The Los Angeles Dodgers have just watched their nearest divisional rivals trade for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish. The Padres have become the biggest story of the MLB offseason, adding two elite starting pitchers to an already talented core.
Darvish and Snell join Dinelson Lamet atop the rotation. The offense is stacked and has been bolstered further by the signing of Ha-Seong Kim. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado are perennial MVP contenders, Jake Cronenworth had a spectacular 2020. San Diego’s moves put them second in projected WAR. The only team ahead of them, of course, is the Dodgers.
Dave Roberts led the Dodgers to their first World Series since the 1980s. Los Angeles’ attention, after ending the drought, is on building a true dynasty, adding further postseason success to a run of eight consecutive division titles.
The Dodgers rightly enter 2021 as World Series favorites. Juggernaut does not do this team justice. Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger are two of the 10 best position players in the sport – both are tied up long-term. Corey Seager having his contract extended seems relatively likely. Clayton Kershaw remains an elite starter even in the twilight of his all-time great career, and he tops of a rotation featuring spectacular young talents in Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Julio Urias. David Price, who opted out of the 2020 season, will be back for 2021.
There must be people within the organization who are tempted to swing big in response to San Diego’s trades. With over $180 million committed in 2021 payroll already, though, that doesn’t seem likely. It still shouldn’t be ruled out, of course – the Dodgers were over $200 million in 2019 and a shade under in 2018.
Possible Dodgers targets
The Dodgers could throw money at Trevor Bauer. They could talk themselves into DJ LeMahieu on a multi-year deal to cover across the infield. Don’t be surprised to see the Dodgers move for either of those two, but the Dodgers’ success isn’t based on the showy moves. It’s the clever deals around the edge – where will they pick up the next Max Muncy or Chris Taylor? How will they construct an elite bullpen?
The Dodgers don’t need to react to the Padres’ big moves. That’s how good their current position is. Even after their divisional rivals added two Cy Young caliber pitchers, the Dodgers are by far the best team in the division and league. Anything they do between now and Opening Day is a bonus – they can afford to carry on as normal, oblivious of the Padres’ efforts.