With Opening Day hours away, it’s time to look at the Dodgers’ 2016 outlook.
After a rough spring, the Dodgers are finally set to take the field in a game that matters. At 4 PM, the Dodgers and Padres will kick off the 2016 season in San Diego. Here’s what to know.
The headline of the offseason came in early December, when the Arizona Diamondbacks came out of nowhere and snaked Zack Greinke from the Dodgers. It was supposed to be a two-horse race between the Dodgers and Giants for Greinke’s services, but the Diamondbacks offered him an obscene six-year, $206.5 million contract. Some of it is deferred, but Greinke will be making over $30 million a year for the next six years. The signing was a huge blow to the Dodgers’ rotations and gave the Diamondbacks a very formidable front end of the rotation.
The only regular position player gone from the Dodgers is Jimmy Rollins, who signed a non-guaranteed contract with the White Sox and won their starting shortstop job. The Dodgers also lost Juan Nicasio to the Pirates, and while his season with the Dodgers wasn’t anything spectacular, Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage has a reputation of being able to squeeze the best out of everyone. Nicasio was dominant in the spring and could be a pleasant surprise for Pittsburgh.
The Dodgers made a pair of minor league trades, as they traded Tyler Olsen and Ronald Torreyes to the Yankees for Rob Segedin. It was a minor move, but an impressive spring could put Segedin in the conversation for a promotion later on in the season. They also were part of a three piece trade, as they traded Scott Schebler, Jose Peraza and Brandon Dixon to the Reds. Peraza will begin the season in the minors, but Schebler made the Reds roster.
After Greinke, the biggest shakeup came in the coaches office. Former manager Don Mattingly and bench coach Tim Wallach are in Miami. Hitting coach Mark McGwire is the Padres’ bench coach. Davey Lopes and Ron Roenicke are in Washington and Anaheim, respectively.
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Who is in?
The Dodgers had a hole in the rotation before losing Greinke. That hole was nearly filled by Hisashi Iwakuma, but that signing fell through. The Dodgers brought in Scott Kazmir and went abroad to bring in Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda. While the Dodgers lost Greinke, they brought back Brett Anderson. As far as position players go, they re-signed Chase Utley, and Howie Kendrick fell back into their lap.
In the trade with the Reds and White Sox, Chicago traded a trio of prospects to LA. Pitcher Frankie Montas was named the 95th best prospect according to MLB.com, second baseman Micah Johnson was named the seventh-best second base prospect, and outfielder Trayce Thompson could have the biggest impact of the bunch in 2016.
The Dodgers’ bullpen was an issue last season, and the Dodgers were mostly betting on pitchers living up to their potential. They did bring in Joe Blanton, who had a shockingly solid season out of the pen for the Royals and Pirates. They unceremoniously added Louis Coleman who looked great in the spring and will hopefully return to his 2013 level of performance.
The coaching staff was a major overhaul. Dave Roberts won the manager position and brought in his own staff. Former Mets’ bench coach Bob Geren will serve the same position with the Dodgers, as will former Diamondbacks hitting coach Turner Ward. Former Red Sox baserunning coach George Lombard takes over as the Dodgers’ new first base coach, and former Mariners first base coach Chris Woodward takes over at third base for the Dodgers.
Depth is key
You’re probably tired of reading about it, but the Dodgers’ strength this year will be their depth. They took a cost-effective approach and have the deepest roster in baseball by a longshot. The top-end talent isn’t as strong without Greinke, but the Dodgers settled for a deeper rotation and deep position players.
The depth is already being tested, as the Dodgers ended the offseason by placing 10 players on the DL. Their DL rotation of Hyun-jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Mike Bolsinger and Frankie Montas would probably be the second-best rotation in Los Angeles. Andre Ethier is sidelined with a leg fracture, and Howie Kendrick and Yasmani Grandal will begin the season on the DL with less-serious injuries and the plan is for them to return by the home opener.
It’s not sexy, but it’s very important to have depth. The Diamondbacks arguably have three of the five best players in the division, but one of them (A.J. Pollock) just suffered a fractured elbow and will miss significant time. Without outfield depth, they’re in a lot more trouble after one injury than the Dodgers are after 10.
Breaking down the competition.
The Padres and Rockies are clearly not on the same level as the rest of the division. The Padres have done a solid job with a pseudo-rebuild, getting a king’s ransom from Boston for Craig Kimbrel. They have some quality rotation pieces, but will more likely be selling them at the deadline. The Rockies have Nolan Arenado and now have a great closer in Jake McGee, but a great closer is sort of useless on a terrible team.
The Diamondbacks were the darlings of the offseason, adding Greinke and Shelby Miller to their rotation. Coupled with an elite offense, this looked like a solid recipe until Pollock’s injury. They have as much front-end talent as any team in baseball, but their depth is severely lacking and it’ll be nearly impossible for them to succeed without Pollock. A whole lot has to go right for them to contend with the Dodgers.
The Giants figure to be the Dodgers’ stiffest competition once again. They spent a lot of money on pitching this offseason and now boast an impressive front three of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Bumgarner is a star getting brighter ever year, but Cueto has his fair share of concerns (bum arm last year, struggled hard in KC), and Jeff Samardzija has always gotten by on his big name rather than results. They all will benefit from their home ballpark, but that rotation is far from a sure thing and they don’t have much behind those three.
The Giants had a huge hole in center field last year, and they patched that up by signing Denard Span. Span is a solid player when healthy, but had hip surgery last season and has always been dependent on speed. If that surgery slows him down, his offense and defense will both take a hit.
Baseball season is quite long, and there is one team in this division that is equipped to withstand injuries. Fans are rightfully worried after a tumultuous spring and the loss of Greinke. However, unless someone out there has a voodoo doll poking the Dodgers all season, the division is theirs to take.
The Dodgers have won the division in each of the last three seasons. The closest division race came in 2014, when they only won the division by six games. Last year was a rough year for the Dodgers, and they still won 92 games and took the division by eight games. I predict this will be a much closer division race, but the Dodgers will still take the division. They’ll stay in the mix for a couple months, but separate themselves towards the end of the year when players on every team start slowing down and start getting dinged up.
The postseason is always a crapshoot, but I’ll predict a loss in five games in the NLCS to the Cubs. That team is stupid good, but I’ll take the Astros winning the World Series in six.
The Dodgers have the frontrunners for both the CY Young and Rookie of the Year awards, and I do think those awards will go to Clayton Kershaw and Seager. Bryce Harper will probably win MVP because he is ridiculous.
Baseball! Get excited! Unless the Dodgers are awful then go Rams.