Los Angeles Dodgers Off-Season Preview

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League West for the 2nd straight season but were eliminated in the NLDS by the St. Louis Cardinals. They have a great core of players such as MVP favorite Clayton Kershaw and an exciting young phenom in Yasiel Puig. Despite the talent and payroll of the team, they still failed to make it to the World Series and watched their rival San Francisco Giants win the championship for the 3rd time in 5 seasons.

After their early exit from the playoffs, the Dodgers signed Andrew Friedman to a record setting, 5 year, 35 million dollar contract to become their President of Baseball Operations. Friedman, widely considered one of the brightest minds in baseball, will try to build the Dodgers back into the World Series.

The Dodgers have 17 players with guaranteed contracts for 2015: Tim Federowicz, Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarrena, Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon League, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Withrow, and JP Howell.

They have 7 players that are eligible for arbitration: AJ Ellis, Drew Butera, Dee Gordon, Justin Turner, Darwin Barney, Scott Elbert, and Kenley Jansen.

The Dodgers have 3 players with options: Chad Billingsley ($14 million team option or $3 million buyout), Dan Haren ($10 million vesting option), Brian Wilson ($8.5 million player option). Billingsley has had his option declined, making him a costless agent. Haren exercised his player option, keeping him with the team. Wilson reportedly will exercise his option but it is not official.

They also have 7 costless agents: Josh Beckett (retiring), Hanley Ramirez (will receive qualifying offer), Kevin CorreiaRoberto HernandezChris PerezJamey Wright, and Paul Maholm.

The Dodgers biggest need this offseason is to upgrade the bullpen. The costless agent market is filled with quality pitchers headed by Andrew Miller and David Robertson. Other options they could look at are Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Rafael Soriano, Sergio Romo, Zach Duke, and Casey Janssen. After they fix the bullpen, they will need to figure out their situation on the left side of the infield. The Dodgers could try to re-sign Hanley Ramirez and play him at shortstop for one more season, then shift him to third base and play top prospect Corey Seager at shortstop. They could bring Ramirez back as a third baseman and play Erisbel Arruebarrena at shortstop. They could let Ramirez walk and use Juan Uribe at third base and Arruebarrena at shortstop. They could also go to the costless agent market and try to sign Pablo Sandoval, Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera, or Stephen Drew. The Dodgers also need to figure out who their catcher will be next season. AJ Ellis struggled all season but started to hit very well in the postseason. Russell Martin is the top catcher in a thin costless agent catcher market. They could look for an upgrade like Martin and keep Ellis as the personal catcher for Clayton Kershaw.

The Dodgers need depth in their pitching rotation. The first 4 spots are locks but after that, they are very thin. They could give prospect Zach Lee a chance to earn the 5 spot or they could look to the costless agent market. Brandon McCarthy, Justin Masterson, Brandon Morrow, Francisco Liriano, and Kenta Maeda are names to keep an eye on. Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu can become costless agents after this season so this may tempt them to go after Max ScherzerJon Lester, or James Shields but it is unlikely. Finally, the Dodgers need to trade one of their highly paid outfielders. Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig will not be traded any time soon unless the team is blown away by an offer. Scott Van Slyke is more valuable on the Dodgers than he is off of them, and they do not want to trade a prospect like Joc Pederson. That leaves Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier.

Both players have large contracts and little value. Crawford played well last season but he has not been consistent and he has struggled with injuries. Andre Ethier has been in a rapid decline for the past few seasons and he has struggled to hit left-handed pitching his whole career. The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers are a potential fit for Crawford, a swap of bad contracts like Elvis Andrus' for Crawford's. That trade gives the Dodgers a shortstop and allows the Rangers to play Jurickson Profar at shortstop and fill an outfield spot, it would benefit both teams. Andre Ethier would be harder to move because he has not been productive for a few seasons now and he has a large contract, the Dodgers would be lucky to get a minor league pitcher for him while eating most of the contract. Ideally they would like to trade both to play Joc Pederson and Scott Van Slyke but trading just one of them will be tough.

The Dodgers have a strong core of players that will compete for the NL West crown for a long time. They have built their farm system up which now has exciting prospects like Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias. With Andrew Friedman building the team, a rotation led by Kershaw, and exciting, young players like Puig, Seager, and Pederson, the Dodgers will be a strong team for years to come.