It was an incredible season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who fell just two wins shy of reaching their first World Series in 28 years. Facing adversity all year long, the team showed tenacity, perseverance and never contemplated quitting — even when the most unfortunate circumstances pushed them against the odds.
Considering that the club set a Major League record for most players placed on the disabled list (28) — including Clayton Kershaw, who was lost for two months, and their historic offensive woes against left-handed pitching, it’s almost unfathomable that the Dodgers were, at one point, in the driver’s seat to eliminate the 103-win Chicago Cubs from the National League Championship Series.
Just three months ago, the Dodgers faced an eight-game deficit in the NL West to the San Francisco Giants, who boasted the best record in all of baseball at the All-Star Break. Instead of conceding, the Dodgers relied on depth and ultimately rallied their way to a fourth consecutive division title.
Much of that depth came from the likes of rookies who weren’t expected to impact the Major League club in such fashion. Heck, some of those players weren’t even household names entering the 2016 season.
Rookie manager Dave Roberts showed extraordinary growth as the year progressed, and looks like a fantastic hire that can benefit the organization for many seasons to come.
And finally, Vin Scully called it a career after 67 seasons as broadcaster for the Dodgers. It would’ve been a dream come true to send him off with a World Series ring, but many memories were still made in the process.
After reflecting on what was an improbable 2016 season, let’s look ahead to some key offseason storylines that the Dodgers will soon encounter.
Not surprisingly, multiple Dodgers will be in the mix for some hardware this fall.
As mentioned above, Roberts’ incredible rookie campaign puts him in a tremendous position to win NL Manager of the Year, though it won’t be easy. Other candidates likely include the Cubs’ Joe Maddon and the Washington Nationals’ Dusty Baker.
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is in the running for Executive of the Year behind a flurry of solid depth signings last offseason that helped keep the team afloat during the regular season, as well as some key trades that aided the club for the stretch run.
Corey Seager quickly established himself as one of the best players in the Majors and is a lock for NL Rookie of the Year. However, it’ll be interesting to see how many votes he receives for NL MVP. Though, the Cubs’ Kris Bryant is widely viewed as the favorite for that honor.
Despite beginning the season with the Oakland Athletics, Rich Hill will be in the mix for NL Comeback Player of the Year as a result of his dominant 2016 campaign.
Meanwhile, if it weren’t for his two-month stint on the disabled list, Kershaw would likely take home his fourth Cy Young Award. But because of the missed time, he’ll finish somewhere in the top-10, if not top-five.
The Dodgers are facing the possibility of 10 players reaching free agency during the offseason. Among the prominent names are Joe Blanton, Hill, Kenley Jansen, Josh Reddick, Justin Turner and Chase Utley.
All five were important contributors to the Dodgers’ success in 2016, but it would be a stretch to say they’ll all return next season.
With the exceptions of Jansen and Reddick, the others have surpassed the age of 30 and may command multiple years in a relatively weak free agent market.
The Dodgers front office has traditionally avoided long-term commitments to aging players, but with the lack of suitable alternatives available, they might have to make some exceptions this time around.
Prior to the waiver trade deadline in August, the Dodgers were rumored to be involved in two blockbusters that could soon be revisited as the Winter Meetings approach in six weeks.
Los Angeles reportedly inquired on a familiar name in current Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke, who just completed the first of a six-year contract signed last December.
The Dodgers were said to be willing to cover $25 million of the $34 million annually owed to the right-hander, but the Diamondbacks declined and were adamant that the entire contract be absorbed in any transaction.
However, with a new front office in place for Arizona, the two clubs could reopen negotiations and perhaps agree to a deal with a more realistic figure in mind.
Another trade the Dodgers nearly pulled off was with the Milwaukee Brewers involving two high-profile outfielders in Ryan Braun and Yasiel Puig.
Braun, a Los Angeles native, would fill a big need in terms of finding a right-handed bat that crushes left-handed pitching. Besides Yoenis Cespedes, who will likely opt out of his contract with the New York Mets, teams will be hard-pressed to find a better power-hitting outfielder that’s openly available.
In addition to Puig, the Dodgers would have parted ways with two prospects and pitcher Brandon McCarthy to help offset Braun’s contract over the next four seasons.
Again, this was just the reported deal that nearly was completed in August. Now that two months have since passed, the framework could certainly be altered, but many consider Braun to Los Angeles a cinch to happen over the coming weeks.
With the 2016 season in the rearview mirror, the Dodgers’ busy and action-packed offseason will soon begin. In the meantime, reflect on the year that was and appreciate what the club did manage to accomplish.