It’s hard to believe, but baseball is right around the corner. This offseason has been an odd one to say the least, but the season waits for no one. Now is the time to look at what offseason moves were made and how each team stacks up in 2021. Since the Dodgers ended 2020 on top, it only makes sense to start with them.
Key Additions: Corey Knebel, Trevor Bauer, Tommy Kahnle
Key Subtractions: Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez
L.A. finally reached the pinnacle after years of struggling to win it all. They’re not satisfied, though, as the boys in blue once again look like the best team in the league. They made a huge splash last offseason in getting Mookie, helping carry them to a World Series title. This time around, they signed the reigning NL Cy Young award winner Trever Bauer to a multi-year deal. His addition to the staff puts the Dodgers squarely in the conversation of best rotation in baseball. While Bauer is a piece the team can certainly be proud of, people can’t forget about Kahnle or Knebel.
Tommy Kahnle has spent the past few years coming out of the pen for the Yankees and has pitched pretty well. He’s been up and down like most relievers, but Kahnle has gone through stretches where he’s been very consistent. I suspect Tommy will be in a similar role for L.A. this year as he has been for New York. He won’t be a go-to guy, but he’ll be pretty solid.
Knebel was traded from Milwaukee to the Dodgers in December for a left-hander that didn’t crack the Dodgers top-20 prospect list. Corey is a buy-low guy in that he hasn’t pitched much in last few years. He missed all of 2019 due to injury and only pitched 13.1 innings in 2020. Knebel is only 29 and has the upside to be a shutdown guy. In 2017, he was an All-Star who pitched 76 innings with an ERA of 1.78 and 126 strikeouts. The Dodgers have a strong track record with players who are considered reclamation projects and Corey definitely fits that bill.
The team did suffer some losses this offseason as two players loved by the fanbase have decided to go elsewhere. Fan favorite Kike Hernandez signed a deal with the Boston Red Sox over the winter while Pederson is now a Chicago Cub. Hernandez is an athletically gifted utility player that the Dodgers got tired of waiting around on. He’s shown flashes of great play at times, but he’s never been able to put it all together. More than anything, his infectious love of the game will be missed. For Pederson, he’s been one of the poster children for the three true outcome style utilized by many players in the league today. He has his warts, but he found a way to be a useful contributor. These two will be missed, but they won’t be the reason L.A. doesn’t win another championship if that is the case.
One piece of the puzzle yet to come into place is Justin Turner. Turner has been the third baseman for L.A for the past several years and has enjoyed plenty of success there. He still remains unsigned to this point and it would be a huge loss if the Dodgers aren’t able to retain him. There hasn’t been too much noise around his free agency so I think he ends up back in L.A when the season comes around. The hold up might just be about his contract and what the length of it will be. Turner is no spring chicken and it would be a hard pill to swallow if L.A. had to give him a multi-year deal. In the end, though, it’s best for everyone for Turner to remain a Dodger.
The Dodgers have an embarrassment of riches in their farm system and on the major league roster. They’re one of the more complete teams in the league and have a chance to get even better if some of their young players continue to progress. Dustin May was very solid last season and has a chance to be even better this time around. Gavin Lux was a non-factor last season but I expect things to go differently this year. He’s too good of a player for him to be flat-out bad. His production could help offset the loss of Pederson and Hernandez, which would be a big help. Will Smith let it be known his 2019 numbers were no fluke as he was second amongst catchers in WAR in 2020. These three young guns plus whatever they may have coming up from the farm has L.A. poised to be loaded once again.
The Dodgers will likely be the favorite to win the title again. Very few teams can stack up with them in terms of talent and even fewer can realistically put it all together. I’m looking for them to win close to 100 games and add another pennant to the tally.