Dodgers second-half preview: Is this really their year?

first_imgThe Dodgers have no such weakness demanding attention as they re-assemble in Miami for the second half.“I definitely feel like we’re in a good position to go deep into October,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said. “I really believe the group we have here is capable of winning it all without big additions.”Reminded of Theo Epstein’s “if not now, when” declaration last July, Zaidi paused before responding.“I don’t think there’s that feeling (in the Dodgers’ front office),” he said. “We have a lot of confidence in the team we have.“Every contender that I’ve ever been around, there’s always a little bit of a buzz around the trade deadline – ‘What are we going to do? What are we going to add?’ I haven’t really seen that or heard that around this team at all because I think they feel really good about the group we have and they know how good they are.” That is obvious when Alex Wood – the first Dodgers starter to go 10-0 since Don Newcombe in 1955 and the pitcher with the lowest ERA (1.67) in the majors among anyone who has thrown at least 80 innings – is reminded of the popular narrative that the Dodgers need to acquire a No. 2 starter to pair with Clayton Kershaw in the postseason.“I try not to listen too much to that kind of stuff,” Wood said before making it clear he has definitely heard it. “I feel like I’m having a pretty quality year so far this year. Really, my career numbers and my year – go out and find somebody with better numbers to be a No. 2 and then come talk to me.”Zaidi likes the sound of that.“I did something for TV the other day and said, look – we need a No. 2 starter? Tell that to Alex Wood,” the GM said. “It sounds like someone did and I liked his answer. My answer is exactly the same as his. We need a setup man? Tell that to Pedro Baez. Who’s out there who’s going to be better who’s had a better season than Pedro Baez?”There are no “low-hanging fruit” – obvious areas that the Dodgers need to address – Zaidi said.“The bar to improve what this team is and what it’s done is pretty high,” he said.A reliable left-handed reliever would improve Zaidi’s team. The trio of options on hand – Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan and Adam Liberatore (currently on the DL) – have each underperformed and that figures to be at the top of the Dodgers’ shopping list. Detroit’s Justin Wilson, San Diego’s Brad Hand and Oakland’s Sean Doolittle are the best lefty relievers priced to move.Chris Taylor has been a pleasant surprise and the Dodgers’ issues against left-handed pitching have subsided. But a right-handed hitting outfielder – Detroit’s J.D. Martinez fits the bill – would be a wise addition.The Dodgers’ deep farm system gives them the resources to make those additions. They have shown a willingness (and wisdom) to move some young prospects – Jose DeLeon, Jharel Cotton, Grant Holmes and Frankie Montas were all traded in the past year – but keep others. Teams sniffing around Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger in recent years (and now pitchers Walker Buehler and Yadier Alvarez) have been stiff-armed.Triple-A outfielder Alex Verdugo is the heir to that legacy. The 21-year old (one of the youngest position players in Triple-A this year) is batting .346 with a .416 on-base percentage thanks to more walks (35) than strikeouts (32) “and probably the best outfield arm in the league,” according to Zaidi. His name comes up frequently in trade-deadline speculation.“He’s a terrific talent. And frankly, he’s big-league ready or close to being big-league ready,” Zaidi said. “I remember saying this about Julio and Corey and Joc and Cody – it’s really hard to imagine a plausible scenario where it makes sense for us to move him.” LOS ANGELES >> A year ago, the team with the best record in baseball traded its top prospect in a deal it hoped would put it over the top and end a franchise-defining World Series drought.“If not now, when?” the GM of that team said at the time.The setup has repeated itself. This year, the Dodgers have the best record in baseball as the second half opens and a franchise-defining World Series drought of their own.The Chicago Cubs pulled the trigger on the midseason acquisition of reliever Aroldis Chapman last July and it proved critical in their run to the World Series title. This year, however, the National League landscape has changed – mediocrity (or worse) is rampant, seeming to open the way for the Dodgers. Only the Washington Nationals appear to have the wherewithal to stop them. And the Nationals will have to address their inflamed Achilles heel of a bullpen before they can be taken seriously in October.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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