The Dodgers were the biggest disappointment in the NL West this past season, and second basemen Jeff Kent revealed a clubhouse rift between veterans and young players.
They owned the NL's best record on July 18 and contended into September, but L.A. lost 11 of its final 14 games and finished fourth. It was a fractured team, which explains why Joe Torre replaced Grady Little as the Dodgers' manager.
The Dodgers lacked power again and had fewer home runs than any NL team but Washington. Only the 39-year-old Kent hit at least 20 homers. GM Ned Colletti failed to land a big hitter last offseason and will try again this winter. Depth is needed at the back end of the rotation -- Randy Wolf has a club option -- and the bullpen needs depth.
Signing expensive starting pitchers didn't work last year. Jason Schmidt (three years, $47 million, resulting in one win) and Wolf (one year, $8 million) had their seasons end early with shoulder surgeries.
So far, Colletti has been able to keep his top young players, but that may change if he's desperate enough to obtain a proven hitter. He can dangle young outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Kent may ask for a trade if he's not convinced the team will win.
Pitchers James McDonald, a right-hander who was named the organization's pitcher of the year, lefty Clayton Kershaw, 20, and righty Jonathan Meloan as well as outfielder Delwyn Young could be heard from by the end of the season.
Every other NL West team has been to the World Series since the Dodgers' last visit in 1988, and they're hungry to get a turn and seem willing to pay what it takes.
Chad Billingsley showed he's a possible ace, and Loney looks to be the real deal at first. With Brad Penny and Derek Lowe atop the rotation and Rafael Furcal and Pierre atop the lineup, the Dodgers are hoping to finally finish atop the NL West.
John Shea is the national baseball writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.