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MLB Today: Dodgers Are Killing the Offseason

January 3, 2024 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Shohei Ohtani turns the Los Angeles Dodgers into World Series favourites.
Shohei Ohtani finally gets to hit in a potent lineup. (Photo illustration by Comrade/For The Times; photograph by Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Wander Franco‘s troubles keep getting worse as he’s been arrested in Dominican Republic; Atlanta beefed up its rotation with the acquisition of Chris Sale; and the Red Sox filled that rotation hole by signing Lucas Giolito to a two-year deal. Here are some other stories we’re following as we await Spring Training…

Dodgers Overhaul Rotation

Is it any wonder that the Los Angeles Dodgers have established themselves as the favourites to win the World Series this year?

They began the offseason by re-signing righty Ricky Vanasco, who made a highly successful move to mostly pitching in relief last year, putting up some fine numbers if you simply look beyond his record. The Dodgers also re-signed veteran outfielder Jason Heyward, who hit for his highest BA since 2018 in a tremendous first season with the team.

L.A. then traded for shortstop Trey Sweeney, who missed some time last season, but took a step forward at Double-A when active. Oh, and then the Dodgers signed some dude named Shohei Ohtani; you may have heard a thing or two about this transaction.

And if that wasn’t enough to win the offseason, they traded for SP Tyler Glasnow and OF Manuel Margot and capped things off by signing coveted Japanese hurler Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

As for Ohtani — who will be a hitter only this year after tearing his UCL in late-August — the move from a neutral park in Anaheim to a slight pitcher’s park in Dodger Stadium shouldn’t overly affect his offensive numbers, and will likely be offset simply by hitting in a better lineup. As productive as he was for the Angels, he’ll likely drive in even more runs for the Dodgers. Hell, some even believe Ohtani will hit 50 homers this year (see video below).

Once he returns to pitching in 2025 and can shake off the rust, he has a chance to be even better than what he’s shown us so far, and at the very least should be a big winner backed by that lineup.

Do the Yankees Have Enough Pitching?

According to odds at FanDuel, the New York Yankees have upgraded their team enough to be considered the favourite to win the ALCS this year.

And sure, you’ve got to love the additions they made to a lineup that finished 25th in runs last year. That’s especially true in the outfield, as the Yanks claimed Oscar Gonzalez off waivers from Cleveland, traded for Alex Verdugo from archrival Boston, and then landed the big prize — Juan Soto — from the Padres, adding Trent Grisham in the same deal.

However, other than deals that landed them relievers Victor Gonzalez (who has regressed in recent years) and Cody Morris, who was horrible last year, New York has not addressed its perceived bigger need — pitching.

Strangely, they are one of just four teams that have yet to sign a single free agent to a major league deal. So, while the likes of Yamamoto, Aaron Nola, Eduardo Rodriguez, Michael Wacha, Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, Kirk Gibson, Kenta Maeda, Jack Flaherty and others have all either found new homes or re-signed with their old teams, the Yanks have simply stood along the sidelines and watched.

We’re very curious to see how New York will address this deficiency over the next few weeks, because as things stand right now, we believe it’s fair to question if they have enough pitching to represent the AL in the World Series.

Veteran Closers Making Their Mark

We were perusing the all-time saves leaderboard recently and noticed some interesting developments. At the current time, we can forget about all-time leader Mariano Rivera and No. 2 Trevor Hoffman. Membership in their exclusive 600-save club in very safe for now; in fact, no one will threaten even 500 saves until at least 2025, if then.

However, at some point this season, there will be some shifting in the top eight.

After racking up his fourth 40-save season in 2022, Kenley Jansen only managed 29 last year. It didn’t help that he missed some time, but regression in his game and being on a worse team in Boston also limited his opportunities.

Even so, Jansen has managed to reach 420, which easily puts him within striking distance of fourth overall (Francisco Rodriguez, 437). Yes, there’s talk that Jansen could be on the block as Boston keeps trying to trim payroll, and such a move could conceivably take him out of a closer role, so bear that in mind.

But assuming he retains a ninth-inning gig, he’ll likely pass Billy Wagner and John Franco in addition to K-Rod this season.

Still, Jansen is 36 and the cracks are showing; he was more hittable than ever last year, so nothing is guaranteed here. We project there’s a much greater chance of further regression with a best case scenario that he recovers enough to trim close to half a run from his ERA.

Perhaps even more interesting is Craig Kimbrel given that he’s actually bounced back in each of the last two seasons and is now heading to a suddenly excellent Baltimore club to act as its new closer with Felix Bautista out for 2024. Kimbrel is currently just three saves back of Jansen, and won’t actually turn 36 until late May.

Kimbrel’s Cub tenure didn’t exactly live up to our expectations, even if he redeemed himself in his third and final season there before tanking down the stretch in 2021 on the other side of Chicago.

Since then, however, he’s proved he can still get it done, enjoying a nice recovery with the Dodgers in 2022 and looking even better in Philadelphia last season. We expect Kimbrel’s bottom line number to regress a bit, but he’ll compensate for that with more saves.

RotoRob Tune of the Day

Big Audio Dynamite was formed by Mick Jones, the former leader of The Clash. In 1985, BAD released its first album, This Is Big Audio Dynamite, and the second single was “E=MC2,” the band’s first Top 40 hit in the U.K.

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