When you think of teams that made major external splurges in one offseason to add stars, the 2009 New York Yankees (CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett) and 2019 Philadelphia Phillies (Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura) come to mind. But they might both pale in comparison to what president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and the Los Angeles Dodgers did this offseason.
In terms of our Just Baseball Top 25 Free Agents list published in November, the Dodgers have signed OF/DH Teoscar Hernández (No. 16), RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto (No. 2) and DH/RHP Shohei Ohtani (No. 1) to date. They also acquired the immensely-talented-but-oft-injured RHP Tyler Glasnow from the Tampa Bay Rays, signing him to a five-year/$136.6 million extension on his way in the door.
All of these offseason pickups, of course, will be added to a roster that won 100 games a season ago.
So what can reasonably be expected from the Dodgers in 2024, both in terms of individual production and total team output? One of the best ways to try to quantify that each year is by looking at the ZiPS projections Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs puts together.
For those unfamiliar, MLB.com offers this synopsis of what ZiPS aims to do.
“ZiPS uses growth and decline curves based on player type to find trends. It then factors those trends into the past performance of those players to come up with projections…The system uses statistics from the previous four years for players from ages 24-38, and it weights more recent seasons heavier. For younger or older players, it uses weighted statistics from only the previous three years. The system also factors velocities, injury data and play-by-play data into its equations.”
Sound interesting? Let’s do a deep dive on the 2024 Dodgers ZiPS projections.
Key Position Player Takeaways
- You’ll be shocked to learn that in his first season as a full-time second baseman, Mookie Betts will continue to add to his slam-dunk Hall of Fame case in the estimation of ZiPS. The seven-time All-Star projects to homer 31 times with an .895 OPS and a 5.6 fWAR.
- Speaking of players who have already cemented their Cooperstown cases, Freddie Freeman will have to settle for a modest 39 doubles in 2024, according to ZiPS. This comes a year after he set a new Dodgers franchise record with a staggering 59 two-base hits. The former NL MVP projects to slash .299/.384/.503 in the third season of a six-year, $162 million deal.
- Oh yeah, about Ohtani — while he won’t pitch in 2024, you can still expect a terrific performance in his first season with the Dodgers. ZiPS believes Ohtani will homer 38 times, drive in 122 runs and draw 80 walks. However, the system also has him in line for a 3.3 fWAR, which would actually be pretty modest considering he posted a 6.6 fWAR as a hitter just a year ago.
- Hernández had the misfortune of having to play 79 games of his contract year at the hitter-unfriendly T-Mobile Park a year ago, and predictably, his home/road splits were rather drastic. As a Seattle Mariner in 2023, Hernández posted a .643 OPS at home, as opposed to an .830 mark on the road. He had to “settle” for a one-year, $23.5 million deal with the Dodgers this offseason. Not only will that give him a chance to chase a World Series title, but Hernández projects to hit 30 homers and drive in 107 runs as part of this star-studded lineup. That should help him reestablish his value.
- Will Smith — perhaps the best catcher in the National League — almost feels like an afterthought in this lineup, which is crazy considering ZiPS believes he’ll have a four-win season (4.6 fWAR, to be precise) for the third time in his career.
- ZiPS doesn’t believe center fielder James Outman will match the 4.4 fWAR he posted in a breakout 2023 season, but the system still has him projected to homer 23 times, drive in 81 runs, draw 61 walks and post a 3.5 fWAR. That would be All-Star-ish production at a position without a ton of offensive difference-makers. Mind you, Outman also graded out very well defensively in 2023, with 1 DRS and 9 OAA in center field.
- ZiPS isn’t suggesting that Max Muncy will suddenly start competing for batting titles, as he’s projected to hit just .214 in 2024. Still, he provides enough offensively to be a very good value, despite his lack of consistent contact. The two-time All-Star projects to hit 27 home runs with 78 RBIs and 79 walks in 2024.
Key Pitching Staff Takeaways
- ZiPS is very high on the immediate impact Yamamoto will have in the Dodgers starting rotation, believing he’ll go 14-7 with a 3.52 ERA and 3.7 fWAR across 171.1 innings, which would put him firmly in the NL Rookie of the Year race.
- Friend of the program Walker Buehler projects to go 10-6 with a 3.56 ERA and 3.73 FIP across 154.1 innings as he returns from his second career Tommy John surgery. Eligible for free agency after this coming season, it will be interesting to see what Buehler can accomplish in 2024. The Dodgers are likely to exercise caution with his arm, but the 29-year-old surely hopes he’ll get to pitch enough to prove he is still a top-of-the-rotation starter before he hits the open market.
- What should fans expect from Glasnow in his first season with the Dodgers? According to ZiPS, pretty similar output to what he gave the Tampa Bay Rays in recent years: flashes of star potential over a relatively limited body of work. The projection system has the 30-year-old posting a 3.58 ERA and 2.4 fWAR over 118.1 innings.
- Manager Dave Roberts has immense talent in his starting rotation, but getting enough innings out of this group to avoid overtaxing the bullpen during the regular season will be a real test. Yamamoto projects to lead the team with 171.1 innings. Glasnow and James Paxton are hardly ironmen, and Buehler will probably have some limitations as he returns from Tommy John surgery. Ohtani and Tony Gonsolin won’t pitch in 2024, and the Dodgers should probably hope for the best and expect the worst from Dustin May as he recovers from flexor tendon surgery. Finally, Bobby Miller could be a hero if he approaches 150 innings this regular season; ZiPS has him projected to log 137.1 frames in his second MLB campaign.
- The one area of the roster in which the Dodgers didn’t invest in an established star this offseason was the bullpen, ultimately watching the Houston Astros sign Josh Hader to what feels like a pretty fair five-year, $95 million deal.
- Since being claimed on waivers in August of 2021, Evan Phillips has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball, posting a 1.74 ERA across 133 games. After saving 24 contests a year ago, Phillips projects to be the closer in 2024. However, ZiPS believes he’ll come back down to earth, posting a 3.52 ERA and 3.95 FIP in 57 games.
- Right shoulder surgery cost Blake Treinen the better part of the last two seasons, including all of 2023. He’s had stretches of his career where he’s been among the nastiest relievers the sport has to offer, and it would be a welcome development for the Dodgers if that pitcher re-emerges in 2024. ZiPS isn’t high on that possibility, though, projecting that the 35-year-old will post a 4.12 ERA and 4.31 FIP over 45 outings.
- Other relievers the Dodgers are counting on that ZiPS doesn’t seem to be confident in include Brusdar Graterol (3.69 ERA and 4.12 FIP) and Joe Kelly (4.46 ERA and 4.33 FIP).
- Regardless of what sportsbook you look at, Ohtani, Betts and Freeman are among the top five favorites to win NL MVP. Since Ohtani won’t take the mound in 2024, this year is probably the best opportunity for either Betts or Freeman to win a second MVP. Frank Robinson is the only player in MLB history to win an MVP in both leagues. Betts won the 2018 AL MVP with the Boston Red Sox, and has twice finished as the runner-up (2020, 2023) for the Senior Circuit’s top honor. Could this be the year he finally joins Robinson?
- Future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw, of course, continues to loom over the Dodgers’ offseason. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner is a free agent but hopes to pitch at some point this summer after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder in November. ZiPS projects him to post a 3.46 ERA and 3.85 FIP when he returns. Set to turn 36 in March, Kershaw would make sense as a midseason addition for the Dodgers, if they can edge out the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers, who also happen to be the hometown team of the 10-time All-Star.
- Shortstop remains a major concern in this lineup. As things currently stand, Gavin Lux, Miguel Rojas and Chris Taylor are the best internal options. Still, one has to wonder: Could Tim Anderson could be a possible free agent target if the Dodgers aren’t happy with what they have internally?
- Spending over $300 million on payroll won’t guarantee that the Dodgers end up on a parade float in late October, but it should come pretty close to assuring that they win the NL West and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs yet again.