The Los Angeles Dodgers made a few splashes this offseason, all of which involved their own free agents. The team spent $192 million on Rich Hill, Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen. External help has yet to arrive, though we may see Brian Dozier in Dodger blue soon.
Los Angeles is currently banking on its own development to again reach the National League Championship Series. Will bringing back the crew, plus a Dozier-type addition, be enough to make their first World Series since 1988? Let’s check in on the Senior Circuit’s outlook.
- Washington Nationals: The Nationals were desperate to win headlines this winter. After just missing out on Chris Sale, the team decided it still wanted to sacrifice its farm to the White Sox and traded for Adam Eaton in a deal considered an overpay by most league personnel. Washington failed to re-sign Mark Melancon and couldn’t get Jansen to sign on the dotted line, so the backend of its bullpen is a question mark on an otherwise outstanding roster. Washington still has one of the best farm systems, highlighted by a few premier outfielders. A report surfaced stating Bryce Harper wants a $400 million deal and the Nationals have already moved on. Washington can compete without Harper, so it’s not impossible they’d entertain trade overtures after this season. The Nationals enter spring training the favorites in the East and set up to contend for the next half decade. The Dodgers will likely encounter them again soon in a postseason.
- New York Mets: New York is back in the big spenders club, as it should be. The team inked a massive extension with Yoenis Cespedes before the winter meetings. The Mets have been relatively quiet since, involved in trade rumors for the Rays’ Alex Colome and trying to move one of their outfielders (Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson). There were whispers New York could pursue Andrew McCutchen, which would obviously make the East a bit more interesting. With the Mets, it’s about getting the best rotation in the National League healthy. Speaking of health, captain David Wright should be ready for Opening Day, though it’s fair to ask if he can hold up at this point. Noah Syndergaard will be one of the Cy Young favorites. New York stands as Washington’s lone competition in the East, and at full strength, is a near playoff lock.
- Miami Marlins: Miami is a fun sleeper pick. It boasts an impressive collection of bats, but the Dee Gordon suspension and Giancarlo Stanton’s down season stalled a 2016 postseason run for the Fish. The tragic loss of Jose Fernandez was devastating all around; on the field, Miami lost one of the only positive aspects of its pitching staff. The Marlins entered the offseason oddly determined to add a star closer – the pursuit failed. Miami did add Edison Volquez to the rotation along with Brad Ziegler to the ‘pen. It’s still seeking rotation help and a platoon parter for first baseman Justin Bour. The Marlins are better than most think, and despite the circumstances finished as the second team out of a wildcard spot last season. Its rotation woes may haunt it again in 2017.
- Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies added Howie Kendrick and Clay Buchholz, but it’s been another offseason of patience in Philly. The team is committed to its major rebuild, but the dividends are approaching soon. Plus, the team has virtually no contracts committed during the next few free agency periods, giving the large market Phillies a chance to add whoever they want to their homegrown core. Philadelphia won 71 games last season and will finish similarly next year barring trades. But the stars are aligning for the Phillies to be a competitor for a long time. And hey, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz handed New Jersey native and Philadelphia sports fanatic Mike Trout a football at Sunday’s game. The recruiting has already begun.
- Atlanta Braves: Atlanta heads into a new ballpark adding three veterans to its rotation: Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia. After flirting with a Sale trade, Atlanta held its ground and prospects. The team also extended Ender Inciarte, another piece acquired from last season’s Shelby Miller trade with Arizona. It remains interested in adding a catcher, perhaps Matt Wieters, who went to Georgia Tech. Atlanta played winning baseball after adding Matt Kemp and Dansby Swanson to the lineup and is a candidate for most improved in 2017. A good break here or there and the Braves could push 75-80 wins while still selling Colon and other vets at the deadline.
- Chicago Cubs: The world champs didn’t give a payday to Aroldis Chapman, instead swapping Jorge Soler for Wade Davis of the Kansas City Royals, one of the best closers in the America League. The Cubs lost Dexter Fowler, but the outfield depth mitigates his departure. Scary thought: The Cubs are built on a young core that will continue improving. The team has the funds to keep its stars and pursue others. The rotation is an unknown moving forward, but a strength for 2017. The bullpen will need further work so expect that to be an area frequently mentioned near the trade deadline. Oh, and the team adds full season of Kyle Schwarber. As a season ago, Chicago entered the year the team to beat. Unlike a season ago (and over the last 108 seasons), it’s wearing the championship belt.
- St. Louis Cardinals: For the first time since 2010, St. Louis watched the playoffs from home (the Dodgers weren’t complaining). Even worse for the Red Birds, they watched their arch enemy hold the trophy. St. Louis won 14 less games than it did in 2015, never led the division and finished with a losing record at home (38-43). It missed a playoff spot by one game after losing six times to the Reds and Brewers in September. St. Louis was the gold standard of baseball but unraveled in 2016. The Cards prioritized center field this offseason and inked Fowler to a contract. They signed Brent Cecil to help a rough bullpen. The top of the order should be one of the best in baseball with a Fowler and Matt Carpenter combo. Mike Matheny took a lot of heat for questionable bullpen management and the team’s poor home showing. Expect to see a focused and angry 2017 Cardinals team. As always, they’ll be a postseason threat and right there with Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Pittsburgh Pirates: What a disappointment: The Pirates won 78 games in 2016 and went on a run after selling at the deadline. They shopped McCutchen all offseason, but it’s starting to look like he’ll play his revenge tour in the Steel City. The Pirates re-signed Ivan Nova and have assets to make another move (Jose Quintana?). As it stands, the Pirates could be on the outside of the playoff bubble. A McCutchen rebound would go a long way in Pittsburgh breaking .500 again. The Pirates will be one of the most interesting teams at the deadline. Given their payroll and likelihood to be floating in the playoff picture, they could buy or sell. Pittsburgh does have most of its prominent players under team control for several seasons with a farm to supplement that. The Pirates should be a competitive team in 2017 and beyond.
- Milwaukee Brewers: Outside of Wisconsin, the only news related to the Brewers has been a Ryan Braun trade, though there’s zero indication that’s actually going to happen. Milwaukee is a small market team in the middle of a full blown rebuild. They won 73 games last season, so any improvement on that is a step forward. The Brewers will implement a number of prospects throughout the season and move any vets with value. MLB Pipeline named Milwaukee’s farm baseball’s best in August, led by top 27 outfield prospects Lewis Brinson and Corey Ray. It will take a while before Milwaukee is able to compete in a division the Cubs seemingly have a stranglehold on for the foreseeable future.
- Cincinnati Reds: Similar to Philadelphia and Milwaukee, the Reds are engaged in a massive retooling phase. They played much better in the second half of 2016, but the team is still committed to its makeover. Unfortunately that’s wasting Hall of Fame-worthy years from first baseman Joey Votto. Cincy and Votto said he’s staying put so the Reds will work to put a contender around him in the next few seasons. Brandon Phillips and Zack Cosart trades could still happen. Phillips is one of the better second baseman in the game and Cincinnati needs to pave way for Jose Peraza and Dilson Herrera. He’s fought injuries for a couple seasons now, but if Devin Mesoraco can play and produce, he’d have value as a catcher on the market. The Reds won’t be a factor in 2017, though they could make noise at the deadline.
- Los Angeles Dodgers: As said earlier, they kept their own talent and haven’t done much else. Adding Dozier or another right-handed second baseman fills the lone need left. L.A. will also add another bullpen arm or two before spring training.
- San Francisco Giants: No even year magic this time, but the Giants overcame a brutal second half to earn a wild card berth. San Francisco went into the All-Star break the best team in baseball. It proceeded to tank the rest of the way and hung on to a playoff spot by one game. The Giants bullpen was a mess, so adding Melancon is worth at least a few extra wins alone. San Francisco needs further outfield help and had interest in J.D. Martinez and Jay Bruce. For now it appears Jarrett Parker and other internal options will be given a chance entering the season. The Giants farm is poor, meaning they’re less of a threat to make a difference-making deal during the year. But Bruce Bochy and the organization remain one of baseball’s finest. They’ll be a formidable foe in the Dodgers’ chase for a fifth straight division championship.
- Colorado Rockies: They won’t have the hype of Arizona 2016 or San Diego 2015, but the Rockies had a promising year before adding Ian Desmond and Mike Dunn this winter. It’s not erroneous to suggest the Rockies could compete for a playoff spot, but for now it’s in the “see it to believe it” category. Colorado has an outfield surplus, including upcoming free agent slugger Carlos Gonzalez, along with a strong farm. It has the assets to make a splash or the pieces to sell in an effort to continue revamping the system. Overall, the Rockies emphasized bats in their rebuild and it’s starting to pay off. Colorado went 75-87 a season ago and should improve on that mark this year. Relief pitching remains a weak point but ultimately the development of a young rotation will determine Colorado’s fate.
- Arizona Diamondbacks: In 2016, Murphy’s Law applied to Arizona: Everything that could’ve gone wrong for them did. As crazy as it sounds, the Diamondbacks could be a pleasant surprise in 2017. New manager Torey Lovullo is well respected around the MLB, as is bench coach and former longtime Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire. Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller almost have to be better than a season ago. A.J. Polluck is back healthy. Jean Segura overachieved in 2016 and was promptly shipped to Seattle for Taijuan Walker, who has all the ability of a top of the rotation starter and should benefit from a move to the National League. Arizona was a circus last season. It’s on the right track now, even if the record won’t reflect that.
- San Diego Padres: If you enjoy watching prospects crack the majors, learn the game and receive consistent playing time, the Padres are a must-watch. More so than any rebuild in the Senior Circuit, the Padres tore it all down (again) and have amassed one of baseball’s richest farms. 2018 or 2019 is said to be their target year, making this season a similar tone to last. For the Padres, it’s about development and figuring out where each player fits long-term. San Diego may well compete with the Dodgers for division superiority one day, but that time isn’t arriving soon.