The 2023 Dodgers are still figuring things out. Over the last month as the team rebounded from a 13-13 start, we’ve seen the expression I think this is closer to what we thought the team would look like tossed around by players and coaches alike. But, at times, what they thought the team would look like is leaving some things to be desired.
Dodgers president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, said in a recent chat on MLB Network that issue is kind of by design.
“We felt really strongly in the winter, spring training, coming into the year that we were gonna be a really good team. I think the narrative around us of ‘they’re probably not as good as last year,’ that probably is true. That is true. And the question is, what is that true talent level last year? I could argue that it was more than 111 wins … there’s room to be worse and still be great.”
“For us, if you said ‘hey, in 2023, put out the very best team you can and don’t care at all about ’24 and beyond, it would look a different than this. That’s obvious. But, just as we’ve done since 2015, we’ve been balancing being as good as we could be in the current year while being able to maintain it and we’ve seen a lot of large revenue teams who’ve fallen off a cliff — had a really good run of success, fallen off a cliff. And from our standpoint, we’re doing everything we can to put ourselves in World Series contention each and every year.”
Via MLB Now
Heading into the season, the roster assembled by the front office wasn’t going to be anywhere near as good as the 2022 squad that won a franchise-best 111 games. That became more and more apparent with each free agent signing around the league this past winter. Recently, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts referred to the roster as a “hodgepodge group of guys” that was piecing things together along the way.
The roster lost two starting pitchers last week and has a starting rotation that is set to feature two rookies and more opportunities to keep riding the bullpen unit into the ground.
A big concern as the team marched toward opening day was the lack of quality depth at the highest levels of the minor leagues. If one guy dropped, there was one or two more tops that would be ready to step in and provide league-average value to the team.
Then guys started dropping early and often.
Gavin Lux, Tony Gonsolin, Ryan Pepiot, Miguel Rojas, J.D. Martinez, Will Smith, and most recently Dustin May and Julio Urias. Bullpen pieces like Daniel Hudson and Jimmy Nelson weren’t ready for opening day.
Each time one of these guys drops, the team looks drastically different. And that was pretty evident this weekend in St. Louis where the Dodgers lost 3 of 4 as the taxed bullpen struggled.
When the Dodgers are running at full strength, they’re certainly a contender. But they’re one more pitching injury away from catastrophe.
So maybe the plan was to not assemble a team that could sleepwalk toward 100-plus win season like they had last year. But this team at the moment — while still good enough and still in first place in the NL West — could slip to a 90 win season pretty easily with one more big blow.
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