Now that the first month of the season is in the books, we have a better picture of how the Dodger team is melding together. They are playing good right now, but there is always room for improvement. With a few tweaks in the roster and lineup we could have a major contender with this team down the stretch. The schedule has been soft as most naysayers have repeatedly pointed out. Sure, the Padres and Pirates aren’t powerhouses by any means, but every game counts. By collecting as many games in the win column early on, we won’t have to scramble come September to try to clinch one of the coveted playoff spots. With the new ownership in control and more resources and funding available, I say let’s try to win NOW. At the press conference this morning, Stan Kasten said that the new owners would definitely be in the mix when it comes to the free agency pool. In fact, it seems like Kasten isn’t wasting anytime at all at signing a veteran for the bench.
With that being said, there are a few glaring holes in the roster which need to be addressed. One may argue that Ned Colletti had his hands tied when it came to putting this team together during the offseason because of the ownership drama and bankruptcy. Luckily Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier alongside very good pitching from Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, and Chris Capuano have transcended the mediocrity of the bland signings Colletti made this winter. Nobody thought that a team which added such meek hitting vets like Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Matt Treanor could have one of the best April records in all of MLB. Surely, Kemp and Ethier won’t be able to maintain such a monstrous level of offense through the entirety of the season, so we must fill in the holes and bolster the roster as needed.
There are four fronts to address: the bench, the bullpen, offense and lineup configuration, and ridding roster spot wasters. The first order of business is to do something about our offensively useless bench. Tony Gwynn Jr., Jerry Hairston Jr., Matt Treanor, Adam Kennedy, and Justin Sellers are not exactly players who can be depended on to come up with a pinch-hit in a late inning situation. You always need a left-handed batter off the bench, but Tony Gwynn Jr. and Adam Kennedy aren’t cutting it. Adam Kennedy is especially useless, and he only has 3 hits in 22 at bats thus far this season. I would suggest cutting this roster spot waster and picking up another bench player who could possibly give us a few hits when called upon. Someone like Aaron Miles, a versatile switch-hitting infielder, could be invaluable off the bench. I know what you’re going to say…Aaron Miles?! “He shouldn’t even be playing in the Majors!” Sure, his defense is something to be desired, but last season with the Dodgers he did manage to collect 125 hits and 45 RBI. He finished with a respectable .275 average. The Dodgers don’t have a single switch-hitter on the 25-man roster other than Mike MacDougal. The Dodgers may already be close to shoring up Bobby Abreu who was recently released from the Angels as a left-handed bench bat and occasional fifth outfielder. I’m fine with this. Bobby Abreu, although 38-years old and in decline, is an experienced ball player who can give us some quality at bats in pinch-hit situations. I much prefer him over Adam Kennedy. The only upside to Kennedy is that he can play the infield. The Dodgers probably won’t have to make a permanent decision right away if Juan Uribe does land on the DL which we are expecting.
Outside of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers offense is lacking. Obtaining a much-needed bat should be a priority of the new owners. Now there could be a situation where all the stars align just so and Juan Uribe, James Loney, Juan Rivera, and Dee Gordon have phenomenal years. I just don’t foresee that happening, and other than a lone Loney or Dee homer, the rarefied Rivera Loge dinger, and the twice-per-season A.J. Ellis homerun, nobody other than Kemp/Dre have hit for any power. By the way June 20th will be the one-year anniversary of Juan Uribe’s last homerun. Can he hit one before then? We shall see.
Dee Gordon is going through some expected growing pains, but I’m not sure how much longer Don Mattingly can keep him as the lead-off batter without him getting on base. Some lineup manipulation will have to be experimented with if Gordon continues to struggle at the plate. Most of the Dodger blogger community has been calling for A.J. Ellis to be put at the top of the order for quite some time since his OBP is excellent.
The bullpen is the last part of the roster which we need to sort out. The bullpen has more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese. One of the problems is that while Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen, and Josh Lindblom are good pitchers, they are young and inexperienced. There will be some tough decisions to come once Ronald Belisario and Matt Guerrier are both eligible to be activated. Jamey Wright, who is valuable as a long-reliever could be on the chopping block, but I must admit he has pitched well lately. Scott Elbert is our only lefty, so we couldn’t demote him. Mike MacDougal has allowed 5 earned runs off 9 hits in just 5.2 innings pitched so far this season. Dougie could possibly be done for. If the bullpen continues to be a question mark when it comes to holding a lead in late innings, we should perhaps look for an added arm for the pen. After Wednesday’s bullpen implosion, the urgency to reconfigure the pen seems even more critical. A strong middle reliever who can pitch more than one inning would be key or a quality left-handed arm out of the pen would be welcomed as well.
With the Dodgers playing well right now, I am of course nitpicking here. Yet some of these issues and holes were all apparent before the season began for the most part. It never hurts to look ahead at potential problems for the future. We were handcuffed with bankruptcy before, but now that we have emerged from that troublesome time we can actually ponder the possibilities of signing free agents and shaping this team into a postseason worthy contender.