12/11/12 3:07 PM ET
Sarah's Take: Dodgers still have work to do
By Sarah D. Morris / MLB.com
The television contract reportedly worth $6 billion enables the Dodgers to do anything they want. When Guggenheim Baseball Management purchased the Dodgers last May, it promised Dodgers fans that it is committed to bring Los Angeles another World Series championship as soon as possible. At the time of purchase, Magic Johnson stated his desire for the Dodgers to become the New York Yankees of the West Coast.
This offseason, while the Yankees, known as the biggest spenders in the Major Leagues, have shown some financial restraint, the Dodgers have continued to spend wildly. I understand the Dodgers can't rely on their farm system to produce players who could bring Los Angeles a World Series championship immediately. Hence, they need to sign free agents or make trades to fill shortcomings. Baseball people think it will be five years before the Dodgers will have a productive farm system.
Even though they need to sign free agents to be competitive for a playoff berth, the Dodgers should have shown some financial restraint. Right now, if they don't do anything else, they will have a payroll in excess of $220 million, the highest in the history of the sport.
On Monday, the Dodgers signed Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract, the second-largest contract given to a pitcher in baseball history. In a weak free-agent class, Greinke was the most sought-after pitcher.
Splitting the 2012 season between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Greinke had 15 wins and five losses. The 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner throws a variety of pitches. He is brilliant at studying the opponent and often credits the modern pitching matrix for his success. The Dodgers believe the right-handed Greinke will be the perfect complement for Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers also completed a six-year, $36 million contract with a 25-year-old Korean left-hander named Hyun-Jin Ryu. Although his agent, Scott Boras, thinks the transition to the National League from the Korea League will be easy for Ryu, it remains to be seen.
Ryu throws a 95-mph fastball, a decent curve, a slider and a changeup, his best pitch. He has dominated the Korea Baseball Organization since 2006. He pitched a shutout to clinch the gold medal for his country in the 2008 Olympics. He helped his country win the silver in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
With the recent spending spree, the Dodgers became the favorites to win the National League West. They have eight starters under contract. However, they don't know whether Ted Lilly or Chad Billingsley will be able to pitch in 2013. Coming off shoulder surgery and back problems, Lilly already was a soft-tossing lefty. Billingsley had a slight tear in his elbow but elected to try untraditional methods to heal it instead of having Tommy John surgery. So far, it appears to be working, but no one knows if he can make it through a full season, pitching every fifth day.
If both Lilly and Billingsley can be in the starting rotation, the Dodgers have the luxury of trading a starter to fill another shortcoming. This past week they lost Randy Choate when he received a three-year, $7.5 million contract from the St. Louis Cardinals. Now they have Scott Elbert, coming off elbow surgery, and Paco Rodriguez, a year removed from being drafted, as their left-handed relievers. They could use another lefty out of the bullpen.
The Dodgers also have not begun rebuilding their bench. It was a major weakness for them, and it was the primary cause for the team to miss the playoffs. They need a backup catcher and a fourth outfielder. It would be nice to have a power hitter coming off the bench.
The Dodgers must figure out what they are doing with the shortstop and the third-base positions. Earlier in the week, Don Mattingly said that Hanley Ramirez must improve his defense at shortstop. Ramirez has never been a good defensive player. I don't think he will provide enough defense to make the Dodgers happy or support their superb pitching staff. They need to find another solution for shortstop. Although many within the Dodgers organization don't think Luis Cruz can provide enough offensive production on an everyday basis at third base, he is a terrific defensive player. He needs a chance to play third base regularly and prove what he can do.
The Dodgers need to figure out what they want to do with Dee Gordon. They definitely need his speed. Although he failed in the leadoff position in 2012, the Dodgers don't have a leadoff hitter. Despite his erratic throwing arm, I think he is a much better shortstop than Ramirez. I would like to give Gordon another chance playing shortstop.
The Dodgers need to learn that having an enormous payroll doesn't guarantee a playoff berth or even having an exciting season. Greinke and Ryu will help the team. The Dodgers must perform under humongous expectations.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.