Los Angeles Dodgers: Don’t Change a Thing

The Los Angeles Dodgers won their division for the fourth straight season in 2016. They were just two wins away from beating the eventual world champion Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. Their best option for the offseason is to stay the same.

The Los Angeles Dodgers shockingly won the NL West last season despite losing their best player for an extended amount of time. As the Giants fell in the second half of the season, the Dodgers hit their stride offensively and survived with pitching patchwork. When they hit the postseason, they survived to Game 6 of the NLCS with only one or two reliable starters, depending on your definition of reliable.

Despite having to rely on a makeshift roster for a good portion of the season and into the postseason, the best move for the Dodgers in the offseason is to keep their team relatively the same. Three key players from the 2016 roster are headed into free agency. Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Rich Hill all played important roles in the Dodgers’ 2016 success. All three are free agents.

Justin Turner was one of the Dodgers’ best offensive players this season. Some of it can be chalked up to increased performance during a free agent season, but the Turner that the Dodgers got this past season is basically the player he’s always been. This past season he hit .275/.339/.493 with 27 home runs, which helped translate to a 124 wRC+. It wasn’t even his best season with the Dodgers, but he played in his largest number of games and proved to be a key veteran presence on the team, especially during Clayton Kershaw‘s injury.

Jansen is one of the best closers in all of baseball. With just a single pitch, a devastating mid-90s cutter, he shut down opponents in the late innings all season long. He had an impressive 1.83 ERA, 41.4 percent strikeout rate, and 0.67 WHIP during his 2016 campaign. He was a steady presence in a Dodgers bullpen that had numerous changing parts.

Rich Hill spent a good portion of his season puttering around with the Athletics and battling a blister. When he wasn’t doing either of those things, he was quite effective in a Dodgers uniform. In just 34.1 innings pitched with the Dodgers in the regular season, Hill had a 1.83 ERA and 0.79 WHIP accompanied by an impressive 30.5 percent strikeout rate. That sample size is far too small to make any real judgments about Hill, but in a weak free agent class he’s one of the best.

The Los Angeles Dodgers set a record for most visits to the disabled list this season. The sheer number of injuries they were hit with would have knocked almost any team out of playoff contention. Instead, the Dodgers were able to be one of the most successful teams in baseball. Surely better luck will be on their side in the coming season in regard to injuries.

If they assume injury luck will be on their side in 2017, sticking with the same roster may be the best plan of action heading into next season. By keeping Turner at third base, Jansen as the closer, and Hill in the rotation the Dodgers would be in good position to put a great roster onto the field. The only discernible hole in the roster would be in the outfield, where Alex Verdugo and Cody Bellinger wait in the wings.

Assuming that the Dodgers will get increased production from their young players Corey Seager, Trayce Thompson, and Joc Pederson means that the team would only be headed toward a more successful season. A young team with the best pitcher in baseball retaining some of the key players on their roster would provide a great path to the postseason. Kershaw and Hill in the postseason could dominate once again like they did last season. Julio Urias will also surely improve, and Jose De Leon could make his presence known as well.

For Dodgers fans, there is concern in keeping the team relatively the same as last season. After all, last season was a failure. They didn’t win a championship. However, keeping the roster the same gives the Dodgers the best chance to compete once again. They have their work cut out for them with the Nationals and Cubs both primed for deep playoff runs, but anything can happen in the postseason. For now, the best way for the Dodgers to win the NL West for a fifth time in a row is to stay the same.

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