After losing a heart-wrenching defeat to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers face a rather interesting offseason.
Wholesale changes certainly won't be in the cards -- as the Dodgers possess a rather young core. Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger look like building blocks for the next 8-to-10 years. Los Angeles also has a number of players currently in their primes, including Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Chris Taylor, Austin Barnes, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Kenta Maeda.
When looking at the free agent situation, the main focus will surround Yu Darvish. The 31-year-old right-hander from Japan pitched well once the Dodgers nabbed him at the trade deadline. Once the World Series rolled around, Darvish didn't get out of the second inning in either start.
It was a highly disappointing turn of events for the front office, that usually doesn't want to part with any of its highly-regarded prospects for a rental. Darvish was acquired to help the Dodgers win in October, and unfortunately he did anything but. He's tantalizing from the standpoint that he's got brilliant stuff on the mound. Culturally, he also fit in quite well with the team.
However, Darvish figures to command at least $20 million per season on the open market. If the Dodgers were hesitant about offering Zack Greinke a sixth year, it's likely that they'll opt to let Darvish walk. The other two primary free agents worth exploring are lefty Tony Watson and lethal set-up man Brandon Morrow. It's very feasible to think that Morrow will garner a closer gig somewhere else -- and for a hefty sum. Watson was solid whilst with the Dodgers. Though with Tony Cingrani and Luis Avilan already under contract, he could also be a candidate to sign elsewhere.
There really isn't one specific spot where one could construe as a major weakness within the roster. Pitching depth across the board is very good -- as is the overall depth within the club. A primary goal this winter will be getting Seager and Justin Turner fully healthy. Neither were close to 100-percent during postseason play.
Though it goes against the primary philosophy of the club, acquiring Giancarlo Stanton would be a game-changer. Not only is he the legitimate power threat in all of baseball, but he's also a Los Angeles native. Miami won't want to take any salary on -- which means the Dodgers would (in theory) have to part with a couple of their precious prospects.
In the longterm, this might not make a whole lot of sense -- especially considering the rather conservative mindset of the Andrew Friedman-Farhan Zaidi pairing. The duo would rather build with homegrown players than be saddled with bloated contracts down the line. However, it's incredibly rare for a player of Stanton's ilk to be available in trade talks.
If the Dodgers don't go after Stanton, they could opt to stay in-house with the promotion of Alex Verdugo. Long known as a crown jewel in the Dodgers' farm system, he'll be given every opportunity out of spring training to win an outfield spot. He could ultimately be battling Joc Peterson for the left field position -- particularly with the emergence of Taylor in center.
As for Darvish's vacant spot, stud prospect Walker Buehler could fit the bill. He got a taste of Major League action in September, and frankly wasn't all that good. However, he possesses ace-like stuff, and figures to be much better in more of a stable capacity.
The darkhorse everyone's talking about is Shohei Otani. A dual-threat as a starting pitcher/slugger, the Japanese prospect has yet to decide whether he will come to the Major Leagues this season. Even if he does, interested parties will have to pony up a ton of cash not only for his contract, but also for the posting fee. There could be other issues prohibiting his arrival as well.
If he is available, the Dodgers would surely be on the shortlist. The franchise has a rich history of signing and utilizing Asian players -- particularly pitchers. Los Angeles is also much closer to his native Japan when compared to New York and Boston.
Ultimately, it will be very fascinating to see what the Dodgers opt to do during this offseason. They could stay the course -- which would include developing young prospects. Or, they could shake things up and make a gigantic splash.
Either way, this franchise is loaded with resources across the board. It figures to be in World Series contention for the foreseeable future.
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