Dodgers: Taking Stock of Where the Dodgers Currently Stand

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01: General View of stadium at Dodger Stadium on May 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01: General View of stadium at Dodger Stadium on May 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

31 years and counting.  The championship drought continues for the Dodgers and their fans.  As a young kid (and new baseball fan), watching the Dodgers win the 1988 World Series was a life-changing experience.  I fell in love with baseball, and I fell in love with the Dodgers.  I thought, wow, what an amazing feeling!  I can look forward to this every few years!  31 years and counting.

As we look to the future after exhilarating and equally exhausting back to back World Series defeats, it will help to briefly take a look back since that last championship.

The nineties brought some exciting players–Hall of Famers Mike Piazza and Pedro Martinez, as well as future Hall of Famer in the recently retired Adrian Beltre.  We witnessed 5 straight rookies of the year, and thought we had a sixth in Wilton Guererro, Vladimir’s forgotten brother.  In all of the excitement of the nineties, just two playoff appearances.

The Dodgers were miserably swept in the division series in each of those years.  The nineties ended on a miserable note with Tommy Lasorda’s health-driven retirement, the trading of franchise icon Piazza, and the O’Malley family selling the team to Fox, an ownership group as forgettable as the McCourts.

The 2000s began with a good core of players like Beltre, Shawn Green, Paul Lo Duca, Eric Gagne, and an aging Eric Karros.  In 2004, Steve Finley hit a memorable walk-off home run to send the Dodgers to the playoffs where the Dodgers won their first playoff game since 1988, but still succumbed to the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round.

Frank McCourt purchased the Dodgers that year from Fox and said all the right things about the returning the organization to its championship standard.  McCourt hired former “Moneyball” analyst Paul DePodesta as the General Manager, but DePodesta was gone after only two seasons.

The 2000s also saw the rebirth of the Dodgers farm system, the Dodgers crown jewel for much of its history, and the incubator for the Dodgers 18 Rookies of the year, the MLB lead.  In the 2000s the Dodgers drafted or signed as an amateur free agent Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley, A.J. Ellis, James Loney, Jonathan Broxton, Kenley Jansen, and of course Clayton Kershaw.

The credit for this renaissance does not go to DePodesta or McCourt, but former GM Dan Evans, who was let go prematurely in favor of DePodesta, and former Amateur Scouting Director Logan White.  This duo had the Dodgers headed in the right direction until McCourt took over.  Ned Colletti took over for DePodesta prior to 2006, and continued rebuilding the organization, along with White, by netting Kershaw in the 2006 draft and landing Andre Ethier via trade.

Colletti also made shrewd and creative trades while under stringent restrictions to not spend McCourt’s money.  Colletti landed Manny Ramirez in 2008 and jumpstarted two consecutive NL West winning teams that were fun to watch, but ultimately fell short to the Philadelphia Phillies powerhouse two years in a row.

In the early 2010s, at the depth of the McCourt ownership and messy divorce between Frank and his wife Jamie, Dodger fans had to endure teams that included Marcus Thames and Jay Gibbons as the starting outfielders, and Vicente Padilla, and John Ely in the starting rotation.  No offense to these players, but they were placeholders as McCourt did not bid on the big name free agents, and ceased significant investments into player development and scouting.

In 2012, the Dodgers were sold to Guggenheim Group, led by Mark Walter, Stan Kasten, and Magic Johnson, amongst others.   The Guggenheim Group vowed to restore the Dodger legacy.  During the May 2012 introductory press conference introducing the Guggenheim ownership group, Magic Johnson stated the Guggenheim group wanted to bring Dodger pride back to the city and the Dodger organization.

In that first season of ownership, they spent money.  They acquired Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett by trade, and extended Ethier on a long-term deal, adding over $250 MILLION dollars in salary and future commitments.  Despite the fact they did not qualify for the playoffs that year (the last time they failed to do so), the Dodgers were once again relevant.

The first phase of the Guggenheim group’s plan was to infuse the Dodger roster with veterans and make the team competitive for the near term.  Guggenheim’s second phase, which began while the first phase was underway, was to restore the farm system and its amateur and international scouting operations to excellence after several years of neglect under the McCourt ownership.

Fast forward to 2018, and we have experienced six straight division titles, and two World Series losses, yet still no championship.  Winning a World Series should be the primary goal, yet it is imprecise to say the Dodgers have not been successful.  The  Guggenheim group and the Andrew Friedman led front office have positioned the Dodgers to be a perennial contender, year in and year out.

The farm system has been the best or in the top ten in all of baseball during most of the Guggenheim tenure.  The farm system has produced solid major league players like Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig, and potential superstars Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Walker Buehler.  There is more young talent on the horizon ready to compete at the MLB level with Alex Verdugo, Julio Urias, Keibert Ruiz, and Will Smith ready to contribute at some point next season.

The starting rotation as one of the deepest in baseball with Kershaw, Buehler, Rich Hill, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Kenta Maeda, with all-stars Ross Stripling, and Alex Wood as the Dodgers sixth, and seventh starters!

The bullpen could stand to improve, as with any major league bullpen entering the offseason.  The Dodgers would benefit from adding a free agent along the lines of an Adam Ottavino, or Andrew Miller to the bullpen.

The 2019 bullpen should feature a healthy Kenley Jansen, who though not at his best last season, still managed to save 38 games and make the All-Star team.  Pedro Baez, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, and Scott Alexander provide a decent returning nucleus.  If Josh Fields and Tony Cingrani are healthy, the pitching staff will have enviable depth.

The team will be shopping for a catcher to pair with Austin Barnes for 2019, but don’t expect a star acquisition behind the plate.  A solid, inexpensive, defense-first veteran like Martin Maldonado will be in the cards.  The Dodgers will not block Ruiz and Smith’s path to the big leagues as they are two of the top catching prospects in all of baseball.

Beyond a catcher, and a couple relievers, expect the 2019 roster to look a lot like the 2018 roster.  The team features a balanced roster, with several players who play multiple positions.  This versatility is probably the Dodgers signature strength, along with the starting rotation.  The Dodgers in 2019 will continue to field a good mix of vets and young players.

More from LA Dodgers News

Seager should be ready for opening day, while Bellinger should continue to improve.  Joc Pederson, Justin Turner, Matt Kemp, and  Yasiel Puig will continue to form a potent veteran punch.  Dave Roberts will once again have Kike Hernandez, Max Muncy, and Chris Taylor to plug in all over the diamond.  Throw David Freese into the mix, and the Dodgers have the most impressive bench in baseball.

The recent rumors surrounding a trade between the Dodgers and Cleveland Indians involving one of the Indians talented Starting pitchers–two time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer for one of the Dodgers outfielders and others–have gained some momentum in recent weeks.  If this happens, look for the Dodgers to address their bullpen needs with their surplus of starting pitching, much as they did down the stretch and during post-season.

Despite the two consecutive World Series losses, the Dodger organization is as healthy as its been in decades.  The ownership group is stable and committed to winning.  The major league coaching staff and front office and player development system are continuously innovating.

The major league roster and farm system have an abundance of talent.  There are some reports of ownership mandating the payroll stay beneath the luxury cap thresholds so only time will tell how stringent that mandate, if true, will be.

dark. Next. How the Goldschmidt trade impacts the Dodgers & the NL West

Baseball fans rarely get to experience back to back World Series runs with their favorite team.  2019 will hopefully be the year Dodger fans are rewarded for their patience.  31 years and counting.