Despite All-Star Studded Lineup, Dodgers Aren’t Perfect| Closer Kenley Jansen Is Gone. Shaky Bullpens Don’t Bring World Series Titles

(Photo by Keith Birmingham/Digital First Media/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

La-La Land landed another star Wednesday with reports announcing the Los Angeles Dodgers came to terms with World Series champion Freddie Freeman on a six-year, $162 million deal.

The blockbuster bag adds another potent offensive All-Star to the Dodgers’ stout lineup and solidifies them as one of the front-runners to win the 2022 World Series.

Despite the optimism, everything isn’t perfect in L.A. as spring training gets underway for the 2022 MLB season. The franchise still hasn’t locked up its World Series-winning manager Dave Roberts with a long-term deal, and the Dodgers have two glaring personnel holes they must address before people pencil them in for the Fall Classic.

This makes it three straight seasons in which the Dodgers acquire an All-Star player. In 2020 the Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox agreed on a trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles.

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In a season like no other due to a pandemic, the Dodgers controlled the shortened 60-game slate from start to finish. Their 13-5 postseason record sealed their first World Series championship since 1988.

Last season the Dodgers sent waves during free agency and the trading deadline. During the 2021, Los Angeles strengthened their pitching rotation by signing the controversial ace pitcher Trevor Bauer coming off a Cy Young with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020, but Bauer’s stint with the Dodgers was short lived after sexual allegations surfaced.

Dealing with injuries and Bauer’s suspension, Los Angeles hit a home run by trading for Detroit Tigers ace Max Scherzer and Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner. Despite the star-studded roster, the Dodgers came up short against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.

You Have Stars, But How Is The Depth? 

The recent news of the universal DH makes Los Angeles that much more dangerous because their potential lineup includes eight All-Stars. Offensively they will put runs on the board, but the MLB is a long season, and injuries are bound to happen. One of the biggest concerns will be if their role players step up when their opportunity arises.

Like most championship teams the 2020 Dodgers had contributions from everyone. The two key players that automatically pop into mind are Kiké Hernandez and Joc Pederson. These two role players seemed to always make an impact during the postseason. Since their departure the Dodgers offense have felt too dependent on the top of the lineup.

 

Matt Beaty, Gavin Lux and Zach McKinstry have shown flashes, but will need to make a leap in order for the Dodgers to win another championship. Lux is expected to have the biggest role of the three and was a ​​ top prospect for the Dodgers. If he is able to have a strong spring training, he could find himself in the starting lineup for Opening Day because Max Muncy is still recovering from an injury. Role players in baseball are not guaranteed many chances, so with the expectations being championship or bust, they must be ready when their number is called. 

 

New Pitching Stars Must Emerge: Bullpen Troubles?

The two constants of the past decade for the Dodgers have been Clayton Kershaw starting games and Kenley Jansen closing out games. Los Angeles was able to re-sign Kershaw, but longtime closer Jansen signed with the Atlanta Braves on a one-year, $16M deal, fulfilling what he describes as a “childhood dream.”

According to MLB.com, ”When Jansen got the opportunity to play with the Braves, he  reminisced about those childhood days when his love for baseball was fueled by the countless times he spent watching his older brother, Ardley, and fellow Curaçao native, Andruw Jones, play within the Braves organization.

“It’s awesome to put this uniform on,” Jansen said. “This is where it all started for me. This is where the hope started. This is where the dream to become a Major Leaguer started. Growing up, I was a big Fred McGriff fan, and then the next thing you know, Andruw Jones gets to the World Series and hits two home runs.”

After signing Freeman to one of the largest contracts in MLB, it was unlikely the Dodgers would bring back their high-priced closer, so it leaves a hole in their bullpen. Teams don’t win championships with shoddy bullpens, so the Dodgers have to figure that one out. 

READ: Clayton Kershaw & Dave Roberts: A World Series Win From Redemption, Baseball Immortality – The Shadow League

Los Angeles’ current bullpen does have championship experience. Manager Dave Roberts discussed not having a defined closer by saying they have a handful of guys who can close games. Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol are going to have more responsibility, as they are expected to be used as closers. The remaining bullpen is going to be made of a mix of veterans and young prospects looking to establish their place on the MLB roster.

Having a solid bullpen is everything during the postseason, so the Dodgers have till the trading deadline to figure out if their bullpen has the depth to sustain a 162-game season and a deep playoff run.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have everything in place to win another championship, but the little things cannot go unnoticed. In order to win their second WS in three years, Los Angeles will need their new batch of role players to provide a spark off the bench and the team to define a closer before October.