GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Los Angeles Dodgers are projected to win 90-plus games and a division title for a seventh consecutive season, yet the prevailing narrative surrounding them has focused mostly on the moves they failed to make over the winter. Specifically that they didn’t sign Bryce Harper, didn’t acquire J.T. Realmuto and didn’t trade for Corey Kluber.
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, knows this well.
He basically hears about it every morning.
“You can go to Starbucks and get a coffee and your barista will tell you that you need more pitching,” Friedman said, smiling. “Everyone has an opinion, and a strong opinion, which is great, because it speaks to their involvement and how much they care. But I think with that comes a lot of people who want certain things in that moment.”
Rather than sign Harper, the Dodgers picked up A.J. Pollock, a right-handed-hitting center fielder who will bring some much-needed balance to their lineup. Rather than acquire Realmuto, they brought back Russell Martin, the veteran catcher who already has made a positive impression on the pitching staff. Rather than trade for Kluber, the Dodgers acquired Joe Kelly, the former Boston Red Sox flamethrower who brings stability to the back end of their bullpen.
Friedman promised to remain open-minded about additional signings — and he has plentiful options, given the alarmingly slow-moving free-agent market — but also sounded like a man who is exceedingly content with the way things stand. Friedman sees “no weak spot” on the Dodgers’ roster.
“I feel like we have a chance to be an elite team, and I think we have a very well-rounded roster,” Friedman said Wednesday, shortly after pitchers and catchers conducted their first official workout from Camelback Ranch. “It’s also got a number of core players that have won a significant number of games together. I think oftentimes that gets overlooked.”
The Dodgers are attempting to become only the second team to lose back-to-back World Series and win it in the third year, a feat that has been accomplished only by a 1923 New York Yankees team that featured Babe Ruth.
PECOTA, the projection system used by Baseball Prospectus, has the Dodgers winning 93 games in 2019, at least nine more than any other team in the National League West, which stands as perhaps baseball’s least talented division. The Dodgers played like a 102-win team last season, according to their Pythagorean expectation. But the inconsistency in their offense and the struggles in their bullpen limited them to 92 wins and forced them to play a tiebreaker for the NL West title.
“The big thing for us is consistency — doing everything we can to have our talent come out on a nightly basis, as frequently as we can get it to,” Friedman said, adding that having more balance in what used to be a lefty-loaded lineup should considerably help that cause.
The Dodgers are counting on Pollock to avoid the fluke injuries that limited him to 237 games over the past three seasons. They’re counting on Martin to hit for more power with a tweak to his swing angle. They’re counting on shortstop Corey Seager, who’s still considered on track for Opening Day, to round back into his All-Star form after Tommy John surgery. They’re counting on closer Kenley Jansen, who shed 25 pounds and now will attack spring training more aggressively, to find the life on his cutter. And they’re counting on ace Clayton Kershaw, fresh off a $93 million extension, to find some differentiation between his slider and fastball.
Friedman said “it’s always possible” to take advantage of a slow market and add another free agent, but quickly added: “I actually really like our team.”
Even if baristas might disagree.
“I think the most important thing for our fans is, ‘Are we in a position to win a World Series?'” Friedman said. “I feel strongly that we are, and time will tell.”