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Dodgers newbie Manager Dave Roberts inherits team of questions

Kenley Jansen gives the Dodgers a bona fide closer, but the starting rotation and bullpen have plenty of holes to fill heading into next season.

Kenley Jansen gives the Dodgers a bona fide closer, but the starting rotation and bullpen have plenty of holes to fill heading into next season.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

At some point do you suspect Dave Roberts will wonder exactly what he’s gotten himself into?

At first blush, the team he inherits as manager must appear pretty impressive. They’re coming off three consecutive division titles, have the biggest payroll in sports history and baseball’s best pitcher in Clayton Kershaw.

So much to like, at least on the surface. But the Dodgers never have pretended to be a team without warts, and for all their positives, there is plenty to be concerned about.

Clearly the team Roberts takes over will not be the same team that opens camp in February. But based on the existing team he has right now, there is plenty to be concerned about.

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With the very real caveat that there will be significant change in the coming months, here’s a quick look at the concerns with the Dodgers of November:

Catcher: Their returning starter, Yasmani Grandal, hit .162 in the second half and then had shoulder surgery. Backup A.J. Ellis rebounded in the second half but will be 35 in April and the Dodgers have yet to commit to his return.

First base: Adrian Gonzalez continued to be a rock in the middle of the lineup, but he turns 34 in May and has to start slipping sometime.

Second base: Big vacancy. Productive Howie Kendrick is a free agent and there is no designated replacement.

Third base: Justin Turner is coming off a career year, but just had serious knee surgery.

Shortstop: Will be turned over to phenom Corey Seager, 21, who was remarkable in September, but has played in a total of 27 games in the majors.

Left field: Carl Crawford is the returning starter. Injuries continued to be a problem for the 34-year-old, who was limited to 69 games. He hasn’t played a full season since 2010 and had only a .265/.304/.403 slash line last season.

Center field: There were two Joc Pedersons last season, the one who was an all-star the first half and hit 21 homers, and the one who hit .178 with six homers in the second half and lost his job. Getting him back on track will be no small concern.

Right field: With Yasiel Puig hammered by hamstring issues and declining production, Andre Ethier started against right-handers and revitalized his career (.294/.366/.486). He also turns 34 in April and, like Crawford, has two more years on his contract.

Puig has failed to deliver on his superstar potential for the last season and a half, and his popularity in the clubhouse could prove a mounting issue.

Rotation: Well, you’ve got Kershaw. That’s one great place to start, but after that it’s almost off the rails. Brett Anderson surprised some by accepting the Dodgers’ $15.8-million qualifying offer. Originally signed to a one-year deal to be the fifth starter, the left-hander is coming off a reasonable 10-9, 3.69 ERA season. Left-hander Alex Wood (12-12, 3.84 ERA) is the only other returning starter. That leaves two enormous holes in the rotation, one currently vacated by ace right-hander Zack Greinke, a free agent who should be high on their to-do list.

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For the Record
Nov. 25, 6:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this article misspelled Zack Greinke’s first name as Zach.
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Bullpen: If not the disaster of 2014, still a major disappointment. The bullpen finished with a 3.91 ERA (19th in the majors) and allowed a .249 batting average (20th). Kenley Jansen is an established closer, but after that it becomes uncertain. An off-season priority yet again.

Otherwise, everything is in perfect order.

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