While Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona will slowly, but surely, burst to life with bullpen sessions and batting practices, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Spring Training facility will carry a different aura to its confines. With pitchers and catchers having already reported to camp, a different feel is in the air for a club looking to defend its 2020 World Series title.
Now, sure – coming into the 2021 MLB season, the Dodgers were already a trendy pick to repeat as World Series Champions. Who would bet against it?
The idea of Los Angeles becoming a bonafide super team, however, may have been more open for interpretation.
After all, the Dodgers, despite winning their first Fall Classic in over three decades last season, arguably should have had more under their belt by the time the 2020 campaign rolled around to begin with. Seven-straight division titles (2013-19) while averaging close to 96 wins a season would certainly beg the question as to why the Dodgers were not able to claim one (or several) championships over that timeframe.
No matter, though. The past is the past, and if Los Angeles’s recent offseason acquisitions pay off in spades, well, Los Angeles might not just repeat as World Series winners this season. Instead, they just might have a dynasty ready to be unleashed on all teams brave enough to stand in their way.
Now, the offseason moves to garner these astronomical stakes are no other than right-handed starting pitcher Trevor Bauer and third baseman Justin Turner.
Let’s start with Bauer. To keep it succinct, the addition of the 30-year-old doubles (no, triples) down on a significant strength in a stout Los Angeles starting staff already bustling in talent with Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. Bauer, the 2020 National League Cy Young Award winner, officially signed a three-year, $102 million contract with the Dodgers on Feb. 11 and will look to challenge the duo as the top starting option Los Angeles can put forth every five days.
With the move, the Dodgers not only bring another anchor to an already steady rotation, but a high-octane ace who even made baseball history last season. How so? Well, Bauer was one of only two starters dating back to 1871 to collect 100 or more strikeouts in less than 75.0 innings pitched (100 strikeouts in 73.0 innings pitched) and less than 12 games started (11). The only other pitcher to put forth similar production was two-time NL Cy Young victor in Jacob deGrom, who tallied 104 strikeouts in 68.0 innings pitched over the course of the 2020 campaign, albeit in 12 games started.
We could go on about Bauer’s accolades, statistical numbers and antics, even. Boiling it all down, though, leaves one simple notion – health permitting, the Dodgers could have one of the deadliest, super rotations in not only franchise history, but MLB history.
While Bauer’s newly-minted Dodger glamour certainly brings its luster, it should not overlook another move Los Angeles made in regard to retaining their longtime third baseman in Turner to a two-year, $34 million contract with a $14 million club option for a third year.
Turner, a Dodger since 2014, has slashed .302/.382/.503/.886 in 796 games played with the team. While he might not be as stalwart with the bat as he was several seasons ago, the 36-year-old brings clubhouse chemistry and stability, which could very well trump any value he brings with the lumber at this stage of his career. Sure, hitting well will certainly be a plus, but with Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and co. it should not be an absolute necessity.
Once you look at the Los Angeles scorecard in its totality, you have two moves that bring similarities in motive, but differences in value. The motive for both? To bring wins to the table and to, hopefully, bring one or several World Series titles. The difference in value? One brings a different flavor to an already tight clubhouse, while another reinforces it.
These two deals, to many, will reinforce a narrative of Los Angeles being able and willing to double down at the cost of inflated payroll. To a degree, it would not be a completely wrong take – the Dodgers’ 2021 payroll will sit north of $250 million when it is all said and done, of course.
However, on the other side of the coin (one Los Angeles has not spent yet, that is), the two moves prove something else: Los Angeles will be here to stay, and, perhaps more importantly, will want to put behind its past struggles and become the first back-to-back super team MLB has laid its eyes on since those fabled New York Yankees a couple decades their senior.
It all starts at Camelback Ranch, and while the Dodgers have yet to play a 2021 game, their mission is as set-in-stone as ever. Now, it is time to get to work.