Things have calmed down notably for a Dodgers team that spent early and often once the 2012 season ended, but that doesn’t mean their frenzied acquiring of players has been forgotten. As the 2013 season approaches and all of us begin making our sure-to-go-wrong predictions, we’ll all be forced to revisit all of the moves the Dodgers have made over the past several months (and really everything the team has done since their mid-summer 2012 trade barrage). The Dodgers will inevitably wind up as NL West favorites, but should they be?
Well, there isn’t a strong argument to say the Dodgers aren’t the best team in a so-so division such as the NL West. That said, there also isn’t evidence that the older of the two Los Angeles teams is going to be able to run away with the division and take the postseason by storm. There is a lot to like about the Dodgers, but there are also plenty of reasons for trepidation, and it’s those reasons that serve to keep my expectations at bay.
One of the more troubling problems that plagues the Dodgers won’t be nearly as big an issue until future seasons, but the majority of the players that have been acquired are at advanced ages, make a ton of money, and may have already left their best years behind them. Adrian Gonzalez has refrained from drawing any walks or taking his previous approach at the plate for a couple of seasons now, Carl Crawford has been injured so long it’s hard to know what kind of player he’ll be, and Josh Beckett is wholly inconsistent. Then there’s Hanley Ramirez, whose game fell from MVP-level to something solid but decidedly less impressive in 2011 and hasn’t really recovered yet.
There are also still plenty of holes on the Dodger roster that haven’t been stuffed with cash. The rotation looks incredible with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top, but the bullpen may not be an upper echelon unit even after general manager Ned Colletti overpaid just about every reliever he could find on the free agent market. Meanwhile, it’s hard to be convinced that the lineup will actually be one of baseball’s best. With Gonzalez, Crawford, and Ramirez all question marks to some degree, a lot of the work falls on the shoulders of the recently injury-prone star Matt Kemp. And what about the middle infield? Hell, what about the entire infield? It’s a weak unit by any metrics you want to use.
Maybe the most valid argument against the Dodgers as clear-cut favorites to win the 2013 NL West is also the simplest one: the roster isn’t markedly better than the competition. The reigning World Series champion Giants have plenty of holes as well, but it’s not abundantly clear that those holes are any more detrimental than the ones that are littered across the Dodgers’ roster. Sure, the Giants have to be worried about the starting rotation given Madison Bumgarner‘s late season collapse and Tim Lincecum‘s sudden descent into mediocrity. The lineup is still short on legitimate punch, too, but the Giants remain as intriguing a challenger for the NL West as their more celebrated rivals.
The Dodgers really have improved even if that improvement has come at the cost of millions upon millions of dollars and the devastation of a farm system, but they’re still going to have to fight to earn a playoff spot. There are plenty of other hungry teams vying for both the NL West and the myriad of Wild Card spots that now exist, so only time will tell if this recent L.A. spending spree pays off as handsomely as everyone in the organization hopes.