Dodgers: Truths About LA Going into 2021: Roberts, Jansen, Rotation Changes, and More
As the Dodgers head into the off-season they do it as the World Series champions. Last year I wrote one of these articles after the 2019 season and the early playoff exit. Even with the crowning achievement of a championship, there will be player movement and the continued evolution of players that will remain with the team.
We Don’t Know When The Next Championship Will Come
When the Dodgers won it all in 1988, there was no way you could have convinced me the Dodgers (and fans) would wait 32 years to win it again. I encourage you to enjoy this as much as you can. Please don’t let the naysayers get you down. Do what you can to ignore them. This Dodgers team, with the best record in baseball, had the same basic path to the World Series as a team below .500. The Dodgers were amazing and we can all celebrate it.
Dave Roberts Will Be The Manager As Long As He Wants
With the World Series win, Dave Roberts has guaranteed himself the manager’s job for as long as he wants it. Yes, he will still make decisions we will disagree with but he showed a lot of growth in the way he managed the bullpen. Particularly in the last two games of the World Series. He was burned in game 4 with some of his decisions and he did not repeat them in the next two games. Using Austin Barnes as the catcher for all pitchers was also an important show of flexibility. It looks like he found a nice blend of analytics and the actual flow of the game and the series.
Related: Dave Roberts: A Redemption Story
The Closer Role Will Continue To Evolve
It is clear that the Dodgers had better success in closing out games when the closer role wasn’t just automatically one pitcher. The Dodgers played the matchups and the hot hand quite well in games 5 and 6 of the World Series. The end result was relatively stress-free later innings. In the playoffs the Dodgers had five different pitchers get a save. The only times when things got stressful in the late innings was when the Dodgers went with pitchers that weren’t the best option.
Walker Buehler Is A Playoff Stud
I highly recommend this ESPN article by Jeff Passan which talks about how Walker Buehler has become an all-time postseason great. He has dominant stuff and the right temperament for the playoffs.
Walker Buehler is the first pitcher since Clayton Kershaw (Game 1, 2017) to post a start with 10+ K and 1 or 0 runs allowed in the #WorldSeries. pic.twitter.com/azFYKj6egN
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 24, 2020
Many of us were worried about his blisters for good reason but those became less of an issue as the playoffs moved forward.
A quick look at Buehler’s career playoff statistics:
- Games started – 11
- Innings Pitched – 61.1
- ERA – 2.35
- Hits – 39
- Strikeouts – 83
Oh, and Clayton Kershaw was very good in the 2020 postseason! Dave Roberts mentioned the fact that Kershaw was given a more traditional starting role this October over short rest starts and relief appearances, and he thrived.
According to FanGraphs, here’s how the Dodgers infielders ranked at their position with a minimum of 200 innings played:
- C – Austin Barnes – 14th out of 35
- C – Will Smith – 30th out of 35
- 1B – Max Muncy – 24th out of 32
- 2B – Kiké Hernandez – 30th out of 33
- SS – Corey Seager – 30th out of 31
- 3B – Justin Turner – 19th out of 28
- LF – AJ Pollock (198 innings) – 22nd out of 26
- CF – Cody Bellinger – 11th out of 28
- RF – Mookie Betts – 2nd out of 26
For a team that values being efficient in getting outs, these numbers are unacceptable. Just like 2019 this team is mediocre defensively. If the eye test wasn’t enough during the season then these numbers should not shock you. The defense did seem to step it up in most cases in the 2020 playoffs but for a full 162 game season, there needs to be an improvement. The better the defense the less stress on the pitching staff.
Corey Seager Is A Free Agent After 2021
The Dodgers need to decide on how Corey Seager fits into the long-term plans. What we saw from Seager throughout 2020 is a franchise-type player. When healthy, Seager is an MVP candidate who is the best overall hitter on the team.
COREY SEAGER OWNS OCTOBER. pic.twitter.com/MM8JSLkMxx
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 25, 2020
There are questions about his long-term position and he has had health issues. His agent is Scott Boras which makes everything a bit more difficult. Let’s hope the Dodgers can sign the 2020 World Series MVP to a long-term contract.
There Will Be Changes
The Dodgers have seven free agents who were on the World Series roster:
- Justin Turner
- Blake Treinen
- Joc Pederson
- Kiké Hernandez
- Alex Wood
- Pedro Baez
- Jake McGee
Each of those players contributed to winning the World Series. Some have been with the Dodgers for at least six years and have become fan favorites. If the Dodgers lose any of these players then the Dodgers need to figure out how to replace them. The Dodgers do have players in their farm system who do need an opportunity to play. I have a feeling that some fan favorites will be with new teams in 2021. At least they were able to win a World Series with the Dodgers which could make it a little easier for them to leave.
The Dodgers Are Loaded At Catcher
Will Smith had an excellent 2020 and is the established number one catcher. He does have some work to do on defense, but a full Spring Training should help. One of the biggest surprises was the re-emergence of the offense of Austin Barnes. When it came to the playoffs it was essential to have Barnes catch those games. He was great with all the pitchers, framed well, and kept runners from advancing on balls in the dirt.
Their number two prospect is Keibert Ruiz who hit a home run in his first big league at-bat. He is ready for the major leagues. Diego Cartaya is their number five prospect but he is probably 2-3 years away. With an abundance of riches at catcher don’t be surprised if there is a trade with one of them or maybe a position change. I could see Will Smith getting some time at third base in the future.
We Have No Idea What The Budget Will Be In 2021
The Dodgers have not spoken about what they might do regarding spending in 2021. There are so many unknowns with the biggest one being the question of fans in the stands. We’ve already heard teams complaining about losing money in 2020, including Stan Kasten and LA. Who knows what will happen in 2021.
Keep Trusting The Kids
So many of the young pitchers stepped it up in the playoffs. The only ones that really struggles were Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May. I blame some of their issues on how they were used. How about those performances by Julio Urías, Brusdar Graterol, and Victor Gonzalez. I hope that Gavin Lux is given a full shot again at second base. Players such as Zach McKinstry, Mitchell White, and Josiah Gray are all about ready to make an impact.
A Six Man Rotation Makes Sense
Hopefully, the 2021 season will be 162 games. With David Price returning in 2021 the Dodgers have six major league ready starting pitchers. The club also has top prospect Josiah Gray and Mitchell White close to ready. This is how the rotation would look:
- Walker Buehler
- Clayton Kershaw
- David Price
- Julio Urías
- Dustin May
- Tony Gonsolin
This allows the Dodgers to limit the wear and tear on the arms while allowing all the young pitchers to have a well-deserved spot in the rotation. Remember, Walker Buehler has trouble getting started during the season so an extra days rest would probably help him. Both Kershaw and Price are not getting any younger either.
What Do You Think?
What might the 2021 team look like? Drop your thoughts in the comments below! Some of these thoughts started more than a month ago and even when things got rough during the postseason. Despite some weaknesses that we all saw they were the best baseball team throughout the 2020 season. There is no reason for them not to continue to dominate and even get better.
NEXT: Joe Kelly Slams MLB’s Unsafe Bubble Environment in Wake of Turner Positive
Those fan graphs defensive rankings are ridiculous. Who put them together? Giants fans? Bellinger 11th?
Yeah, they kept showing in the playoffs all the times that his quick jump led to easy looking plays in which he covered a large amount of ground. Plus we’ve seen more than a few spectacular catches. There are a few better CFs but not 10.
Agree Bellinger top 5 cf in baseball
Your telling me there’s 29 better defensive players at 2nd than Kike Hernandez?
I want to see this team have another run together. They were a true team. The only thing that needs to change is they need to use 4 starters next playoffs don’t use May and Gonsolin like that again. In a full 162 having that many bullpen games will not workout. We’re going to need 4 starters who can go 6-7 and keep the bullpen from flaming out too early in October
Really a great article. Keep up the good work! First, a shocker from your article: Will Smith getting some time at third base. I had thought about that also. We have 2 great prospects at catcher that we simply cannot trade in Ruiz and Cartaya. We could regret either trade down the road. Smith could be the answer at third after Turner retires. Yep, I feel we will resign Justin. As for fangraphs, Bellinger is a gold glove finalist. And the ONLY CF with better stats in center was Grisham. And he had more time out there. And Cody may have beat him with more innings. I say Cody edges him for the Gold Glove. Yep, we could use a tad better fielding in LF, 1B, SS; but I think we need to tweak here and there. Stay the course. Sign Corey to an extension. Resign Justin for 2. Extend Clayton 2 more.
Pretty sure that all the free agents will end up elsewhere except Turner. He showed this year he’s good for 2-3 years especially if the DH sticks, as it should.
Sorry but price is not a 3rd pitcher anymore he’s washed up,all 5 right are better than him.And Buhler is real good in post season he couldn’t pitch with 3 days rest when Julio pitched with only 2 days rest to close it out and he did like the best of them.But you gave a great point Smith can take over at 3rd since it looks like Turner might not be back being 36 injury prone and will be suspended in 21.Keep Barnes as starter he makes all pitchers better not fair that only kershaw and buhler benefit from him Urias deserves to have him as his catcher too,especially after having better numbers in post season.
Use more periods to keep subjects separate, please. And a space (or two) after those periods you do decide to use. Punctuation is not optional.
Great article. I’d like to see the Dodgers resign Trienen and JT. They should let Joc and Keke’ go and sign Pillar to fill their void. Barnes can play second and so can Muncy. Let Baez and Wood go as well. Pillar would drastically improve the outfield as he’s a gamer and exactly what would keep the Dodgers rolling without losing a step.They could play Pillar in center and let Bellinger rest his back at 1st……
How about DJ Le Mathieu at 2nd if Keke leaves? I saw an article in this. I know it will cost draft pick, but he can play 3rd, 2nd and 1st. I don’t know how he is against lhp. Article also said trade Lux and Gonsolin for Hader (Brewers)
If there is an area that was somewhat exposed even with a WS win it’s hitting against LHP, especially those left pitchers with good sliders, curves and change up. Just seeing what took place against Snell was enough for concern. Betts was great and he was huge in getting this team over the top. But Mookie will tell you himself that he wants to be better against LHP than he was in 2020. All 16 of his regular season HRs were off RHP,as well as those he hit in the Post Season. As far as FA’s go, I would like JT and Treinen re-signed for sure. JT can eventually become the next David Freese, who can adequately fill in at 1st base as well if need be. Joc has good numbers in October and that is also something to consider .
Gavin Lux most likely will get a better look at come ST next year. It may depend on what happens with Kike but WSS. Anyway Lux can be a trivia question from 2020, and that is what Dodger player hit the longest HR on the team during the regular season?
Gavin Lux thrived in the minors as a shortstop. Maybe move Seager to third and keep a combination of Taylor, Keke, and Muncy at second. Rios is ready to play first and they have plenty of flexibility (young players ready to step in) Turner has lost a step and he is certain to lose more in the future. Unless he agrees to a very team-friendly contract, LA should be ready to say goodby to JT. LA has a very deep roster and they could trade one or two plus a prospect for another long-term star.
As we saw in the playoffs, JT still has it at 3rd. He will need days off but gets the majority of starts after they resign him. Lux is always a throw away from the yips; I’m hopeful but not sure he’s going to work out in the majors.
We all want what we can’t have! The current 40 man roster has plenty of good solid performers, but like you all ay, let’s just tweak it a bit. Move JT to first and put Max at second. Third base belongs to Rios, leave Corey a SS – he’s the best we have. On pitching, move to a 6-man rotation to save the older arms and give length to the SP relieving the bullpen of having to cover 4-5 inning per game (we will not see the expanded rosters in 2021). Bring up more youth to fill the bullpen, and make sure Bazooka has plenty of opportunity to grow (he’s our future closer).
Bottom line, keep the money for the existing Dodgers (we are going to need it with Seager, Belli, and the rest of the crew in 2022.
Ron, I agree with you. I would sign JT to a 2-year deal if he will take it. I would sign Treinen if his price isn’t astronomical. Jansen is done.
Use Graterol, Gonzalez, and the other young guns like Gray, White, Santana, etc to fill out the pitching roster. Go to a 6 man rotation to get Gonsolin & May experience.
Price is off the books in 22.
I continue to wonder what the Dodger Organization really thinks of Lux? Is he the answer at second? Or do we use Max and Taylor?
Let Pederson & Hernandez go unless they can be signed inexpensively. The Dodgers have young players ready to play like Rios. They have position players like McKinstry, Peters etc that have to be promoted or lost.
I like the idea of a 6 man rotation but May and Gonsolin have to be more consistent at giving us 5+ innings. I have to believe that Kersh benefited from the short season. A lot of gas in the tank come post season and it showed. Using a 6 man rotation could prolong not only Kersh’s career but the entire staff down the line. This rotation has a chance to be dominant and do something special in 2021.
Thoughts for 2021:
1. Trade Lux and someone (maybe a 5-10 prospect or an established MLB player such as Pollock) for the next piece in the puzzle, Lindor. Move Seager to 3b, resign JT to split time between 2b (his original position) and DH. Muncie to 1b, his best fielding position. Lindor is a generational talent as is Betts, he belongs on the Dodgers. My feeling is that he will resign with the team as did Mookie. Not a huge gamble.
2. If Bauer will sign for 2 yrs (as he implies) then do so. 2021 will bring some salary relief and 2022 even more. I believe winning the World Series in 2021 is extremely important for the Dodgers on more than one level.
3. Hand vs Treinen? Good question. Both will command salaries in the 10 mil range. Lefty vs righty. The Dodgers will need to sign at least one of them. I would lean towards Blake I believe.
4. Catcher position. The team is stacked. Barnes has proven to be a “keeper” during the World Series. Smith vs Ruiz and soon Cartaya. For the first two trade value would be at it’s peak this off season. Cartaya a couple years down the road. I really like Smith and his approach to the game, however a good switch hitting catcher is really a prime commodity. Time to use one of those assets for a team helping trade. Now.
I like the 6 man rotation idea a lot. I like Taylor to be free to play all over the field. Do not trade Gray or Gonsolin or Big Red. Shore up the bullpen with them in 2021 (assuming the Bauer signing). Go Dodgers! Signed: Die hard fan since 1958.
The LAD team is so deep in pitching and position players, they’re mgmt. should puck up ghe phone and pjg a 4 player deal (2pitchers, 2 players) for Mike Trout. This would benefit both teams, and give ALL LA fans a chance to see Trout go deep into the playoffs.
The LAD team is so deep in pitching and position players, they’re mgmt. should pick up the phone and pkg a 4 player deal (2pitchers, 2 players) for Mike Trout. This would benefit both teams, and give ALL LA fans a chance to see Trout go deep into the playoffs.
That mks no sense. Did you run that by any of LAD’s mgmt? Why wuld LAA mgmt. trade away their only blue chip player that puts any fans in the seats? Why would LAA care about improving the LAD? Talk to Friedman; maybe Baez and a 3rd round pick for Trout, Gonsolin for Lindor, and package a deal of Beaty, McKinstry, Lux and Gore for Arenado?
I would like them to keep pederson and Turner. They should find a way to trade Pollock and try to get Lindor.
DJ would fill the need for a RH contact hitter. Watched him all year here on the east coast and he is super. Don’t know if you can out bid the Evil Empire.
Those defensive ratings are ridiculous. Cody Bellinger is an excellent CF, or RF, or first basemen. We did give up a lot of unearned runs during the regular season, but tightened it up during playoffs and WS, game 4 not withstanding. Whether it was Barnes blocking pitches, Turner making web gems, Cody and Mookie making spectacular run-saving catches, or Seager fielding flawlessly in his backhand style, our defense turned it up a notch. I think we will have a better showing in a full season in 2021.
I am pretty sure Kike is gone with a nice contract. The only better 2nd baseman available is LeMahieu. I don’t see how the Yanks can let him get away. He plays every infield position and was healthy. All three of Houston’s outfielders are free agents.
I think will trade and sign a big free agents. they should christ taylor he strikes touch and maybe resign russell martin if he doesn’t retire resihfnjt even though he messed up with covid 19 and also resign Blake treinen and give gavin lux to proof himself go blue hope to repeat in 2021
Great article. I believe they will only sign JT because it has to be about money. They will need to make room financially to pay big money to Corey, Beuler and Bell on top of paying Mookie and Clayton. The luxury tax can get very expensive if you continue to exceed the cap and this could be a tough time for for over spending. Andrew will have to figure this out.
I am very proud of this team and the way they played this season and they way they play under Doc. I will also commend the ownership group on keeping their word of making this team competitive from the start and in the future by building up the farm system.
The future looks great and will be exciting. Go bums!
I think the Dodgers must have locked Roberts in the bathroom after the 8th inning to keep him from himself and replacing Urias with his closer Jansen. After all Urias was coming as a reliever, and relievers pitch 1 inning only regardless of the number of pitches, how well they are doing, or it could be the last game of the season.
6 man rotation 6 inning limit 1 inning of relief on 3d or 4th day instead of throwing on the side. Sign Bauer for 2 years if possible, not longer. Or sign DJ to to play 2d or 3d base. Save money by resigning only Treinen of the 7 free agents, if possible. If not, try to sign Rosenthal or Hand. Add 2 free agents plus Treinen or a 3d free agent. Not Arenado. After 2021, Jansen and Price will be off the books. Find out which of the kids can play.