Los Angeles Dodgers
If you were to talk to some Dodgers fans, they would have you believe this team hasn’t done much the past few years and hasn’t gotten much better. But the reality is this is more or less the same team that has won six consecutive division titles, two straight National League pennants, and was a game from a World Series title in 2017. Yes they traded away Yasiel Puig to the Reds and lost Yasmani Grandal to free agency. Could they have been more aggressive to try and sign Bryce Harper? Yes. But they added former pain-in-the-butt AJ Pollock who, if (big if) healthy, is one of the better center fielders in the game. And how about that pitching? A full year of Buehler is something Dodgers fans should be stoked about. Kershaw has declined, yes. That decline led to a 2.73 ERA last season. Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, Caleb Ferguson, and Julio Urias round out the guys who could make starts this year. They also added former pain-in-the-ribs Joe Kelly to assist a healthier and fitter Kenley Jansen in the bullpen. This team has been good and will be good in 2019. The Dodgers should win a seventh straight division title comfortably and have a legitimate shot to go back to the World Series for a third straight year.
The Rockies nearly won the division in 2018, instead losing to the Dodgers in Game 163 to fall into a Wild Card spot. They beat the Cubs in 13 innings the next night in Chicago only to get swept by the Brewers in the divisional round. One thing’s for certain: a lot of home runs will be hit in Coors Field. They have one of the best third baseman in baseball in Nolan Arenado, one of the top center fielders in Charlie Blackmon, and sport a dangerous supporting cast of Ian Desmond, David Dahl, and the newly added Daniel Murphy. The Rockies signed Murphy to replace the free agent departure of DJ LeMahieu. Kyle Freeland continued to prove last year that he can pitch well in Coors Field and Jon Gray is a better pitcher than how he pitched last year. Wade Davis sits in the back of a bullpen which underperformed last year. The Rockies project to be a winning team this year, but they haven’t improved to the level the Dodgers are supposed to perform at. They are a savvy pick to go back to the Wild Card game for a third straight season.
The Diamondbacks led the division in 2018 on the first of every month except for June. And they were eliminated from playoff contention on September 23rd. They still have Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray at the top of the rotation. But Patrick Corbin signed in Washington and AJ Pollock in Los Angeles. They also shipped franchise cornerstone Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis. The D-Backs took a definitive step backwards in the offseason. Three big pieces leaving is not how a team builds to surpass two teams in its division. Of the three teams who need some truly magical years to compete, the Snakes are the best of them. But don’t expect the Diamondbacks to factor into the divisional race outside of playing spoilers for the Dodgers or Rockies if the race is close.
San Francisco Giants
Perhaps the biggest addition the Giants made this offseason was poaching Farhan Zaidi from the Dodgers front office as general manager. The Gigantes have flirted with selling off assets. Evan Longoria and postseason specialist Madison Bumgarner have been rumored as pieces the Giants might move. Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey are about the only bright spots on the offense. Brandon Belt could provide some pop but he has dealt with injuries through his career. Jeff Samardzija has been inconsistent and Johnny Cueto is recovering from July Tommy John surgery. Both are on hefty contracts that are going to be difficult to move. The Giants are angling towards the future and it will be interesting to see what Zaidi does this season to accrue younger assets.
San Diego Padres
The Padres have made noise this offseason by being involved with, in some capacity, the Manny Machado and Bryce Harper talks. While they are heavy favorites for neither, the Padres would do well to add somewhere else than shortstop - Fernando Tatis, Jr. is not very far from cracking the bigs - or outfield - young players with some incomplete skill sets. Starting pitching is what the Friars need. Joey Lucchesi is their best pitcher. Luis Perdomo and Clayton Richard are battling for the two spot. That’s not good. They have offensive prospects like Tatis, Luis Urias, and Francisco Mejia, but the pitching depth is lacking. All this is to say the Padres won’t be very good this year, even if Eric Hosmer rebounds and Wil Myers performs. Dallas Keuchel is out there, perhaps the Padres should sign him and build the rotation around a proven veteran.