It may sting right now, but nobody is going to feel sorry for the Los Angeles Dodgers when next season starts. The team needs to pick itself up, wipe the dust off the pants, and get to work if they want to repeat as NL champs and have another shot a World Series. The Dodgers already have a lot of pieces in place for another run but will need to address some issues if they want to go all the way.
1 Don’t let Rick Honeycutt leave
The Dodgers have had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball for the last decade. The team's combined era has been in the top five in eight of the last ten seasons and the biggest reason is the magic of pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
Honeycutt has gotten the best out of countless pitching acquisitions over the years. Alex Wood, Joe Blanton, J. P. Howell, and Josh Beckett are some of the recent pitchers on whom he has worked his magic.
There has been talk that Honeycutt is leaving after this year, a loss that would hurt more than any player. The players love him, he's a staple of the program since he took the job in 2006, and could be the key to getting back to the World Series in 2018.
2 Figure out their crowded outfield
Depth may be a good thing, but it possibly hurt the Dodgers in this series. Andre Either, Charlie Culberson, and Kike Hernandez were some of LA's hottest hitters this postseason and in the World Series specifically, but were limited to pinch-hit duties in the Fall Classic because they have too many outfielders.
Andrew Toles will return next year and the team needs to figure out who they want to invest in for the future and who they should be dealing. Is Joc Pederson back as their long-term center-fielder after being benched most of the year? Are Yasiel Puig and Chris Taylor locked in as starters and if so, what happens to Toles? The Dodgers need to make some tough calls and, moving forward, establish who their guys are.
3 Get Charlie Culberson in the lineup
The Dodgers have a logjam at second-base right now. Chase Utley, Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor, Logan Forsythe, and Charlie Culberson all logged games for the team at that position in 2017. Utley is a shell of his former self, Kike and Taylor can be used elsewhere, and Charlie Culberson was phenomenal after being called up for the postseason. He has been waiting quietly in the wings while the Dodgers hold onto guys like Utley, but Los Angeles waited too long.
Charlie went 3 for 5 in his limited at-bats in the World Series and could have been a bigger piece of the puzzle had they incorporated him earlier in the year. It's time for Culberson to get some real time in at second base for Los Angeles and they can handle it however they want. They just need to prioritize making room for Culberson in the big leagues.
4 Deepen the bullpen
From the outside, the Dodgers' bullpen looks like a good unit that just struggled this series. But there's a reason Brandon Morrow pitched in all seven World Series games, and that is manager Dave Roberts doesn't have enough faith in the other guys out there. Kenta Maeda staying out there as a long reliever will help, but the majority of the other relievers are one at-bat specialists. A consistent presence to come in during the seventh inning before going to Morrow in the eighth would be huge.
Remember the Dodgers nearly traded for Aroldis Chapman following the 2015 season but backed out because of a domestic violence issue, so they understand they need another guy. Hopefully, they make a move again this offseason and give Jansen and Morrow a little help for next year.
5 Grow some clutch bones
Even as I sit here now, I can't believe the Dodgers didn't win this series. They lost a game when Jansen had the lead in the ninth; they lost a game when Clayton Kershaw had a four-run lead, and they lost Game 7 after leaving ten runners stranded on base.
I could use the excuse that they're young, but so were the Astros. What it comes down to is being big in the big moments, something Kershaw has been criticized for his whole career, but it now seems to have spread to the whole squad.
There's no doubt that Bellinger, Seager, Turner, and Puig let us down in Game 7, and Kershaw and Jansen choked too. The Dodgers' best players during the regular season couldn't come through when needed the most this postseason. This team has the makeup for another run at the title next year, but possibly the biggest change this team needs to make is from within.
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