The problem with a 106-win team (a ridiculous statement, I know) going into an offseason without a championship is there really isn’t a clear weakness among the group.
Yes, the bullpen doesn’t look like the strongest, but we know Andrew Friedman isn’t going throw a ton of money at it. The starting rotation could go next season as-is (with no Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu) and still be one of the best in the National League. And the offense is seemingly set with a young core of players (Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Corey Seager, Alex Verdugo) and some solid veterans (Clayton Kershaw, Max Muncy, A.J. Pollock, Justin Turner).
So, what should be the Dodgers’ primary focus heading into the winter? I’ll have my own version of that sometime next month, but aside from the obvious targets — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg — what else can the front office do to get them over the proverbial hump? It might just be signing one of the big free agents, which could cause a domino effect of moves. Or, Friedman could decide to shake things up a bit, which is something he alluded to in his end-of-season press conference. It’d be a riskier move for a generally risk averse front office, but it might be what’s necessary to find the right combination.
Maybe Seager is traded. Maybe the Dodgers don’t bring back any of their free agents. Maybe they pull off one of their big midseason-like trades over the winter. The options are seemingly endless.
If, generally, the same team returns in 2020, that won’t be the end of the world. There are prospects coming up (Josiah Gray, Keibert Ruiz) and who have already debuted (Gavin Lux, Dustin May) who could be the guys to get the Dodgers to where they want to be. But I’d be lying if I said my excitement would be tempered a bit because they’ve failed to bring in a big-time player like one of the aforementioned free agents or a trade target like Mookie Betts or Francisco Lindor. It’s not just because they’re big names, but because they’re among baseball’s best. I’ve heard that adding great-to-elite baseball players to your team usually makes said team better, but you might want to check my work on that.
Friedman’s first offseason with the Dodgers was pivotal. He traded for Yasmani Grandal, Howie Kendrick & Jimmy Rollins, traded away Dee Gordon and signed Brett Anderson & Brandon McCarthy. None of those moves were terribly risky — at the time and in hindsight. Perhaps I’m setting myself up for failure expecting him to do something even riskier with a team coming off a 106-win season (hi, Bryce Harper), but it just feels like this might be the most important offseason since that first one for Friedman. Does he shake things up? Does he stick to a similar plan that he has executed the last four years? Does he trust the youngsters coming up to supplement the squad as some players begin to age out? There are a lot of possibilities to this offseason.
Friedman is about to ink a new deal (if it hasn’t happened already) to run this franchise for the foreseeable future. While it’s definitely nice for the team to be perennial World Series contenders, it’d be nice if they actually, you know, won it. It’s not all on him, as I’ve long been a proponent of “players need to play better” come playoff time, but maybe it’s time for some new blood in certain areas.
One thing’s for sure: Friedman has probably thought about this much more than I have (which is saying something). Whatever the result, here’s hoping the end goal is a championship.