What the Los Angeles Dodgers need to do to Earn Another Championship
Well, it certainly took them long enough. 31 years of regular-season triumph and resounding failure in the postseason. It was a running gag for the rest of the sports world, whether it was Clayton Kershaw failing to perform at his highest level even if trash cans were involved or Jonathan Broxton becoming the Phillies NLCS MVP. Don’t forget to mention the failed five straight Rookie of the Years in the 1990s with Mike Piazza as the poster child. When it seemed there was no end in sight, it finally happened for the Los Angeles Dodgers in less-than-magical 2020.
The 2020 World Series Championship was most definitely a team effort but it still would not have happened without Mookie Betts. His five tools were what pushed this very good Dodger team to elite. Good managing on Dave Roberts’ behalf enabled players like Julio Urias and Dustin May to stand out on baseball’s biggest stage. Unsung heroes such as Kike Hernandez and Edwin Rios gave the Dodgers not only lift but clubhouse confidence. The trophy went to the best team in baseball. The question here however is how will the best team win it all again?
Seeing Kike Hernandez sign with the Boston Red Sox for two years and 14 million dollars was a shot in the heart. He was the heart and soul in terms of chemistry for this team. Not only this, but he could play gold glove caliber defense at nearly any position. His batting average wasn’t always there but countless clutch moments have engrained him deep in Los Angeles sports lore.
Seemingly as quickly as Hernandez left, Joc Pederson signed a one year deal with the Chicago Cubs. While not having quite the clubhouse presence or the versatility at other positions, Pederson was known by many to become Babe Ruth in the postseason. Sorry, Randy Arrozarena, Joc Pederson is the post-season home run hero (yes I don’t care what stats say).
After losing these key pieces, there are issues in this team that need to be addressed. Former All-Star closer Kenley Jansen simply doesn’t have it anymore. His cutter has no movement and every time he takes the mound, it’s as if he’s performing a high wire act. Dave Roberts lost faith in him late in the season as well as throughout the postseason. The Dodgers somewhat solved this issue by signing Blake Treinen from Oakland last year and effectively using rookie flame-throwing right-hander Brustar Graterol. Roberts in 2021 will have to decide where he wants to go for the ninth inning and who can prove to him to close out the game. Consistently using Julio Urias in long relief paid dividends to the outcomes of both NLCS and World Series. I can definitely see him reprise his role for the upcoming season as a bridge to either Treinen or Graterol.
A huge question mark is where Justin Turner will end up. He is a free agent and has made no indication where he will sign. If the Dodgers don’t end up resigning him, they will lose another key piece to the clubhouse as well as a .300 hitting third baseman. I can see the Dodgers re-signing him especially after Marcus Semien signed with the Blue Jays. It is reassuring that Los Angeles still has a deep farm system. If the Dodgers lose Turner and don’t want to trade for Kris Bryant, they could always turn catcher Keibert Ruiz into a third baseman, with Will Smith/Austin Barnes both already manning the catching position. They also have young power hitter Kody Hoese most likely playing this year in double or triple-A who could be a September call-up.
Trevor Bauer is still available on the market and the Dodgers desperately need him. Kershaw is only getting older and more fragile. Not only that, but the starting pitchers alongside him other than Walker Bueller have never thrown more than 150 innings in a season. Bauer would add depth and experience. Bauer is also outspoken and a clubhouse guy which will be vital after LA losing Hernandez.
What the Los Angeles Dodgers have at the moment will guide them to the postseason, however if they add Bauer and resign Turner, they will once again be serious World Series contenders.