For the 32nd consecutive time, the Dodgers have failed to win a World Series following a 162-game season. For the first time since 2012, the Dodgers failed to win the NL West. The Dodgers have six household names heading for free agency, a combined total of 15.3 fWAR heading out the door without any obvious in-house replacements. Was this the last hurrah for the last decade’s greatest team?
Was this the beginning of the end of this Dodger dynasty?
Also, probably no.
Will another team overtake them as World Series favorites next year?
The Dodgers aren’t going to do nothing this offseason. Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Max Scherzer aren’t just going to be allowed to walk away, nor will Chris Taylor and Corey Seager go out the door without so much as a phone call. If recent history repeats itself, the players who aren’t retained will be replaced by other premium free agents, and some 80-win team will decide to trade its superstar to LA for almost nothing.
That last point is a little less certain than it used to be. The Dodgers have kept a steady stream of top-100 prospects at the ready to trade for the likes of Mookie Betts and Max Scherzer, but the Dodgers’ farm system isn’t what it used to be. LA still has five players in MLB Pipeline’s top-100, but only one in the top-50. For the first time since they started doing organization rankings in 2015, MLB Pipeline ranked LA’s system outside of the top-10, and that was before dealing away Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz. Part of the fall from third in 2020 to 16th in 2021 is because of the graduations of Gavin Lux, Dustin May, and Brusdar Graterol, but the Dodgers don’t have any surefire reinforcements coming from the minors any time soon. At least, they don’t have any more Walker Buehlers or Will Smiths on the way.
The Dodgers felt the ill-effects of depleting depth this year. The Dodgers gave 895 plate appearances to hitters with a 77 wRC+ or lower. 350 of those plate appearances came from Cody Bellinger, whose woes are well-documented, but the Dodgers didn’t get much help from any of their role players. A competent fourth outfielder likely would have been the difference in the NL West, and who knows how that would have changed the rest of the postseason. The Dodgers probably wouldn’t have had to run Scherzer, Urías, and Buehler into the dirt if the Giants had to burn Logan Webb in the Wild Card game.
With Seager and Taylor both possibly leaving, the depth is just going to get worse without a ton of additions. AJ Pollock will be 34 next year, and after a career-best year at the plate, there’s seemingly nowhere to go but down. Cody Bellinger looked like his old self in the postseason, but there’s no telling if that will carry into next year. The Dodgers will also have to pay him $16 million to find out if he’s still a pumpkin.
If the Dodgers played in any other division, I’d imagine they would still be heavy favorites if they did nothing this winter. They might still be favorites in the NL West, but the Padres probably aren’t going to step on every rake they come across like they did this year. The Giants have to rebuild their rotation, and they’re hoping for repeat performances from unlikely sources, but they have money to burn.
Last offseason, the Dodgers could sit on their hands and still be favorites to repeat. (They didn’t. They gave a lot of money to some guy with serious red flags who wound up being a nonfactor in their success.) It took a team setting a franchise record in wins to beat them. This winter, they don’t have that luxury. There’s a lot of work to do.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.