I finish my 2021 division preview posts with the NL West. I left them for last because it seems to be the most anticipated race by many. The Dodgers and Padres could be the two best teams in the NL, maybe even MLB. Of course, that also means one will have to go the wild card route should both be as good as advertised…potentially a 100 win team playing a one and done game. The division as a whole is probably the one I’m surest about. I address each team in the order I think they will finish.
- Los Angeles Dodgers. Maybe it’s a bit on the nose to pick the defending WS champion, a team that has won 7 straight division titles to do so again, but there it is. (Unless they re-sign Corey Seager, I think they become more vulnerable next year.) They do have a problem with Caleb Fergman and Tommy Kahnle on the 60-day IL. They re-signed Justin Turner. They, of course, had one of the biggest free agent signings in Trevor Bauer. Departures include Joc Pederson, Pedro Baez, Enrique Hernandez, and Alex Wood. David Price is back after sitting out last season due to the pandemic. He and Bauer added to Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Jose Urias gives them a very formidable rotation, presuming good health. Of course, Dodger fans live in constant anxiety about Kershaw’s back. Besides Turner and Seager, they also still have Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts. Run production should not be a problem.
- San Diego Padres. They, once again, were one of the busiest teams this offseason. They re-signed Fernando Tatis, Jr to a 14-year, $340M deal that could be a bonanza for both player and team if he stays healthy. They’ve brought in Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Mark Melancon, Austin Nola, and Ha-seong Kim. Last year I took in some KBO for the first time; Kim, then of the Kiwoon Heroes, was one the the key players making it worthwhile. He hit .306/.397/.523 with 30 homers in their 138 game season; notably he also walked more than he struck out: 75 vs 68. Adding Snell to Jake Cronenworth, Wil Myers, and Tommy Pham gives them a pretty distinct “X-Rays flavor,” although there probably aren’t too many besides me who care about that. They also still have Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer of course. Among their departures are Zach Davies, Mitch Moreland, Trevor Rosenthal, Jason Castro, and Garrett Richards. They’ve had some injury issues already with Mike Clevinger and Jose Castillo on the 60-day IL.
- Arizona Diamondbacks. They win the stagnation award, probably the least changed team in MLB. They didn’t tear down, but it seems like they looked at the Dodgers and Padres and asked “Why bother?” Their newbies include Tyler Clippard, Asdrubal Cabrera and Joakim Soria. Departures include Jon Jay, Hector Rendon and Mike Leake. For them to move up, they need other-worldly seasons from Madison Bumgarner and Ketel Marte…and disaster to befall the Dodgers or Padres.
- San Francisco Giants. Disaster striking one of the top two teams in the division will not help the Giants. A team that is relying on Johnny Cueto to have a bounce back season and anchor the rotation is grasping at straws. The best news for them is that Buster Posey is back from his pandemic induced opt out. They’ve brought in Justin Bour, Scott Kazmir, Aaron Sanchez, Tommy LaStella, Alex Wood, and Curt Casali. They like their past-their-prime vets. They also signed John Brebbia, who promptly went down for the year needing Tommy John Surgery. They are also still relying on Evan Longoria to hold down third—I’d hoped leaving Tropicana for the natural grass in San Francisco might be easier on his body and slow his decline, but—alas—no. Their departures include Daniel Robertson, Rico Garcia, Trevor Cahill, and Drew Smyly. Here’s hoping they figure out how to have a good team again before it’s too late for Mike Yastrzemski.
- Colorado Rockies. Look out below. A team that made the playoffs a couple years ago appears to be on the tear down and then maybe rebuild track that seems to be all the rage…ie, this team is tanking. Two years ago, they signed Nolan Arenado to a big new contract. Last year, they made him mad and did nothing to improve. This offseason, they paid St Louis to take him off their hands in a total salary dump. Really, who’s their best signing for this year, CJ Cron? Look over their transaction wire on mlb.com and tell me if you’ve even heard of any of their other free agent signings. Leaving the team, besides Arenado, are Ian Desmond, Matt Kemp, Kevin Pillar, Drew Butera, and Daniel Murphy. Scott Oberg is on the 60-day IL. It should also be noted Charlie Blackmon holds a player option for $21M for 2022. If he declines it, he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Trevor Story also hits free agency at the end of the year. I expect both to be traded by the deadline this year. Really, the only things keeping me from predicting them having the worst record in MLB this year are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the fact that the Giants are also bad.