While the Dodgers were a championship-winning juggernaut in 2020, the Padres announced their presence as a viable challenger, both in the National League West and for MLB-wide supremacy. Los Angeles came out on top in the regular season and in their Division Series matchup, but San Diego showed that it’s
While the Dodgers were a championship-winning juggernaut in 2020, the Padres announced their presence as a viable challenger, both in the National League West and for MLB-wide supremacy. Los Angeles came out on top in the regular season and in their Division Series matchup, but San Diego showed that it’s here to stay.
And that was prior to the Padres’ splashy offseason maneuvering, which involved trading for not one but two ace-caliber starting pitchers (
With the Dodgers relatively quiet thus far, the gap between the two teams clearly has shrunk. In fact, by at least one notable measure, it may have disappeared entirely.
Over at FanGraphs, Dan Szymborski re-ran his ZiPS projections, taking into account those recent transactions. The result? A virtual tie atop the NL West between the Dodgers and Padres, who both are now projected to finish 98-64 — 21 games clear of the third-place D-backs. If that seems like an usual projection, that’s because it is. According to Szymborski, ZiPS has never previously pegged the top two teams in any division for at least 196 combined victories.
Of course, the lack of daylight between the teams is subject to change, as this offseason is far from over.
While it’s never wise to count out frenetic Padres general manager A.J. Preller, any further Friars moves seem likely to be complementary in nature. As MLB.com Padres beat writer AJ Cassavell wrote, “With a fairly complete offense and rotation, Preller is almost certainly done making major splashes this winter.”
The Dodgers are a different story. The team’s most notable acquisition thus far is
The Dodgers certainly don’t have to do anything dramatic. They have a roster that remains studded with stars and a Minor League system that continues to churn out players capable of stepping in and contributing. L.A. could simply try to bring back Turner and otherwise add some pitching depth and bench help.
But with the Padres pushing them, that may not be enough to count on another division title, even if ZiPS still forecasts a 95% chance at some sort of playoff berth. To change that and regain a clear foothold atop the NL West, Andrew Friedman and company would need to do something to truly move the needle.
Here are five options, in no particular order:
Re-signing Turner would be the sentimental choice, because of what he has meant to the team and the community. Plus, the guy can still play (.294/.378/.498 since 2019). But he’s also 36, with durability concerns and a glove that isn’t quite what it was. (Plus, we still don’t know if NL teams will have a DH in 2021). The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that there remains a gap between the four-year contract Turner wants and the two-year deal L.A. favors. Meanwhile, per that report, “LeMahieu sits atop the list of external options.”
It makes perfect sense. LeMahieu is somewhat similar to Turner, just four years younger. His right-handed bat would fit nicely alongside the likes of
2) Trade for a third baseman
There are some high-profile possibilities here, none more so than
Two other potential targets, according to the Times report, are
It’s not easy to find weaknesses on the Dodgers’ roster, but the back of the bullpen might be one.
The Padres added two top-of-the-rotation arms. Will the Dodgers add one? Bauer is arguably the only free agent who fits that description, so landing him will not be easy. One significant issue is Bauer’s willingness to accept a short-term deal, something in which he has previously expressed interest. But that was before he entered the offseason as the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner. It’s questionable whether the Dodgers would have the desire to outbid a team such as the Mets, but Bauer (projected by ZiPS at 4.2 WAR) would provide something like a 2-win gain, protecting against the uncertainty of
5) Trade for
If the Dodgers can’t sign a starter from the Reds, maybe they can trade for one. Cincinnati has moved to cut payroll so far this offseason, and both Castillo and Gray have been the subject of trade rumors. In fact, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, “it seems inevitable that at least one will be moved.” While neither pitcher was quite Bauer’s caliber in 2020, their projections aren’t far off (3.9 WAR for Castillo, 3.3 for Gray). Unlike Bauer, acquiring one of this pair would require the Dodgers to part with young talent, but the financial commitment would be less extreme. Castillo is first-time arbitration eligible this winter and under control through the 2023 season, while Gray has two years and about $20.3 million left on his current deal, plus a $12 club option for ‘23. Either would provide a boost for the boys in blue.