobody. But the bottom line is that it needed to be done if there was to be any hope of building a championship team. And though I was as surprised as anyone to actually see the Dodgers still in playoff contention heading into game 161, in all honesty, I believed that the acquisitions made were done more so for the 2013 season (and beyond) – hence my belief that 2013 will truly be the year of the Dodgers and could very well be the beginning of a dynasty.
No one will dispute that the 2013 Dodgers are in desperate need of starting pitching. Face it, the Dodgers have one ace and four number 4 or number 5 starters. And though nobody wants to hear it or admit it, the chances that Chad Billingsley will be around for the entire 2013 season are very remote. Why? Because at some point in the coming months, he will need Tommy John surgery and anybody who thinks otherwise is only kidding themselves. History has shown that trying to work through a damaged elbow simply does not work, and by not having the surgery back when the damaged was first discovered, Chad will not only miss part or all of the 2013 season, he very well may miss a good portion of the 2014 season as well. As such, the Dodgers have absolutely no choice but to aggressively go after Zack Greinke – not because he is a particularly great pitcher, but because he is the best free agent pitcher available this off-season. I also believe that the Dodgers will go after additional top-of-the-rotation-type pitchers via trades and additional spending, but this will once again deplete an already depleted Dodgers farm system (see above).
The good news is that the Dodgers do have several very big trading chips, most notably out fielders Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig. And though I would very much hate to see either of these two guys go, with the acquisition of Carl Crawford and the long-term contract extensions of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers outfield is pretty much locked up for the next five seasons. Now obviously injuries happen, as we know all too well, but keeping Pederson and Puig in the fold for five years is… well, kind of foolish. I certainly do not see any other team willing to absorb Puig’s 7-year/$42 Million contract, especially as an untested prospect, but I absolutely do see Pederson as a huge trading chip towards a top-of-the-rotation starter.
The Dodgers also have top pitching prospects Zach Lee and Chris Reed, whom the Dodgers absolutely refused to even consider giving up at the July 31 trade deadline this past season. This certainly speaks well of their projected talent and could very well be a sign that one or both of them may find themselves in the 2013 starting rotation (absent a big name free agent or trade acquisition, of course). While Lee seems to be the farthest along and did quite well at Advance Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga, Reed has struggled quite a bit in the Arizona Fall League. Ted Lilly is still under contract for 2013 but I honestly believe that he will retire at some point during the 2013 season.
Although not a power hitter, Luis Cruz is pretty much a lock to begin spring training as the Dodgers everyday third baseman and the job is his to lose. And with Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly having already said that Hanley Ramirez will be the Dodgers everyday shortstop, Dee Gordon will most likely be starting the 2013 season at Triple-A Albuquerque. Mark Ellis will most likely be the everyday second baseman but will undoubtedly be given frequent days off. I look for Jerry Hairston Jr. and Elian Herrera to be his replacement, although Colletti has suggested that Hairston Jr. may end up being the Dodgers 4th outfielder, especially since the Dodgers are not bringing Juan Rivera back. And although Tony Gwynn Jr. is still under contract with the Dodgers, he is currently not on the 40-man roster and his future with the Big club is uncertain.
I suspect that the Dodgers bullpen will remain basically intact, with the Dodgers aggressively attempting to re-sign Brandon League, Randy Choate and Jamie Wright. Wright was clearly the workhorse of the Dodgers bullpen in 2012 but he will be 38 in December. The Dodgers also have several exceptional relievers in their farm system, but Colletti has a tendency to turn a blind eye in that direction, opting instead to sign relievers on the downside of their careers. The good news is that the Dodgers will also have Ronald Belisario (if he makes it to spring training, that is), Kenley Jansen, Shawn Tolleson, and Paco Rodriguez returning in 2013, along with Scott Elbert and Javy Guerra returning from injuries.
A.J. Ellis has certainly earned the right to return as the Dodgers everyday catcher and there is no reason to think that he will not; and with yesterday’s announcement that Matt Treanor will not be returning as the back-up catcher, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Tim Federowicz as the back-up catcher in 2013. Colletti has made it very clear that he is very fond of Federowicz, but perhaps this has more to do with Ned trying to convince his bosses (and himself) that his trade of Rafael Furcal and Trayvon Robinson for Federowicz, Stephen Fife and Juan Rodriguez was a good one. That being said, it is my opinion that utilizing Federowicz as the back-up catcher has a much greater upside than signing another old, weak-hitting “has been” catcher off of the junk heap. Now this is certainly not to say that the Dodgers won’t be looking for veteran catching talent, but I honestly believe that FedEx will get the nod.
Although the Dodgers have pretty much already done most of their off-season shopping this past July and August, I’m betting that they will pick up a few more pieces this winter.
One thing is for certain, the 2013 season in now officially under way for the Dodgers – and I can’t wait for Opening Day against last season’s World Champions.