Coming off an impressive 2019 season that ended up a few games short in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers should hang their hat on their laurels from what they achieved in 2018. But that is not the type of franchise they are, and they already have their sights set on spending more money, winning the National League West division again, and making it back to the World Series this upcoming season.
Although they fell to the unstoppable Boston Red Sox in the first of two Boston vs. Los Angeles championship matchups in professional sports this year, the Dodgers made their impression on the league by going through a tough division during the season, easily disposing of the Atlanta Braves and then getting pushed to the brink by the upstart Milwaukee Brewers to win the NL’s bid to the championship series.
In the offseason, this team has already been busy, shedding salary while restocking some of their farm system in their deal with the Cincinnati Reds, who really did the Dodgers a favor by taking on the bigger contracts of outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, as well as starting pitcher Alex Wood. What turned this deal into a coup for the Dodgers was that in return for the salary relief, they did receive a capable arm of filling Wood’s role in Homer Bailey (who has an albatross of a contract himself) but the real icing on the cake was the Reds sending over two top-20 prospects in the deal.
Normally teams who are looking to ship out salary understand that they will most likely receive a return that is pennies on the dollar, but Los Angeles seems to have gotten the dollar and then pennies on top of that in their side of the trade, unheard of in professional sports (if the front office is smart, obviously).
While these prospects are more to help stock the team down the road, they help round the franchise out nonetheless, a rarity for the big-ticket franchise who is more known for taking on big money, doling out big contracts and giving up future talent to capitalize on winning now.
With the team’s structure and outlook as it is, here are five bold predictions for the team going into the 2019 season.
3. Dodgers finish year $20+ million over luxury threshold – with little results to show for it
Currently, the team somehow managed to get underneath the luxury tax threshold, and currently, the Dodgers sit exactly $6,431,667 underneath the threshold, so there is a bit of wiggle room still for any final moves. To no one’s surprise though, this team is not known for counting their money and sitting back on it.
Seeing yet another set of holes that need to be addressed come late June, the team will once again ship out young prospects and organizational fillers to build their team up again to help achieve results now, but 2019 will not have similar results of 2018.
While the team should again control the division and win the West, there is less of a chance for them to make it farther in the playoffs this upcoming season than last year, due to how other members of the NL have built themselves up over the course of the offseason.
With the likes of the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and even the Washington Nationals all making moves to shore up their teams, the NL East will become a much better division than it has been in the past few seasons. Combine those improvements with those that the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals have all made to keep pace in what is the league’s toughest division, and that all adds up to LA facing more competition.
Unless this team makes big moves at any point during the season, their offseason has paled in comparison to what the vast majority of the National League has done, so LA has fallen behind the proverbial ball that is the pace of what it will take to make the playoffs and go far.
Falling in the Wild Card round or the next round after will not be a surprise in the least for this team, which would be an utter disappointment for a team one year removed from a World Series appearance.
2. Clayton Kershaw fails to live up to contractual expectations
After rumors circulated of a departure, Kershaw ended up inking a three-year, $93 million deal right after the World Series, locking him up in grey and blue until 2021. While the team has not shied away from getting rid of salary and players that have been with the team for a while, Kershaw seems to be too invested in this franchise to ever be released or traded, but weirder things have happened.
Injuries have made Kershaw not as indestructible the past few seasons, and going into his year-31 season with a ton of innings on his arm is starting to add up for the southpaw, who will again be counted on as the staff’s ace for 2019.
We may have seen the last of the dominant Kershaw, and while he will show flashes of who he used to be, 2019 may be his last season where he even comes close to being who he used to be.
1. Dodgers pushed until the final week to clinch West
A surprise team in the West will again rise from the ashes and push the Dodgers for the divisional crown, but they will not be able to snatch the torch from LA.
The San Francisco Giants, who are rumored to be interested in signing Bryce Harper, do not have the ammunition currently to make a run. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who just traded Paul Goldschmidt and lost A.J. Pollock to the Dodgers, no longer have much firepower left in the desert. The San Diego Padres are rumored to like every free agent, but lack that pull for any big names and will be stuck in mediocrity again. But the Colorado Rockies are LA’s biggest threat.
Coming off a season that saw them defeat the Cubs in the Wild Card matchup in Wrigley under the lights, Colorado fell to the Brewers in quick fashion, signaling the team was still far from competing.
Having lost reliever Adam Ottavino to the New York Yankees is a big blow, but this team is smart and manager Bud Black knows how to use what he has. The team has made splashes at the deadline before too and is not afraid to shell out money if the time is right. Colorado is the biggest threat for the Dodgers and should compete for the Wild Card yet again.
2019 is a time of change for the Dodgers, so don’t be surprised if they regress a bit this upcoming season.