Are The Dodgers Still The Favorite In the N.L. West?

Apparently, the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t get the memo this offseason.

After coming within one win of the the World Series, many figured the Dodgers would recalibrate in the offseason with a major acquisition or two.

However, this plan failed to reach the front office braintrust of Farhan Zaidi and Andrew Friedman.

Virtually every major competitor for next year’s World Series crown made some type of move. The Yankees bested the Dodgers for the likes of Giancarlo Stanton. The neighboring Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim inked Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani. Boston snagged slugger J.D. Martinez, Milwaukee acquired Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, and St. Louis traded for Marcell Ozuna.

Los Angeles lost both Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow to the Cubs. Houston also improved its already freakishly talented roster with a trade for talented starting pitcher Gerrit Cole.

Not to make matters worse, but virtually the entire N.L. West also got better. Colorado now possesses one of the best bullpens in the game after inking Wade Davis, Jake McGee,  and Bryan Shaw. San Diego’s elite group of young players got better with the addition of free agency prize Eric Hosmer. San Francisco also improved — landing proven veterans in Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen.

As for the Dodgers, the main offseason acquisition came in the form of reliever Scott Alexander. The lefty from Kansas City entered the fray via a three-team trade also involving the Chicago White Sox. Matt Kemp was also brought back to the team — though reports and rumors suggest he may be on his way out. Tom Koehler, Henry Owens, and Mark Lowe are three other lower-level acquisitions with the ability to perhaps impact the bullpen.

It was an underwhelming offseason for the Dodgers. Strapped for cash, the team was able to unload quite a bit of salary with the dumping of Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy.

Stanton — an LA native — was there for the taking. However, the organization failed to pull the trigger on what would’ve been a franchise-altering deal. The Dodgers feel comfortable with what they have, and are content to watch everyone else around them tinker with various moves.

To be fair, Los Angeles is as deep a ballclub as there is in the game today. There’s considerable depth throughout the roster at virtually every position. Los Angeles could be saving its cash for next year’s free agency bonanza. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (among others) will be available. However, from an optics standpoint, it can’t make the fan base feel very good to see its franchise operating like a small market team.

There’s a thought that the front office/coaching staff really is that bullish on this team. Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger could see significant improvements in their respective games. Alex Verdugo could continue in LA’s longstanding history of having Rookie of the Year candidates. Hell, Kemp may be able to turn back the clock and offer his former All-Star form.

As we look at the rest of the treacherous N.L. West, it’s clear that the Giants, Rockies, and Padres have all improved. I’d expect Arizona to take a small step back with the loss of Martinez. His impact in the heart of the Diamondbacks’ order cannot be overstated enough. However, the additions of Jarrod Dyson and Steven Souza will help somewhat to soften the blow.

Colorado worked tirelessly to follow the recent trend of shortening games with a lights-out bullpen. Then again… these relievers are going to be operating in Coors Field — where the ball flies out of the yard similarly to how Donovan Mitchell leaps up for a dunk (hint: fast and furiously). It will be fascinating to see if the improved depth on the back end will mitigate any rotation concerns.

Hosmer is a very nice get for the Padres — though they’re years from contending. The glacially slow Giants did yet again fail to get younger. However, there’s no denying the championship pedigree within the clubhouse. Assuming the starting rotation can stay healthy, San Francisco will be a tough out (and in an even year).

As for the Dodgers, replacing Darvish and focusing in on a starting left fielder will be key. We could see the platoon effect in full action this year. The combination of Kemp, Verdugo, Joc Peterson, Andrew Toles, and Trayce Thompson should be good enough to get the job done. Additionally, Los Angeles must hope that Alex Wood can replicate last year’s elite season — along with Rich Hill staying off the disabled list.

The Dodgers do appear to be the favorite in the National League West heading into this year, though it appears as if the field has gotten much closer to them when compared to last season.

Image Sources: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports, Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports, Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports

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