Dodgers Dugout: Dave Roberts makes the future seem a little brighter

Dave Roberts is your new Dodgers manager.

Dave Roberts is your new Dodgers manager.

(Lenny Ignelzi / AP)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, relieved that our long national nightmare of wondering who will manage the Dodgers is finally over.

The new manager is here!

So the Dodgers have settled on Dave Roberts as their new manager after a lengthy search in which they seemed to interview everyone except for the ghost of Walter Alston. There is much rejoicing by Dodgers fans over the news, so let’s take a look at what this really means.

On the plus side, Roberts is a former Dodger, and it will be nice to have someone with previous ties to the team leading them. One of the biggest complaints readers had about Don Mattingly was that he was a former Yankee with no Dodger blue blood in his veins.

Roberts also spent the last two seasons as bench coach in San Diego for Bud Black, who was considered one of the better managers in the game. We hope he picked up a few pointers that he can merge with his own style and personality.

But there really is no way to know how effective Roberts will be, because he has never managed before. He might be great, or he might make a lot of rookie mistakes, like that time Mattingly visited the mound twice by accident.

I don’t think he will make mistakes like that, though. Roberts was always a heads-up, hustling ballplayer, the type the Dodgers have been missing the last couple of seasons. If he brings that kind of attitude to the dugout and instills it in his team, he will have already accomplished a lot.

So I am optimistic, because really, why be otherwise? I don’t think his lack of experience will mean as much as his obvious love and knowledge of the game. I think he is the exact kind of guy the Dodgers need, personality wise. Ask yourself this: Are you looking forward to opening day a little more now? I am.

Keep in mind, though, that the front office, specifically Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, are very hands-on. A lot of the criticisms hurled at Mattingly, specifically his weird lineups and strange affinity for guys like Chris Heisey, weren’t entirely his fault. If the Dodgers manager is truly a puppet for the front office, that won’t change. If they actually let Roberts manage, make his own decisions and give him a bullpen, then we could see a different attitude around Dodger Stadium in 2016.

But until we get a couple of months into the season, we really have no idea how good or bad the decision to hire Roberts is.

What about Gabe Kapler?

Hopefully, Kapler won over Dodgers fans who were doubting him by a great tweet he sent out when the Roberts hiring was made official. In the tweet, he wrote: "Dave Roberts and I played together twice. Once in 1998 for the Jacksonville Suns, once in 2004 with the Red Sox. The man is an exceptional teammate and a tremendous human. He is prepared and diligent. His work ethic is strong. Dave is going to do a phenomenal job, and Dodger fans have a man they can be proud of at the helm."

That's a classy message to the guy who beat you out for the job.

What’s next?

Now the Dodgers have a big task. They need to avoid squandering the goodwill they have generated with the Roberts hiring. How? By improving the team. It’s looking more and more unlikely that they will bring back Zack Greinke, because they want their payroll to be lower.  Instead, it appears they will be going after Jordan Zimmermann, or a couple of pitchers like Zimmermann. They also are looking at Darren O’Day or Aroldis Chapman for the bullpen.  

Of course, the Dodgers have been linked to several free-agent pitchers the last couple of weeks over at the best site to track things like this, What they haven’t been linked to is a second baseman, which indicates they like Jose Peraza as their starter, bringing Chase Utley back to tutor him and start for him on occasion.

The Dodgers could use one more bat, and I have a hunch that they might be willing to trade Yasiel Puig and a minor leaguer or two for some help on offense.

I’ve already said what I would do if I were running the Dodgers. Let’s hope Friedman and Zaidi give Roberts all the tools he needs for success.

Thanks a lot, Dad

Andy Van Slyke, the father of current Dodger Scott Van Slyke and a former major leaguer himself, had some interesting things to say about Puig while appearing on a St. Louis radio station last week: “When the best player — the highest-paid player on the Los Angeles Dodgers — goes to the GM and tells him, or is asked what is the No. 1 need or what are the needs of the Los Angeles Dodgers club, this particular highest-paid player said, 'The first thing you need to do is get rid of Puig.' That's all you need to know.”

The fact that Van Slyke was a former major leaguer tells me that he wouldn’t have said this without clearing it with his son. Perhaps he was being used to send a very public message to the front office?

If what he said is true (and no one denied it), it means that Clayton Kershaw wants Puig off the team. Combine that with Friedman criticizing Puig earlier this month for being overweight, and it looks as though Puig’s days with the Dodgers are numbered. All fans can do is hope Van Slyke’s comments haven’t killed Puig’s trade value entirely.

Two new players

The Dodgers agreed to deals with two Cuban prospects, Yusniel Diaz and Omar Estevez. Diaz, a 19-year-old outfielder, will receive a $15.5-million bonus and Estevez, a 17-year-old infielder, will receive $6 million. The two are viewed as long-term projects. The Times’ Dodgers reporter, Dylan Hernandez, has more about them here.

Reader participation

Vote in our Dave Roberts poll here and take our quiz to see if you can name every L.A. Dodgers manager in seven minutes here.

And finally

The Dodgers hired a new broadcaster, Joe Davis, who is the heir apparent to Vin Scully. Helene Elliott tells you all about him here.

Have a comment or something you'd like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston