With just a handful of days left in 2012, it's the time of year when many think about what changes and improvements they can make in the new year to come. This is when most of us make New Year's resolutions.
MLB teams aren't any different—or at least they shouldn't be. No one's perfect. Everyone has some room to improve. Otherwise, this whole offseason would be one boring slog.
The Los Angeles Dodgers made one of the winter's most impactful additions, signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract. The team also added Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin and re-signed reliever Brandon League.
General manager Ned Colletti presumably already has plenty of things checked off from his list of resolutions with these moves. But those are transactions. What about philosophies? How are the Dodgers going to approach the 2013 season, compared to 2012?
Here are some New Year's resolutions the Dodgers should make. We'll see if the team is able to stick to them as the year progresses, or whether they do the baseball equivalent of giving up on going to the gym by February.
Score More Runs
Pitching kept the Dodgers near first place in the NL West during the first half of the 2012 season. It was the primary reason the team finished two games away from the NL's second wild-card playoff spot.
The Dodgers had the third-best team ERA in MLB this year at 3.34. Only three teams allowed fewer than the 597 runs their pitchers gave up in 2012. Opposing lineups hit .238 versus Los Angeles, also the third-best mark in baseball.
The pitching staff was led by Clayton Kershaw, who could have earned his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award with his performance. The left-hander led the NL with a 2.53 ERA and 1.02 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched), while finishing second with a .210 opponents batting average and 229 strikeouts.
Yet the Dodgers offense couldn't provide enough run support throughout the season, which is the primary reason the team missed the playoffs.
With 637 runs, the Dodgers finished 26th out of 30 MLB teams. Their .252 batting average ranked in the middle of the pack (16th), but a .690 team OPS also put them near the bottom, with only four clubs finishing with a worse mark.
Matt Kemp got off to a blazing start, batting .417 with a 1.383 OPS, 12 home runs and 25 RBI in April. But hamstring and shoulder injuries limited him to 106 games and prevented him from keeping up that MVP-caliber pace.
Hanley Ramirez provided a boost after coming over from the Miami Marlins. In 64 games, he hit .271 with a .774 OPS, 10 homers and 44 RBI.
But the Dodgers' other big trade acquisition, Adrian Gonzalez, wasn't nearly as productive. Though he hit .297 with a .785 OPS, Gonzalez wasn't the impact player the Dodgers hoped they were getting when they made their blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox.
With a full year together, however, the Dodgers should have a much more potent offense in 2013.
The lineup will have a more productive left fielder in Carl Crawford and Gonzalez is a massive upgrade at first base. The left side of the infield will also provide more offense with Ramirez and Luis Cruz playing either shortstop or third base.
An even better starting rotation and bullpen shouldn't be let down by a lack of run support next season.
No disruptive trades
The Dodgers really had nowhere to go but up once the Guggenheim Baseball Management group took over ownership of the team.
With Frank McCourt in bankruptcy, Colletti couldn't do anything to improve his roster. He certainly couldn't spend any money. But with new ownership, an open checkbook and a mandate to do whatever it took to upgrade the team's talent level, the Dodgers could make bold moves.
The vastly expanded payroll allowed Colletti to take on big contracts, thus preventing him from having to surrender young talent in exchange. It didn't matter that the Dodgers wouldn't trade their top prospects. It mattered that the team could take on hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll.
As a result, the Dodgers got a new shortstop in Ramirez. Gonzalez was the new first baseman. League became the closer. And Josh Beckett helped out Kershaw in the starting rotation.
Next season, Crawford will be the new left fielder. Greinke is the rotation's second ace starter. And the team will likely add another reliever, preferably a left-hander, before reporting to Glendale, Ariz. for spring training.
But Colletti should not make another bombshell trade that disrupts his roster and forces manager Don Mattingly to put together a lineup and figure out how all those pieces fit on the fly. The Dodgers have the luxury of a full offseason and preseason to put together a team now, not just collect stars that other teams no longer wanted to pay.
Colletti shouldn't have to make another blockbuster deal or splashy free-agent signing anyway. The Dodgers are a significantly better team than they were at this time a year ago or even at midseason this year. They've added three star position players to join Kemp and Andre Ethier. The rotation has another top-tier starter.
Sure, the Dodgers could make more deals before the trade deadline. Who knows what will happen between now and late July? But Colletti doesn't have to overhaul his roster anymore. He can add complementary pieces—just like the real playoff contenders do.
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