LOS ANGELES -- While the Mookie Betts and David Price acquisitions were clearly made with October in mind, a welcome bonus for the Dodgers is that the blockbuster trade recasts what had threatened to be a sour Spring Training narrative.
Now, instead of wallowing in the bitter first-round elimination of last postseason or the sign-stealing scandal that might have cost them the 2017 World Series -- which had been the winter focus -- the Dodgers will open camp by welcoming a superstar Most Valuable Player Award winner entering his prime in Betts and a former Cy Young Award winner in Price.
What better way to help turn the page and focus on 2020?
A batting order that now includes a pair of MVPs in Betts and Cody Bellinger is the franchise’s scariest since the late 1970s, if not the original Boys of Summer from six decades ago. There will be less platooning and better balance with the right-handed Betts wreaking havoc in the leadoff spot.
“We obviously got the superstar they've been talking about all winter,” pitcher Walker Buehler told MLB Network Radio. “Sacrificed a little of our depth for it. But it's obviously pretty exciting.”
The rich Dodgers getting richer should be a devastating psychological blow to the rest of the National League West, on which Los Angeles has had a firm hold for seven seasons going on eight. It is the likely favorite to appear in the World Series for the third time in four years.
But even with Betts and Price, the Dodgers still have questions to answer. And in an unusual twist for a franchise with an unmatched pitching legacy, those questions revolve around the rotation and bullpen.
While Price has the resume, he’s also coming off left wrist surgery that limited him to 22 starts and only seven wins in 2019. And even with a healthy Price, the Dodgers are short a veteran starter. NL Cy Young Award runner-up Hyun-Jin Ryu left for Toronto as a free agent, and Kenta Maeda is now in Minnesota.
Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler in either order equals a pair of aces, with Price an aging but potentially imposing No. 3. Things get murky after that, with Alex Wood and Jimmy Nelson looking to bounce back from injuries and Julio Urías hoping to regroup after last year’s suspension under MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. May and Tony Gonsolin are also trying to elbow their way into regular jobs.
In the bullpen, Kenley Jansen has spent the offseason dedicated to regaining his All-Star form. Just in case, Blake Treinen is the latest reclamation project to back him up. Joe Kelly will return, saying he is healthy after missing most of September with a vaguely explained physical issue and serving up the Howie Kendrick grand slam that eliminated the Dodgers in the NL Division Series.
And for the first time in 14 years, Rick Honeycutt won’t be the pitching coach. He stepped aside after a painful year following back surgery, replaced by bullpen coach Mark Prior.