COMMENTARY | After the Los Angeles Dodgers made the gaudy offseason signings of pitchers Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and outfielder/wunderkind Yasiel Puig to round out a team that was already loaded with All-Stars, many Dodgers fans felt as though their 2013 World Series championship had already been wrapped up before the equipment truck even left for spring training.
But with the 220 Million Dollar Team sitting in last place in the National League West with an abysmal record of 32-42 -- which is astoundingly only three wins more than the Triple-A team masquerading as the Houston Astros -- this couldn't be further from the truth. However, with 91 more games to play, the season is far from lost. Unlike the careers of Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes, there are several logical adjustments the Dodgers can make that could vault them back into success.
Trade Andre Ethier for Bullpen Help
With a slash line of .255/.336/.379, there is no doubt that Andre Ethier is not the player the Dodgers thought he would be when they inked him to a five-year, $85 million contract last season. Regardless of the fact that he's relegated himself into a platoon position because of his measly .221 average against lefties, the emergence of world-beater and right fielder Puig has made Ethier entirely expendable.
With the implosion of closer Brandon League and the unreliability of nearly everyone else in the bullpen -- which has led to a league-leading 15 blown saves -- the best possible return for Ethier would be for bullpen help. With the New York Mets being one of the most rumored destinations for Ethier, it's very possible the Dodgers could be targeting Mets closer Bobby Parnell. If it is Parnell or other high-end relievers like him that general manager Ned Colletti is targeting, then Colletti better hope that Ethier heats up as the team moves closer to the July 31 trade deadline.
Fill the Black Hole at Third Base
Heading into the season, the Dodgers had to decide which of their terrible third basemen was less terrible than the others. Rather than go with free-agent bust and owner of a .191 average in 2012, Juan Uribe, the Dodgers gambled on starting journeyman Luis Cruz, who batted a solid .297 in 78 games last season for the Dodgers.
Well, it's safe to say Colletti's hand just wasn't good enough, as the Dodgers' third basemen only have four more homers than Clayton Kershaw has this season. Cruz is currently batting a whopping .127, and while Uribe is batting .260, he has only 3 home runs and 14 runs batted in. Two players who would be immediate upgrades would be Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez and Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres. With Headley putting up MVP numbers in 2012 and Ramirez hitting for consistent power throughout his career, the asking price for either player won't be cheap, and I can't imagine the Padres would be thrilled to move Headley to a division rival. If the Dodgers are truly interested in upgrading at third base, they may have to part with top prospects like outfielder Joc Pederson or pitcher Zach Lee.
Fire Don Mattingly?
No. No they should not. This question seems to be asked after nearly ever Dodgers loss this season, and there have been plenty of those so far, but Don Mattingly is not the main cause of the Dodgers' struggles. Sure, nobody really likes to see a team bunt as much as Mattingly's team does, and his handling of Brandon League and Kenley Jansen in the closer role is questionable at best, but aside from Puig and first basemen Adrian Gonzalez, most of his position players are flat out not performing up to expectations.
Although injury is playing a significant role, you can't expect the Dodgers to perform well when center fielder Matt Kemp only has two homers on the year. Team president Stan Kasten is going to need a scapegoat at some point, so I don't think anybody would really be surprised if Mattingly gets canned, but the biggest adjustment the Dodgers could make to turn their season around would be to…
According to the New York Times, the Dodgers currently have $83.8 million worth of their payroll sitting on the disabled list, or 37.5 percent of the team payroll. Rather than list the plethora of players who have made their way on to the ever popular disabled list, I'll list the only position players who haven't hit the DL: Ethier, Gonzalez, and the revolving door at third base. There's just no doubt that the majority of the Dodgers' struggles comes from the fact that they aren't putting a healthy product out on the field.
Although injuries are a natural part of the game, losing this many impact players is certainly unusual, and before the mob starts screaming for Mattingly's unemployment, maybe we should all take a step back and judge the team after it gets back from the disabled list. Getting healthy, easing into and completing rehab assignments are really the only way this team will reach its full potential. And, no, firing head trainer Sue Falsone isn't going to fix this either. I hear she's pretty good anyway, so just stop it.
The status quo is clearly not working for the Dodgers. Rather than play like the World Series contenders they were designed to be, they are looking more like the Pittsburgh Pirates of the last two decades. Bringing up Puig certainly infused a bit more life into the squad, but if the Dodgers truly want to move back into playoff contention, they will need to address their needs in the bullpen, at third base, and, most importantly, on the disabled list -- all with Mattingly at the helm.
Adam Jacobs is a Los Angelino, a UCLA Bruin, and a lifelong Dodger follower. Follow him on Twitter @ADJacobs7.
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- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Andre Ethier
- Yasiel Puig
- Don Mattingly