The Dodgers won 100 games in 2023, but the season was a failure due to their miserable, laughable performance in the postseason.
I don’t know if a 100-win team has ever had so many glaring holes. From the outset of the playoffs, disaster looked likely. This ominous feeling was substantiated after only three games, as Los Angeles was swept by its 84-win division rival, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Dodgers have an incredible lineup but an incredibly weak starting rotation that will only continue to decline if they don’t find solutions quickly.
The Dodgers have two of baseball’s five best hitters in Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts, who both finished as finalists for the National League MVP award and have won the coveted award before — with Betts taking home the AL MVP in 2018 and Freeman winning in the NL in 2020.
The star power of Freeman and Betts was supplemented by excellent seasons from Will Smith, J.D. Martinez, Jason Heyward, James Outman and Max Muncy — who all finished with a WRC+ at or greater than 118.
Overall, the Dodgers’ offense scored the second-most runs in baseball. Their lineup was clearly not the issue, though they won’t miss an opportunity to fortify it if possible.
Martinez and Heyward are both free agents, but Los Angeles could likely sign them to short-term deals as the aging stars are 36 and 34, respectively.
While the Dodgers do have some questions offensively, they are nowhere near as pressing as the questions surrounding the starting rotation. The Los Angeles starting rotation was an absolute nightmare year-round.
The Dodgers have plenty of talent, but they cannot seem to stay healthy at all. 35-year-old Clayton Kershaw logged the most starts for Los Angeles with a measly 24.
Rookie Bobby Miller was the only other starting pitcher to log 20 starts and finish the season with an ERA under 4.00. Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias, previously staples of the rotation, both had arguably the worst years of their careers — with the latter having further problematic issues outside of baseball.
Flamethrowers Dustin May and Walker Buehler came into the year dealing with Tommy John-related injuries. Buehler never made it back to the big league team, and May only made nine starts before continuing to struggle with injury concerns for the remainder of the season.
The culmination of the pitching woes reared its head during the NLDS. Kershaw had a tone-setting start in Game 1, giving up six runs before being taken out in the first inning — only managing to record one out in the process.
In Game 2, Miller was pulled in the second inning after surrendering three runs. Game 3’s starter — Lance Lynn — gave up four runs before being pulled in the third inning.
Los Angeles being forced to start Lynn in a due-or-die playoff game is the perfect exemplification of how pathetic the Dodgers’ pitching situation had become — as he had the second-highest ERA out of any starter in baseball.
The existing problems have only worsened going into 2024. Kershaw is a free agent and is slated to miss time with a shoulder injury. May will not be back until midsummer at least after undergoing another elbow operation in June.
Gonsolin will miss the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Urias is a free agent but is currently on administrative leave and is likely to receive a significant suspension due to domestic violence allegations.
As of right now, only Miller and Buehler are slated to start next season healthy, which leaves only three rotation spots unoccupied.
The Dodgers currently have around 120 million dollars of luxury tax space in 2024 and have been willing to surge past that before. The organization also has a loaded farm system, so Los Angeles could look to trade prospects for pitching depth.
With this amount of money and a history of major investments, the Dodgers may be the most motivated team in free agency.
Los Angeles will undoubtedly go after Shohei Ohtani, but that does not solve its pitching issues in the short term as he has recently undergone Tommy John surgery.
Look for the Dodgers to pursue Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is coming over from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League. Yamamoto has consistently dominated and may very well be the best pitcher on the planet.
I would expect the Dodgers to also pursue pitchers with strong track records of both performance and health. Pitchers such as Jordan Montgomery, Sonny Gray, 2023 NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and Marcus Stroman all fit this mold.
Los Angeles could also look to trade for star pitchers stuck on small-market teams who can’t afford to pay them. Tyler Glasnow, Shane Bieber, Dylan Cease and Corbin Burnes could be targets if the Dodgers are willing to part ways with some of their top prospects.
In 2024, this team needs to look much different, and with the resources available to the front office, there is no reason that there shouldn’t be a drastic improvement from the embarrassment that was 2023.