The Los Angeles Dodgers have had a bottomless wallet ever since the Magic Johnson-led group bought them from Frank McCourt about two years ago. This year, their payroll will be somewhere north of $221 million. What have they bought for that?
- A starting rotation where the fifth starter, Josh Beckett, could be a No. 2 guy on most teams (if he's healthy), and where they have two guys in Paul Maholm and Chad Billingsley who likely won't even make the rotation if everyone else stays healthy.
- A lineup that didn't score all that many runs (649 -- just 39 more than the Cubs did), but didn't have to because the pitching was so good.
- A young(ish) bullpen led by Kenley Jansen, who struck out 111 and walked just 18 in 76⅓ innings.
This team muddled its way through much of 2013 before having one of the most amazing two-month runs in recent major-league history; they went 42-12 in July and August, roaring from 12 games under .500 and 9½ games out of first place June 20 to 83-55 and 13½ games ahead September 3. Even a 9-15 finish after that lead didn't cost them the division title. They dispatched the Braves rather easily in the Division Series, then lost the NLCS to the Cardinals.
But did they panic? Did they say they weren't lefthanded enough?
No, because they didn't have to, with this stacked pitching staff. Their biggest move of the offseason was signing Clayton Kershaw to a long-term contract extension. The only real change to the Dodgers' starting lineup will be at second base, where last year's incumbent, Mark Ellis, departed via free agency. The Dodgers' depth chart lists Cuban signee Alex Guerrero as their starting second baseman. Guerrero got a four-year, $28 million deal from the Dodgers and they hope that the 26-year-old, who showed power and speed in Cuba, can translate those talents to MLB.
Otherwise, this is a stacked team without any real holes, and they can probably win the N.L. West even if the oft-injured Matt Kemp doesn't make a full recovery from his ankle injury. Does all the spending guarantee a World Series title? Not with the crapshoot that is the modern baseball postseason.
The Cubs could wind up being a very different team by the time they first play the Dodgers this year, as that series comes right after the non-waiver trading deadline: August 1-2-3 in Los Angeles. The Dodgers will be the only non-divisional opponent to visit Wrigley Field in September; that series is September 18-19-20-21.