The Dodgers look set, at every position but one.
Have kids lined up here, veterans there, free agents plugging holes.
Except at third base.
Third base remains almost oddly undefined. Third base their one great unknown.
It shouldn't be that way. It should be the uncontested domain of Nomar Garciaparra. The hometown boy who returned to make good.
Only Garciaparra is coming off what is generally considered the worst season of his career. After a stirring first season as a Dodger in 2006, his power numbers wilted badly last year.
All season, fans waited for Garciaparra to finally get untracked. All season, his production remained flat. The first two months of the season, he had one home run. By season's end, just seven.
There were no easy explanations. Neither from coaches nor management. Garciaparra is still unable to offer enlightenment.
"I wish I could," he said. "Sometimes from year to year, you can't explain it. It's not a lack of effort. Things just change."
They changed unexpectedly at a dramatic level last season. After batting .303 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs in '06, the Whittier-born Garciaparra slipped to .287, 7 and 59.
"I'm sure there are a few, but I can't remember a player that had such a great season and then really struggled almost an entire season," Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "And I really don't know why."
After battling a calf strain in the
second half, he returned to almost part-time status. Down the stretch, when the Dodgers were still very much in playoff contention, Garciaparra was often on the bench.
He played in only 11 games in September. Had only a pair of RBIs. Sat too many games the last month of the season as then-manager Grady Little played youngsters Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu at third.
Garciaparra is under contract for one more season and turns 35 in July. Right now the Dodgers can't be certain what to expect from him.
"Correct," Colletti said. "He's not somebody who's at the end of his career. He's 34. There's always a chance he can bounce back.
"If we can't find a definite upgrade that's not going to cost us three or four prospects to do it, (then we'll) let Andy and Nomar figure it out."
So Garciaparra is penciled in at third, while the Dodgers' next hot prospect, LaRoche, will be given the opportunity to take the job.
Garciaparra said he's unquestionably disappointed by last season, though not completely for the reason that might be imagined.
His only goal, he said, is to capture a World Series.
"I've had years where individually the stats are unbelievable and I go home extremely disappointed and upset and down and frustrated because we didn't win a World Series," he said. "If I have a year where the numbers aren't there individually, I go home the exact same way. There's no difference. It's whether we win and accomplish our goal.
"Were my numbers there? No. Would you like to hit .370, a hundred RBIs and 30 home runs? That sounds great, but I've done that already and not won, and gone home extremely disappointed."
Garciaparra has had 90-plus RBI and 20-plus home run seasons seven different times. Hit over .300 eight times, batting .373 in 2000 to capture his second consecutive American League batting title for the Red Sox.
But in 11 major league seasons he's never been to the World Series.
He looks at the 2008 Dodgers and believes they can win. Plans to be a part of it. So he has gone back to work. A renowned fitness puff, he said he's determined to regain his form after last season.
"I went home and looked in the mirror," he said. "Every year I blame myself, saying I didn't do enough to get to our ultimate goal.
"I failed, and what do I have to do now to get better in the offseason to get back, so we can go out there and reach our goals?"
It should be noted, despite the more obvious down numbers, the season was not an entire disappointment. He still performed in the clutch better than any Dodger, and almost any player in the National League.
He batted .373 with runners in scoring position. If he had finished with enough at-bats to qualify, he would have finished second in the National League in that category to Miguel Cabrera's .378.
And when the Dodgers were struggling to score and searching for a way to get first baseman James Loney's bat in the lineup, it was the versatile Garciaparra who again was willing to change positions.
Originally a shortstop, he played first base for the Dodgers but moved to third at midseason to make room for Loney.
"They tried James in the outfield and it didn't work too well," he said. "He almost killed himself hitting the wall."
When the season began to slip away, there was the infamous generation gap fueled by second baseman Jeff Kent's comments. Garciaparra admits there was a time when the team seemed to have lost its focus, but the vets-vs.-youngsters feud was overblown.
"At no point was there any anger in the clubhouse," he said. "It's not like we don't like the young guys, don't respect the young guys. And it's not like the young guys don't like or respect us.
"We lost sight. Everybody was like, `Veterans and the young guys,' rather than saying this is the Los Angeles Dodgers."
Garciaparra said Kent met with the young players and the issue was actually resolved quickly.
"He told them, `We respect the game of baseball. We want to see it flourish, want to see it get better. It's going to get better, it's going to evolve. And we want to help young kids. The more we help, the more we win. We here to win.'
"I think internally that stuff was dealt with in a day. It was done."
The offseason has not been quiet for Garciaparra, either. Just prior to the release of the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drug use in baseball, one Web site erroneously reported Garciaparra's name would be listed.
"I actually laughed," he said. "Instead of me being nervous, I would hope that those from the media standpoint who were posting this stuff or taking it and running with it, should be more embarrassed and nervous than I am."
And for the record, Garciaparra said he has never used PEDs.
"I never have, that's easy," he said. "I'm able to look in the mirror and know what I've done in this game and what I've accomplished is because of the hard work I've put in."
He is working out regularly at Athlete's Performance in the Home Depot Center, a site of another special project of his and wife Mia Hamm.
Hamm, the retired soccer superstar, and Garciaparra are hosting a celebrity soccer challenge Jan. 26 at the Home Depot Center to benefit the Children's Hospital and bone marrow registry.
Garciaparra said Colletti plans to join celebrities Jay Mohr and Tony Hawk, along with soccer stars Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones and Kristine Lilly.
Life is still very good for Nomar Garciaparra. He and Hamm are the parents of young twins. He is excited about their charity work.
Plans to eliminate any doubts about third base. And despite last season, likes his team and sees better days for the Dodgers.
"I'm excited," he said. "I plan to be a big part of that."