2008 Outcome: 84-78, finished 1st place in the NL West. Advanced to the NLCS (Lost to the Phillies in 5 games.)
What They've Lost: Greg Maddux (retired), Jeff Kent (retired), Derek Lowe (signed with Braves), Brad Penny (signed with Red Sox), Takashi Saito (signed with Red Sox), Chan Ho Park (signed with Phillies), Andrew Jones (released).
What They've Done: Re-signed free agents Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake. Signed new free agents Brad Ausmus, Claudio Vargas, Mark Loretta and Guillermo Mota.
The Dodgers also let Angel Berroa, who spent quite a bit of time at SS for them, walk and have yet to do anything about Nomar Garciaparra, Joe Beimel or Manny Ramirez.
Needs: Outfield, starting pitcher
The Talk: Most of the Dodger talk this off-season has been centered around one man, Manny Ramirez. The Dodgers have reportedly offered Manny one or more contracts so far this off-season and continue to wait to see what he is going to do. The Dodgers front office has not been shy about saying they want Manny back on their club. Agent Scott Boras seems to be holding out hope that a new large market team will become interested in Manny, driving up his price, but that seems unlikely. Eventually it looks like Ramirez will end up back in LA.
The Dodgers also let Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and Greg Maddux walk from the NLCS team last year and will need to sign at least one free agent starting pitcher. They had been mentioned in relation with John Garland, but with him off the market, Randy Wolf looks like the best bet to land in LA. He would join a rotation of Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw and either Claudio Vargas or a young guy.
Free Agent Signing/Trade Prediction: Randy Wolf
Wolf spent some time with the Dodgers in 2007, going 9-6 in 18 starts before dealing with injuries. Reports say the Dodgers think he is a good fit and are interested in bringing him back. Wolf has always had the stuff to be a great pitcher but has struggled with injuries his whole career. Last season he struggled with the Padres for the first half of the season, but appeared rejuvenated after a mid-season trade to the Astros. The Dodgers will hope he can continue that success and stay healthy.
Young Player To Make 2009 Impact: Clayton Kershaw
The Dodgers have had a plethora of young guys come up and make huge impacts for their team over the past few years. They had one of the top systems in baseball for a long time and now it is producing a whole lot of results. Nearly all their good, young, ready players are now up with the big club, however. Kershaw showed some flashes of being a very good pitcher for the Dodgers last year. This year seems like the year that he will show why they felt comfortable letting Lowe and Penny go.
2009 Outlook As Of Now: The rest of the NL West still looks really awful on paper. The Dodgers seem to be the heavy favorite going in as long as nothing crazy happens before opening day. The D-backs, Giants and Rockies all have solid young cores but all 3 seem incomplete and at least a year away from seriously competing.
The Dodgers starting rotation seems to have taken a hit from last year's NLCS squad. If they can ink one more starter and get good things from Clayton Kershaw they should be fine though and they could get an unexpected boost from Jason Schmidt at some time during the season.
More than anything however, their chance of repeating last year seems to rely heavily on bringing Manny Ramirez back. The Dodgers struggled through the first part of the season as a .500 team before the trade but looked like a powerhouse afterward. The Dodgers lineup is filled with a whole lot of good young players who figure to only get better. Andre, Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney and Russell Martin have all solidified their spots as consistent regulars with great upside, but the dodgers struggled to find consistent power and run production before Manny came to town.
As always the bullpen in LA looks like a fairly strong one. The Dodgers seem to have success with nearly anyone they throw into their pen. Johnathon Broxton will take over as closer with Corey Wade, Guillermo Mota and Hong-Chih Kuo in support.
As long as the Dodgers can bring back Manny and nothing disastrous happens, I'd pencil them in as repeat division champions in the NL west.
Hottest Thigh Association: Alyssa Milano
Not only does Milano have a very hot thigh, but she also completes herself as every sports fan's dream girl as she is also a huge sports fan herself. She has said baseball in particular is her favorite, and despite being born in New York she is a huge Dodgers fan. She can often be seen at Dodger stadium with good seats cheering her team on. She has designed and modeled a lot of sports apparel for nearly every team, but she is not shy about telling you the Dodgers are the team close to her heart.