The feeling was a familiar one concerning the Los Angeles Dodgers. A wildly successful regular season was followed with the team staring at an October disappointment. Only this time, the Dodgers battled back to win three games in a row to take the NLCS over the Braves and then won the World Series in six games, while never facing elimination in the Fall Classic. We aren't going to make Dodgers fans relive the list of failed postseasons again right here. It's over. They are the World Series champions.
They were the best team in baseball from 2013-20, cumulatively, and now they have a ring to show for it.
The 2020 team went 43-17 in the regular season, a 162-game pace of 116 wins, which would've tied the MLB record. They went 5-0 through the first two rounds of the playoffs, fought off elimination like bosses in the NLCS and didn't blink through some adversity in the World Series.
There will be a few days of celebrating before the offseason begins in earnest for Andrew Friedman and company. How do the Dodgers move forward and capture the elusive repeat? Since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000, there have been no repeat champions, after all.
There are questions to be answered with the roster and surely tweaks to be made, but it's a pretty straight-forward and simple answer with this ballclub from where I sit. Nothing major should be done, really. Just run it back again. Why?
#2020? Who cares
We just witnessed a 60-game regular season where zero fans went through the turnstiles (until the NLCS). The playoff field was bigger than ever with 16 of the 30 MLB teams making it. There were no minor-league games. Each team simply had a veritable taxi squad at an "alternate site" to feed their big-league club when the need arose via injury or underperformance.
Still, this team had lasting power. With a full regular season there would've been ebbs and flows, but they would've still had the highest odds to win it all. Why would a team in the Dodgers' situation make big changes after winning the World Series in a season like this? They are still stacked ...
There's plenty of hardware on this Dodgers roster. Cody Bellinger won MVP in 2019. Mookie Betts won the AL version in 2018 and has a shot to take NL honors in 2020. We know all about Clayton Kershaw and his three Cy Young Awards. Kenley Jansen has been an elite closer for years. Corey Seager is a top-10 MVP candidate this season and has finished in the top three before. Don't forget about former Cy Young winner David Price returning next season. Max Muncy and A.J. Pollock are All-Star capable players.
They've got veteran talent in spades. That's not all.
This isn't a situation where running it back with basically the same team means clinging to the past and hoping the veterans finally get it done. The Dodgers' organizational depth has been so good for years and they just keep churning out the high-level youngsters. In the rotation alongside Kershaw and Price, Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Julio Urias all have frontline upside and all were age-25-or-younger this season.
Bellinger is only 25 and Seager is only 26, by the way.
There's more on the position-player side, too. Will Smith, 25, has the look of an elite catcher and we got a short look at the ability of fellow catcher Keibert Ruiz. Infielder Gavin Lux didn't work out this year, but he's got big-time upside and is still only 22.
Brusdar Graterol has the stuff to be a premier reliever in this league for a long time and he was only 21 this season. The bullpen also got nice work from Victor Gonzalez (24 years old) and Caleb Ferguson (23).
Elite talent with up-and-coming stars is a good combo. The Dodgers fill around them nicely, too.
Chris Taylor is a proven above-average utility man who won the 2017 NLCS MVP and he trailed only Betts and Seager on the Dodgers in WAR this year. Matt Beaty is a capable utility backup. Was Edwin Rios a late bloomer? He posted a 149 OPS+ this season as a 26-year-old rookie.
Tony Gonsolin stepped into the rotation this season and was excellent. He's their swing guy to be an injury replacement or long reliever moving forward. He'd be a mid-rotation starter for most contenders.
Now, the questions ...
If the Dodgers simply wanted to go with the names listed above, they could. That's 25 players. You might notice some missing names, though.
Justin Turner is a free agent. It'll be interesting to see how this unfolds. He seems like a fixture and at this point it would be tough to picture him playing with any other team. He's heading toward his age-36 season, so is it possible they just let him walk? They could slide Seager to third base (he's the biggest shortstop, physically, in baseball history) and plug Lux at short? I kind of feel like they will retain Turner, though, especially with the likelihood that the DH sticks in the NL at some point. He hit .307 with a .400 on-base percentage this season and was a stud in the World Series. Don't give up just yet on that bat.
The guess is Pederson is gone. They already tried to trade him last offseason anyway. On Hernandez, it depends upon how much they want to trust the likes of Lux, Rios and Beaty moving forward. They are probably fine to let all three relievers go.
Regardless of the path this offseason, don't expect a ton of noise from the Dodgers. They made their huge splash last offseason in trading for Betts and handing him the monster extension. They have everything they need here to win more World Series titles in the next few years. They just need the players to get it done again and now they'll do so without the weight of the world on their chests. Also, they've been favorites for a while so it's not like we can say they are going from the hunters to the hunted. They remain the hunted. Now they are just the champs.