Opinion: Don’t Crown the Dodgers World Series Champions Just Yet

Don't Crown The Dodgers Yet
World Series Trophy doesn't belong to the Dodgers just yet (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Lots of Noise:

Since Shohei Ohtani’s record-setting deal was signed, people have been talking World Series for the Dodgers. Shortly after, News broke that the record-setting deal was being 90% deferred to the future. So 70 million a year turned into two million a year. The reason is that Ohtani wanted the Dodgers to spend more money. Ohtani, doing his best, Lebron James sent the Dodgers a shopping list. Now, every other MLB team fan is discussing whether the deal Ohtani is right and how the Dodgers appear to be set to win multiple World Series rings. Below, I want to share why I think putting the Dodgers as “Instant” World Series favorites is a mistake and borderline disrespectful to a few teams specifically.

Dodgers Moves and current starting Lineup:

The Dodgers signed Shohei Ohtani, traded for Manuel Margot and Tyler Glasnow, and recently signed Top starting pitching Free Agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto on a 324 million-dollar contract. Ohtani will not pitch in 2024, so expect to see him at DH and potentially in the outfield in an emergency if needed. Mookie Betts has already been announced to move to second base, with Jason Heyward returning to the team to play Right field. On paper, this team has plenty of talent; just like talent, they also have plenty of health questions and potential sophomore slumps looming. James Outman was a bright spot for the Dodgers last year in Center, but the bar to look good was low considering the team had Cody Bellinger in years past, who was going through his rough spell before regaining top form last year with Chicago. Chris Taylor is aging and should lose some time to Manuel Margot during the season. The Dodgers are expecting Gavin Lux to be the opening-day starting shortstop after missing all of 2023 with an injury. Lux is a wild card with all the talent in the world, but once he came up in 2019 and had some success ever since, he displayed some issues in the field. He struggled with arm accuracy and has yet to play more than 130 games in a season. Shortstop defense will be key for the Dodgers, especially considering Mookie Betts has played in the infield sparingly over his MLB career. Imagine spending all this money on pitching and having the league’s worst up-the-middle defense give opponents extra outs each game. How happy will the Dodger faithful in the stands be after paying $400 plus for a ticket, one hot dog, and bottled water to enjoy this rebuilt pitching staff?

Dodgers Rotation/Bullpen

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, Bobby Miller, Walker Buehler, and a mix of Gavin Stone and Emmet Sheehan make up a very formidable starting rotation. Here is the issue: Glasnow has yet to start more than 23 games in his MLB Career, and last season was the first time he reached 23 games started. His ability to stay on the active roster has been an issue in his time with the Rays. Now, the team is hopeful that Walker Buehler can return from Tommy John surgery and contribute right away after missing all of the 2023 season. If you ask me, there are plenty of question marks in the pitching department. Yamamoto will be pitching his first season in the Major Leagues, and we can expect him to show plenty of signs of dominance. Still, I also expect him to go through a few stretches where he will struggle with the MLB caliber bats, especially with some of the top teams in the National League. The bullpen for the Dodgers I expect to remain solid, but I won’t be shocked if an impact arm is added before the start of the season, and if not now, certainly throughout the season, I think the leash for the pen will be very short this season as it appears to be an all or nothing approach by the front office.

Don’t Crown them yet

All this money and assets were spent this offseason, yet I still see the Dodgers falling short of the World Series. One thing people forget and overlook is that this Dodgers team won 100 games last year and still failed to reach the top. So now they have added some support in the names mentioned above. Guess what? The teams they compete with and have to get by to reach the World Series haven’t been sitting idle, bending their knee to the Dodgers. I have not seen one white flag waved by Atlanta, Arizona, Philadelphia, or the San Francisco Giants.

Let us Start within their division: Arizona and San Fransico, specifically, not to slight the Padres or the Rockies, but I do not see them as a threat; perhaps the Padres, but they would have to make some additional moves to improve those chances right now and enter the discussion.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Last year, darlings made a wild card run for the ages, and it appears the front office is preparing to attempt to return to the postseason to redeem themselves after last year’s World Series loss to the Texas Rangers. The team has already pulled off a trade for veteran Third baseman Eugenio Suarez from Seattle; they resigned Lourdes Gurriel Jr and added Eduardo Rodriguez to a four-year 80 Million dollar deal. With Corbin Carroll, Christian Walker, Ketel Marte, and now Egunio Suarez, this team has added pieces to strengthen areas of concern while keeping the current core intact. As you can see below, this roster has plenty of offensive upside. Zac Gallen leading the Starting rotation and getting Rodriguez back to his Red Sox form could be a formidable one-two punch atop the Diamondbacks rotation. Paul Sewald remains and will lock down the ninth inning for the Diamondbacks, leading the bullpen for an entire season in 2024.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants signed Japanese Free Agent Center Fielder Jung Hoo Lee this off-season, but besides that, they have yet to make any impactful moves. I have them in the discussion because I can see them adding one or two additional free-agent arms. The top Arm is Blake Snell; if they are to pair him with Logan Webb, the Giants can pitch and play solid defense while fighting their way into the Playoff picture. I also think you see a back year from an older Outfielder; Mitch Haniger had injury-riddled seasons last year; if Haniger could be available for 120 plus games between left field and DH, I can easily see him hitting 22 home runs with 75 RBIs for the Giants this season. The team needs Thairo Estrada to be healthy for the entire year, as his presence atop the order is crucial to jump-start the offense with his ability to get on base. With one or two additional offseason moves, I see the Giants being the other threat in the NL West this season. If and this is a big if, but what if the Giants snuck in and signed two of the following three starting Pitchers, Marcus Stroman, and Blake Snell, or sneak in and sign Sota Imanaga? Something like this would make the Giants my sleeper team for the season.

Philadelphia Phillies

While the Phillies fell short in the NL Division Series last season, they returned everyone from the core. One piece that wasn’t a factor last season who will be elsewhere next season is Rhys Hoskins, but as I said, he missed all of last season with a Knee injury. The Phillies resigned Aaron Nola this offseason and are closing in on an extension with Zack Wheeler, which locks up their top two pitchers. Bryce Harper will man first this season, supporting Stott, Bohm, and Turner in the rest of the infield. Realumoto, Shwarber, Castellanos, and Marsh all return for the potent offense from Philly. The offense and starting pitching are both solid; my only concern with Philly is in their bullpen. The teams, the Phillies and Diamondbacks, have the weakest of Bullpens, on paper, mind you. They are weakest as well compared to the rest of these Five teams, so keep that in mind before ripping me to shreds; I am trying to think about this, keeping my fandom out of the equation and writing out of the love of baseball. An addition in the bullpen would do wonders; Josh Hader, as is hard-throwing Robert Stephenson, is still available. Both would be welcome additions to this squad.

Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves made a minor trade before the Winter meetings where they acquired Jarred Kelenic from the Seattle Mariners; I have a gut feeling that this move will pay off hugely for the Braves. Kelnic showed glimpses last season of the talent he has and why he was considered a top prospect in the league. He has the potential to be an elite bat, and with the new home, he has zero pressure, which, sitting at the bottom of a loaded lineup, could be just what the kid needs to have his best offensive season yet. Offensively, the Braves have the top Offensive team of the group, potentially the entire MLB. Last season, they saw Spencer Strider come out of the gates strong, only slowing down towards the end of the season with his pure dominance. The Braves rotation, as is, can keep them atop the NL East, which they will battle the Phillies the entire way, but I see them edging them out for the top spot, while Philadelphia controls the top Wild Card spot. In my opinion, the Braves have the best bullpen out of this group of teams as well. Iglesias and Minter provide a solid core shutting down the 8th and 9th innings or a rotation that has some sleeping upside; if Ian Anderson can ever find his control, that rotation gets a massive lift from a guy currently on the outside looking in. Overall, this team is going to be fun to watch this year. In the off chance, they feel the need to make another move to counter what the Dodgers have done out west, for instance, make a move for Shane Bieber or Dylan Cease or go the Free Agent route and sign Lucas Giolito, Marcus Stroman, or a big splash with Jordan Montgomery then wow the best get better.

Conclusion

So, while the majority of MLB fans clamor at what the Dodgers have done and make the statements World Series or bust, which many have mentioned, let me break it down: Best Offense Braves, Best Starting Rotation Dodgers, and Best Bullpen Atlanta Braves all on paper and all before a single team reports to their respective spring training homes. Then again, what does the “best” mean anyway? The Dodgers, as mentioned, won 100 games last season, mind you, from a relatively weak Division, seeing down seasons from both the Giants and Padres, neither eclipsing 88 wins (79 & 82). The World Series Champions finished second to the Dodgers last season 16 games back and won from a wild card spot. What appears on paper truly doesn’t matter until we get deep into September and October; it’s then when experience, perseverance, grit, and determination will determine which of these extremely talented teams gets a chance to play in this year’s World Series. So here is my way to early prediction for this coming season NL East Braves, NL Central Reds, NL West Dodgers Wild Card Phillies 4th seed, Diamondbacks 5th seed, and the Cardinals beat out the Giants for a 6th seed (Unless the Giants make the additional SP moves as mentioned). The Phillies beat the Cardinals 2-1; the Reds beat the Diamondbacks 2-1 in the wild card series. The Braves enter the season as the Number 1 seed overall and will face the Phillies, beating them in a 7-game series 4-3. The Dodgers will play the Reds and beat them 4-1, setting up the Braves and Dodgers in the Division series that sees the Braves make quick work of the Dodgers, beating them in 6 games 4-2. In the end, The Brave’s offense is too much while their bullpen controls the back 2/3 of games in the series leading the Braves to the World Series. This is what I see happening as of right now on the eve of Christmas Eve. Many more moves will be made throughout the league, but from where I sit today, this is what I think. Please give Inside the Diamond a follow and let me know your thoughts; thanks for reading!!

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