Just about every Los Angeles Dodgers fan was expecting the 2023 season to be a step back. There was no chance that the Dodgers were going to replicate the 111-win season from 2022 with the talent that left the team since November.
That being said, the Dodgers were still expected to comfortably finish with 90-ish wins before the season, but they’re not on pact for that thus far. The Dodgers have been a .500 ballclub. This is the most sobering start to a season since 2018.
As Dodgers fans have painfully learned over the last decade, regular-season wins are thrown out the window, and all a team needs to do is get hot in October to make noise. The slow start won’t keep the Dodgers from doing this, but the team definitely needs to make some moves in order to be this year’s hot October team.
3. Actually promote (and give playing time to) the top performers in the minors
This was a problem last season for the Dodgers. James Outman was the hottest hitter in the entire organization towards the end of the season and the Dodgers left him off the playoff roster for Joey Gallo. Remember him?
The hope this year is that the Dodgers have learned from that mistake and will actually give a chance to the best/top performing players in the organization. There is less of an excuse this year since there’s less established talent (like Justin Turner or Cody Bellinger) blocking young players from legitimately taking a roster spot or a starting job.
If Michael Busch or Andy Pages are tearing the cover off of the ball in the second half of the season, then they deserve playing time over any struggling veterans like David Peralta or Trayce Thompson. If someone is pitching very well, it’s imperative to give them the shot over a struggling arm like Noah Syndergaard. They have the bandwidth to make it happen and wouldn’t be displacing any integral talent in the process.
This is not unheard of for the Dodgers, either. The team promoted Corey Seager in August of 2015 and made him the starting shortstop for the playoffs over Jimmy Rollins. They can and should do the same if applicable in 2023.
2. Shore up the bullpen with savvy additions
Any team needs a good bullpen if it wants any chance of going on a run in October. As it stands right now, the Dodgers do not have a good bullpen — in fact, they have one of the worst in the entire league. Typical standouts, like Alex Vesia, have been awful and it’s been an overall group effort worth forgetting through the first month of action.
At the time of this writing, the Dodgers have the fourth-highest bullpen ERA (5.32) in the entire sport. Only the Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics are worse. Those are not the kinds of teams you want to be grouped with.
This is so untypical of the Dodgers and it’s critical that the team fixes it by making savvy bullpen additions. LA doesn’t need to make a massive trade, like the Josh Hader deal from a year ago, but there needs to be some help. Someone like Aroldis Chapman could actually make a lot of sense.
If LA can add 2-3 impact relievers, then most of the problems will be fixed. Dave Roberts can run a four-man playoff rotation and use guys like Gavin Stone, Ryan Pepiot and maybe even Walker Buehler in the bullpen.
But without any external help during the season, the Dodgers might not even be in a position to make the playoffs in the National League.
1. Add an impact bat at the trade deadline
When fully healthy, the Dodgers still have a lineup that can put up runs in October. We have not seen a fully healthy Dodgers lineup for most of the 2023 season whether it be because of injuries or because so many players have hit the paternity list.
The Dodgers have only run out a starting lineup consisting of Will Smith, Max Muncy and Outman eight times this season. Those are the three best options for the middle of the order for the Dodgers, and when they are all playing the lineup looks much deeper than it does when Austin Wynn is in there.
That being said, there’s room to add one more impact bat to the lineup, particularly at the shortstop position. The Dodgers have not been shy in adding offensive help before (Manny Machado, Trea Turner) and the team should not hesitate in doing so again come late July/early August.
Perhaps that’s someone like Tim Anderson, who can take over shortstop duties for the remainder of the season and hit at the top of the order ahead of Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. Maybe it’s a third outfielder that’s more consistent. Guys like Joc Pederson, Charlie Blackmon and Hunter Renfroe are all free agents after this season and could be traded by their respective teams depending on how the campaign goes.
Pitching might not be the Dodgers’ strong suit this season, so it’s important to add as much offensive firepower as possible. With an extra middle-of-the-order bat, the Dodgers’ lineup can be quite daunting to face in October.