While the 2021 Dodgers return most of their core players, the ballclub will be without some familiar faces and fan favorites due to free agency and trades made during the offseason.
The Bad Side of Free Agency:
-Utility player Kiké Hernández signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Boston Red Sox
-Outfielder Joc Pederson signed a one-year, $7 million(+ option) deal with the Chicago Cubs
-Pitchers Alex Wood (one-year, $3 million) and Jake McGee (two-year, $7 million) signed deals with the San Francisco Giants
-Relief pitcher Pedro Báez signed a two-year, $12-14 million(+ option) deal with the Houston Astros
-Relief pitcher Dylan Floro was traded to the Miami Marlins in exchange for left-handed pitcher Alex Vesia and right-handed pitcher Kyle Hurt
-Relief pitcher Adam Kolarek (along with minor leaguer Cody Thomas) was traded to the Oakland A’s in exchange for infielder Sheldon Neuse and minor league right-handed pitcher Gus Varland.
The Good Side of Free Agency:
While losing some key contributors from last season, it wouldn’t be a Dodger offseason without making a big splash. Maybe chalk this one up as a cannonball as the Dodgers signed the 2020 National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer to a three-year, $102 million deal. https://twitter.com/Feinsand/status/1357782339590512644
Additionally, after months of uncertainty, the Dodgers were able to re-sign veteran third baseman Justin Turner to a two-year deal worth $34 million.
While the loss of some important pieces to the overall puzzle hurts, the Dodgers still have one of, if not, the best 40-man roster in the league and bring back a core group that knows one title is not enough.
Here is the projected Opening Day roster of what the Dodgers will look like when they take on the Colorado Rockies on April 1.
Catchers (2): Will Smith, Austin Barnes
Smith had the upper hand on Barnes in terms of playing time last season but that’s not to say each did not contribute to winning games. They both did and especially in the postseason. Smith has the advantage in terms of offensive prowess, while Barnes is the better defensive catcher. If one were to slump, the Dodger have their number 2 overall prospect waiting in the minors in Keibert Ruiz. In the two games Ruiz played in last season he went 2-for-8 with three strikeouts and a home run in his first major league at-bat.
First base (2): Max Muncy, Matt Beaty,
Muncy has been a unique find after he was brought to the Dodgers in 2018. While his numbers can be rather inconsistent, Muncy’s game is the big fly. He hit 35 home runs in back-to-back seasons in 2018 and 2019 before having a down year in 2020 only hitting 12 home runs in 58 games played. Beaty could earn more playing time depending on his performance in spring training. If the Dodgers had any weak spot to be concerned about this upcoming season, it would be the first base corner.
Second base (2): Chris Taylor, Gavin Lux
Similar to Muncy, Taylor was a steal after being traded to the Dodgers in 2016 for pitcher Zach Lee. Taylor’s ability to play in all parts of the field fills the void of losing Kiké Hernández but look for Taylor to play the majority of the season at second base. For Gavin Lux, it’s gut-check time. The number 20 overall pick back in 2016 has not shined as bright as the Dodgers were expecting since his call up to the pro club in 2019. He’s performed well at the minor-league levels, but it hasn’t transitioned to the big leagues. Lux will be this season’s player to watch for as he looks to earn a permanent spot and be the everyday second baseman.
Third base (2): Justin Turner, Edwin Ríos
The big resigning of Turner helped the Dodgers avoid a major soft spot in their lineup. The 36-year-old veteran has been (besides Clayton Kershaw) the heart and soul of this franchise since his arrival in 2014. His consistency both on the field and at the plate proves the worthiness of his newly signed contract. While Turner’s presence is important to the clubhouse dynamics, the reality is Turner’s workload will be heavily reduced giving Ríos the opportunity to play more. His strong suit is the power and solid contact ability he carries in his bat. Turner may be the better defensively player, but Ríos is not shy from playing the hot corner.
Shortstop (1): Corey Seager
Entering a contract season, Seager is looking to carry his hot play from the shortened 2020 season where he earned honors as MVP in both the Championship Series and World Series, the first player since the San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner won both in 2014 and the first Dodgers player since pitcher Orel Hershiser won both awards in 1988. Similar to Hershiser’s world championship performances in ’88, when the moment was the biggest, Seager shined the brightest.
Outfield (3): Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock
Losing Pederson to the Cubs was due in large part to the platoon system manager Dave Roberts used throughout the regular and the postseason. Betts and Bellinger are locked in at their respected positions (Betts in right field, Bellinger in centerfield) which gives Pollock the ability to earn and hold a spot in left field. Pollock’s play could also be dependent on how well Taylor and Lux are playing as Taylor is just as good an outfielder as he is an infielder.
Starting pitchers (5): Trevor Bauer, Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Julio Urias
The Dodgers pitching as a whole has always been the biggest question mark season after season. When you look at the five names listed, two names stand out the most in Bauer and Price. Bauer was off in Cincinnati pitching his best season of his career while Price made the choice to stay out of baseball because of the pandemic. Adding two Cy Young Award winners along with Buehler, Kershaw, and Urias makes the Dodgers starting rotation one of the best in baseball, at least on paper. If the group can stay healthy and carry over their performances from a season ago, they could very well be the difference once again and lead the franchise to back-to-back titles.
Relief pitchers (8): Victor González, Brusdar Graterol, Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Corey Knebel, Blake Treinen, Scott Alexander, Dustin May
May is the odd one out of the bunch since he would technically be a starter more so than a reliever and the Dodgers could very well implement a six-man rotation. While the losses of Báez, McGee, Floro and Kolarek (all key contributors to the late game pitching heroics) the Dodgers bring in a core group and added veteran Corey Knebel to bolster the bullpen. The firepower of Kelly and Treinen will help in the late innings and perhaps we will see a combined closer with Jansen and Graterol.
In MLB’s Top 100 players of 2021, the Dodgers had nine players rank in the top 50:
-50th Will Smith (C)
-46th Justin Turner (3B)
-45th Max Muncy (1B)
-40th Walker Buehler (SP)
-38th Clayton Kershaw (SP)
-29th Trevor Bauer (SP)
-24th Corey Seager (SS)
-10th Cody Bellinger (OF)
-2nd Mookie Betts (OF)
When two-thirds of your starting lineup and three-fifths of your starting pitching rotation ranks in the top 50 in baseball, it has all the makings to repeat as world champions. Will the Dodgers do it again?