The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have a manager as of right now. Their ace has just officially opted out this morning. There are several questions up and down the roster. With those things said, it makes perfect sense ESPN would list the organization second among all other franchises in its most recent future power rankings.
Jim Bowden, Keith Law and Buster Olney compiled the list Wednesday morning, taking into account current roster, the minor league system, finances, management and mobility (or flexibility, as I read it) and how those factors align over the next five years.
The Chicago Cubs placed first in the rankings, given the momentum they’re coming off and the administration/managerial situation already in place. Joe Maddon is arguably the league’s best manager and Theo Epstein has World Series experience and a system which he used to help turn around the franchise already in the short time he’s been there.
After Chicago, though, Bowden, Law and Olney considered the Dodgers as the most viable organization moving forward. That five years part I mentioned above seems vital to mention here. If the list was of only next season, one would think the Dodgers would fall a little lower in the rankings, but over the next five years, as contracts are paid out or traded away, this franchise looks all the more appealing.
It’ll be an interesting offseason for the Dodgers, who will look to either bring back Zack Greinke after he opts out of his contract or replace him with another top-caliber free-agent starter. They also need to improve the back end of their rotation and add bullpen depth. The Dodgers have a solid core in place, but they’d also like to get younger, even if it means some growing pains for players such as Corey Seager. They’re not quite there yet, but the Dodgers have the finances, farm system and front office to be a real powerhouse over the next five years. — Jim Bowden
Here’s where those issues I mentioned above become factors.
Let’s say the Dodgers strike out on the high-end pitching they desperately need to replace Zack Greinke (if they can’t re-sign him). The Dodgers’ one-two punch of Greinke and Kershaw has helped mask some serious roster issues during the regular season and typical help end losing streaks before they get too out of control. Without that advantage, the onus falls heavily on a batting lineup which’s only consistency has been its inconsistency the last few years.
They also have legitimate questions on the back end of the rotation and in the bullpen, but the obvious priority is to either bring back Greinke or find someone close to his caliber to follow Clayton Kershaw.
Mobility is also a concern here, given the contracts of Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, who are both owed roughly a zillion dollars over the next eternity.
Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration – they’re actually under contract for nearly $80 million over the next two seasons – but the point remains: if the Dodgers hope to make larger moves this offseason and in the ones shortly thereafter, those contracts need to go.
The “previous score” aspect of the above graphs is also interesting. Based on those, the Dodgers have regressed in every category other than finances (which isn’t changing anytime soon) and their minor league system.
The latter is good to see, as it was a priority for Andrew Friedman upon his arrival to not only make moves on the major league roster but also develop the farm system to add more organic growth as well. By making moves to acquire draft picks and supplementing the system with free agents at that level, we’re seeing some of that growth Friedman promised.
The other regression was always going to happen, as guys with large contracts get older and thus, less able to live up to said large contract. Also, “management” is tough to grade when there isn’t a manager in place. Expect that to score higher if these are run again at the end of the offseason simply because the Dodgers hired someone for the position.
At the end of the day, the rankings do a great job of showing both the issues within the organization as currently constituted, but also how those questions need to and can be answered. A lot is riding on the next month or so, but it’s good to see the Dodgers have at least laid the foundation in resolving some of the aforementioned problems.