Since the Dodgers had a losing record for the first time in five years and failed to reach the playoffs, many fans want to overhaul the team. That is not a practical solution. The Dodgers have many talented players who should be kept. While many fans dream about a big-name power hitter or starting pitcher, the Dodgers probably won't be actively pursuing free agents with the uncertain ownership situation.
I think it would be helpful to look at every position to see exactly what the Dodgers need. It would be nice if the Dodgers could sign whatever they need, but that is impossible.
Personally, I like replacing Joe Torre with Don Mattingly because this decreases the cost of the manager while getting one who probably will relate to the young Dodgers better. Although Torre is destined to go to the Hall of Fame as a manager, his success came primarily with the New York Yankees, who will buy whatever they need to win. This is not the Dodgers' current style.
Everyone in baseball says Mattingly is special. Anyone who can spend his entire playing career with the Yankees during the period when they went to the playoffs only once -- as he did -- is special. Mattingly had his number retired with the Yankees a few years after he retired. He has been a long-time coach for Torre who didn't choose just anyone to be on his coaching staff. During a season when some Dodgers had conflicts with coaches, Mattingly remained popular with the players and supportive of their efforts.
The Dodgers need a new starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are the only starters returning to the staff. I wouldn't re-sign Vicente Padilla, who was plagued with injuries this past season. If the Dodgers can convince Hiroki Kuroda to stay and agree to a one-year contract, they should. Ted Lilly wants to remain a Dodger, but he will want to have a multiple-year contract. With his age and style of pitching, I believe the Dodgers can do better.
The bullpen needs to be overhauled. Kenley Jansen, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Jonathan Broxton are the relievers who should be kept. Luckily, relievers are the cheapest members of the team.
Though James Loney doesn't have much power for a first baseman, he brings much good to the Dodgers. He has respect from the other teams. He is a solid defender, and he might win a National League Gold Glove this year. Although he didn't show it in the second half of the season, he usually hits for a high batting average and drives in runs.
The Dodgers need a new second baseman. Ryan Theriot was a major improvement over Blake DeWitt, but he didn't perform well offensively. I think the Dodgers might be able to do better than Theriot, who is eligible for arbitration.
Though Rafael Furcal is still a talented shortstop, he can't stay healthy and is the highest-paid player. I would market him to see if the Dodgers could get a good starting pitcher or a much-needed power hitter. I feel Chin-Lung Hu can play an adequate shortstop. This is an area where the team can save money.
Casey Blake should be the Dodgers' third baseman unless they can sign Adrian Beltre, an excellent defensive third baseman. Though Beltre hasn't recaptured the magic that he had in 2004, he can hit for a decent batting average and has some power.
Left field is where the Dodgers must upgrade. Last season they never had a regular left fielder. This position is where teams get power. Jay Gibbons can be a possible solution, but he doesn't have good defense or a track record of producing power. I would feel more comfortable putting him on the bench and acquiring another left fielder. Though Adam Dunn strikes out a lot, he is the kind of the power hitter that the Dodgers need because he has a high on-base percentage and the ability to scare opposing pitchers. The Dodgers, as of right now, don't scare anyone offensively.
Matt Kemp had a disappointing season but still led the Dodgers in home runs and RBIs. He has a tremendous upside. However, he doesn't respond well to critical coaching. I would listen to the trade offers for him. Unless general manager Ned Colletti loves what he hears, I would like for the Dodgers to keep Kemp because I think he will be great next season.
Andre Ethier had a good season while he battled nagging injuries. If he can stay healthy, he can be a superstar. He is capable of getting the big hit whenever the Dodgers need it. He thrives in high-pressure situations, unusual for most Major Leaguers. Ethier is an excellent defensive right fielder who can earn many Gold Glove Awards.
The catching situation for the Dodgers depends on how Russell Martin's broken hip heals. Apparently, he won't need surgery to repair it, and this is encouraging news. When Martin went on the disabled list, he was hitting better. In the last two games at the end of the season when selected players received an opportunity to coach, Martin was on the coaching staff, meaning he has respect from management and fellow teammates. If he can catch half of the games, I would keep him. A.J. Ellis has earned the opportunity to be a Major League backup.
Colletti has many things to ponder. It will be interesting to see what the Dodgers decide.
Sarah D. Morris is the editor of Sarah's Dodger Place. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.