Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Thursday the team's priorities going into next season involve adding a starting pitcher, keeping the bullpen intact, and improving the bench.
Colletti and the rest of the front office were in meetings to plan for 2013 a day after the Dodgers' season ended without making the playoffs for the third straight year and first under new ownership. The team hasn't won the World Series since 1988.
The Dodgers began the season in bankruptcy under former owner Frank McCourt and ended it with an 86-76 record under new owners that include Magic Johnson and Mark Walter. The team's payroll ranked 12th in the majors at $94.7 million on opening day and rose to eighth at $129.1 million by season's end.
In July and August they added infielder Hanley Ramirez, reliever Brandon League, outfielder Shane Victorino, and pitcher Joe Blanton, and in a blockbuster deal acquired pitcher Josh Beckett, outfielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and infielder Nick Punto from the Boston Red Sox, catapulting their payroll into the stratosphere.
Beckett is due $31.5 million over the next two years; Gonzalez has $127 million coming through 2018; and Crawford is due $102.5 million over the next five seasons.
"It's been a season with a lot of movement and additions of high-caliber players," Colletti said. "Today compared to a year ago, we're in much better shape."
The Dodgers on Thursday sent pitcher Rubby De La Rosa and outfielder-first baseman Jerry Sands to Boston as the players to named later in the Aug. 25 deal, having already sent first baseman James Loney, pitcher Allen Webster and infielder Ivan De Jesus to the Red Sox.
"We're going to keep looking for opportunities," team president Stan Kasten said.
Even with their high-priced acquisitions over the season's last month, the Dodgers finished second in the NL West, eight games behind San Francisco. They were eliminated from postseason contention on the next-to-last day of the season, ending a roller-coaster ride in which they used a strong start to propel them into first place in the NL West before injuries took their toll as the summer wore on.
"I was impressed and heartened by the play in April and May when I thought we were overachieving," Kasten said. "My expectations are that we will go further than 161 (games next year)."
Colletti said the Dodgers' 35-37 record against their division rivals "needs to get better."
The injury bug hit two of the Dodgers' biggest stars.
Slugger Matt Kemp had a hamstring injury in May before Andre Ethier had an oblique strain.
Kemp was scheduled for surgery on Friday. He has a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and depending on what doctors find, it could be cleaned up in a minor procedure or he could have the labrum repaired, which would sideline him for four months. After a terrific first month, he wound up hitting .303 with 23 home runs and 69 RBIs a year after being runner-up to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun for the NL MVP award.
"He should be ready for spring training," Colletti said.
Ace Clayton Kershaw went 14-9 with a major league-leading 2.53 ERA despite a hip impingement late in the season that he said hadn't bothered him in recent days. His offseason workout plan will be tailored to strengthen his hip.
"Things can always come back," Colletti said. "There's a really good chance it won't come back."
Starters Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley were hobbled by shoulder and elbow problems, respectively. Lilly's inflamed left shoulder kept him out from May 24 to the end of the season, and he's recovering from surgery. Billingsley's recurring issues with his right shoulder sidelined him the final month and he's now trying to avoid Tommy John surgery.
Adding a starting pitcher is "an area we'll seriously have to look at," Colletti said.
Crawford, part of the nine-player trade with Boston, never suited up during the season while rehabbing in Houston from elbow surgery. Colletti said Crawford should be able to start hitting in December. He won't be at full strength until April or May, however, that "doesn't preclude him from playing," the GM said.
Colletti wants to keep intact the bullpen that includes Ronald Belisario, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen and League. Jansen will undergo a procedure to fix an irregular heartbeat that has affected him the last two seasons, and is expected to be ready by spring training.
"Our bullpen really prospered," Colletti said.
Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig will play in the Arizona Fall League and attend spring training with the Dodgers in Glendale, Ariz., although his prospects of making the big-league roster remain unknown. Puig signed a record seven-year, $42 million contract after defecting from Cuba in June after several failed attempts.
"Great power, speed, arm," Colletti said of the young slugger. "He still needs work playing the game."
The Dodgers' season attendance of 3,324,246 was the third-best in the NL, and an improvement over last year when numbers dipped below 3 million.
"That was a real show of confidence by the fans," said Kasten, who took over in May when the Dodgers' sale was finalized.
Among the promises made by the new owners were improving the team, enhancing the fan experience, and reaching out to the community.
"I think we have made major progress," Kasten said, adding, "The jury is still out until we get to where our goals are."