I am an unabashed and unapologetic supporter of FAZ. They have built a tremendous team and know how to utilize a full 40 man roster to their advantage because they have the depth to do so. I also believe that a winning TEAM is greater than the sum of the individual players. Clayton Kershaw is special. There is no question of that. But he is one of 40, and I believe that the other 39 players together can help to offset the loss of the one. No single pitcher can replace Clayton Kershaw. But that does not mean they cannot win without him, it is just going to be a lot more difficult. I think the moment you concede that your hopes are unrealistic of winning a championship without one player, then you will be correct 100% of the time, and you can begin your “I told you so’s”.
In 1968, Earl Morrall replaced a quarterback legend, the Baltimore Colts’ Johnny Unitas, due to an injury in the last pre-season game. Morrall guided the Colts to a 13-1 record, 2 playoff victories before losing Super Bowl III to Joe Namath and the Jets. Two years later, Morrall replaced Unitas for Super Bowl V, and this time brought a world title to the Colts. Now nobody is saying or implying that Earl Morrall is a better quarterback than Johnny Unitas, but the Colts were a great team and were able to overcome a disaster like losing Johnny U. Conversely, Dan Marino is arguably the greatest quarterback ever to play in the NFL to never win a Super Bowl. In fact, as great as he was, he appeared in only one Super Bowl.
We can all come up with anecdotes to support our individual beliefs or biases. I am one that believes that the team is greater than the individual. Others can and do see it different. That does not make one camp right, and the other one wrong. It is just a different way of looking at how to build a champion.
However, just because I believe in the team over the sum of the individual players does not mean that I do not believe that there cannot be improvements. I AM NOT A KOOL-AID DRINKER. I believe that FAZ has built the best team for a 162 game season. No team has the depth that the Dodgers have. I am not sure that any team is close in that regard. But the team is built for a long 162 game season. Are they built to win in a short series? That is a fair and legitimate question. The playoffs are a best of 5, and 2 best of 7 game short series where individuals can in fact rise to the occasion. So while I believe the Dodgers can win with Kershaw/Wood/Hill and Maeda/McCarthy/Ryu, I would prefer a solid top of the rotation RHSP in that mix. The Dodgers would be better with Gray or Darvish. The Dodgers would be better with Justin Wilson as the 8th inning setup. The Dodgers and their 11.5 game lead can afford to trade for Zach Britton and monitor his innings until the playoffs. Andrew Miller is not available but the Dodgers would be stronger with Morrow/Fields/Baez/Britton or Wilson as the bridge to get to Jansen. Ryu and Maeda or McCarthy (assuming one is #4 SP) can move to the pen with Stewart and Dayton/Avilan/Stripling to fill in if needed. The last two WS champions had superior bullpens. It was also MadBum coming in from the bullpen in Game 7 that won 2014 WS.
But like everything we want, there is a cost associated with the acquisition. I want a Porsche 911 Carrera. But it would put a big hurt in my retirement if I followed my desires and bought the Porsche. The Dodgers are fortunate to have the FO that values a farm system and can trade some of the coveted players from a surplus. The Dodgers have a wealth of RHSP in their system. They all cannot play for the ML team. Brock Stewart, Walker Buehler, Yadier Alvarez, Mitchell White, Trevor Oaks, Jordan Sheffield, Dennis Santana, Josh Sborz, Imani Abdullah, Scott Barlow, Wilmer Font, Andrew Sopko, Dustin May, AJ Alexy, and Devin Smeltzer. How long before Morgan Cooper and James Marinan join that group, or Caleb Ferguson (LHP) and Melvin Jimenez. Or a multitude of DSL and AZL pitchers. Of that group, only Walker Buehler and Yadier Alvarez rate Ace potential (right now). Stewart and White seem to be solid mid-rotation candidates. May and Santana could get to mid-rotation as well. Not including current year draft choices or Jimenez, the others have a ceiling of back end rotation and bullpen. Some could be high leverage relievers (Sheffield/Sborz). More than half of these pitchers have greater ceilings and floors than Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas, and Grant Holmes (yes, IMO with no scouting background).
Willie Calhoun and Edwin Rios are solid power hitters, a trait the Dodgers covet. But where do they play? The DH may in fact come to the NL, but when? Calhoun is ready now. Rios probably sometime next year. DJ Peters is not far behind, but he can play all three OF positions. Ibandel Isabel is probably in the Calhoun/Rios category. I am sure the Dodgers will find a quality DH if and when the DH comes to the NL. Yusniel Diaz and Starling Heredia are two high ceiling potential OF. They are just not at the Alex Verdugo level…yet. And Jeren Kendall may be the best of the bunch offensively and defensively. When is he penciled in? What happens with Henry Ramos? Could he be another find like Andrew Toles? What about Kyle Garlick/Luke Raley/Tyler Adkison/Zach Reks/Cody Thomas/Carlos Rincon/Jacob Scavuzzo. Many of these are potential Scott Schebler type power hitters. It is just knowing which ones are real and which ones may not be. That is where good scouting comes in play.
The Dodgers have three solid catching prospects in Will Smith, Keibert Ruiz, and Kyle Farmer. With Grandal and Barnes on the roster do they really need all of Smith/Ruiz/Farmer? There are also two to three solid potential prospects in the lower rookie leagues that may impress in the next couple of years (not to forget 2017 3rd round draft pick Connor Wong).
I am not sure that the Dodgers have any sure fire middle infield can’t miss prospects. But they have several that can and will make the ML at least as a utility player. Drew Maggi/Jose Miguel Fernandez/Tim Locastro/Drew Jackson/Omar Estevez/Brandon Davis/Ronnie Brito/Gavin Lux/Errol Robinson/Erick Mejia/Oneil Cruz/Moises Perez/Jacob Amaya all have potential. Corner infielders like Cristian Santana/Matt Beaty/Nick Yarnall/Michael Ahmed also have potential (especially Santana).
The Dodgers may have four top 100 players, but they probably lead MLB in the 101-200 prospect range, and the last time I checked, ML rosters are full of those guys with that label. The Dodgers are full of Cotton/Montas/Holmes caliber pitchers. FAZ is just better at determining who is better, and packaging others to get a needed piece. Could they gamble with Verdugo believing in what they have in Kendall? To me, the only untouchable is Buehler, followed by Alvarez and Verdugo, and then White. I am not including Stewart in the discussion because he is already on the 25 man, and they can ill afford to trade him this year.
I too am tired of the “Wait Until Next Year” mantra. 29 years is long enough. This team seems special, and with a little help, they can become prohibitive favorites. It may sting, but it will not hemorrhage the farm system. Some of our favorites may end up with the A’s or Tigers or Rangers or Phillies or Mets or Pirates, and you can bet I will follow them. But if FAZ believes that Sonny Gray or Yu Darvish or Justin Wilson or Pat Neshek or Addison Reed or Tony Watson or even Justin Verlander can help the team without sacrificing the luxury tax or farm system then I am in. I do not see them messing with the position players, but top of the rotation starting pitching and high leverage relief pitching can cement an already solid team.