The Los Angeles Dodgers are a lock to win the National League (NL) West again this season.
The Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 31 to extend their winning streak to four games and improve to 83-49. They extended their lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants to 14.5 games. They trail the NL’s first-place Atlanta Braves by four games. Atlanta could face them in the NL Championship Series, so they can’t afford to let up for home field advantage.
The Dodgers have been shaky through May. They were bouncing back and forth between second and third place in the division due to a string of injuries and poor pitching. But the Dodgers beat the New York Mets in the first game of the second half to take the district lead and haven’t looked back. In fact, they’ve pulled away from San Francisco and the Arizona Diamondbacks to solidify their dominance.
With 30 games remaining, Fangraphs gives the Dodgers a 99.9 percent chance of winning the division. The Dodgers have won the division nine times in the 10 years from 2013 through last year, excluding 2021. Challenges have come from San Francisco, Arizona, and the recently splurged San Diego Padres, but the Dodgers have been unstoppable.
One of the main reasons the Dodgers have remained a powerhouse for so long is President of Baseball Andrew Friedman.
After joining the Tampa Bay Rays in 2004 and working in operations, Friedman accepted a scouting job offer from Dodgers owner and CEO Mark Walter in November 2014 and began his journey with the historic Dodgers.
As is widely known, the Dodgers had won back-to-back World Series in 2013 and 2014, led by their potent starting trio of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu. Friedman is beginning to show his mettle as the chief executive in charge of repainting the baseball team and filling in the holes.
He got rid of high-salary veterans Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon, Brian Wilson and Dan Haren, and focused on bolstering the farm system. Parted ways with struggling manager Don Mattingly and installed new manager Dave Roberts. They let free agent Zack Greinke walk, but brought in bargains Scott Casmire and Genta Maeda to bolster the starting rotation.
The Dodgers have not made any big-name free agent signings since 2016. Instead, they’ve used trades and the low- to mid-level free agent market to address weaknesses. In 2018, they traded Manny Machado after Corey Seager underwent surgery and was lost for the season, and in early 2020, they acquired Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox for a leadoff hitter to energize their offense.
After winning the World Series in 2020, they acquired Max Scherzer and shortstop Trey Turner from the Washington Nationals in the summer of 2021 to win their eighth straight division title. The team has also focused on developing prospects. Some of the stars that have come out of the Dodgers’ farm system include Seager, Cody Bellinger, Jacob Pederson, Julio Urias, and Walker Buehler. The Dodgers are the only team to consistently produce star players from their own farm.
For this reason, Mr. Friedman is often characterized as risk-averse. As ESPN recently wrote, “Friedman has been conservative in free agency. While the Dodgers have a high payroll, they haven’t made recklessly risky signings in recent years. The elbow injury to Shohei Ohtani, who was a favorite to join the Dodgers, could change Friedman’s stance.
The market’s assessment of Friedman is that he has shown his true colors by twice calmly signing injury-risked Kershaw to one-year deals, and by immediately reaching out to free agent Freddie Freeman after he broke off talks with his original team, Atlanta, in March of last year and signing him to a six-year, $162 million deal. 안전놀이터
Locking Betts up for 12 years and $365 million shortly after acquiring him from Boston was a sign of confidence in his skill and health. After spending three stints on the disabled list in 2021 and last year, Betts has put up MVP-caliber numbers full-time this season. Veteran designated hitter J.D. Martinez, a one-year, $10 million acquisition last winter, has already more than earned his keep, hitting .256 with 25 home runs, 78 RBIs and an OPS of .856 in 92 games before landing on the disabled list on April 23. There are far more successes than failures in Friedman’s free agent signings and trades.
San Diego, on the other hand, is the favorite to win the West this year. San Diego general manager A.J. Preller has been nicknamed “Mad Men. When he sets his sights on a goal, he goes after it. He’s aggressive and adventurous when it comes to signing players. His successes and failures are clear.
After working primarily as a scout with the Texas Rangers, rising to the position of assistant general manager, Preller rose to prominence when he was hired as San Diego’s general manager in August 2014. The Padres made the postseason as a wild card last year and advanced to the NL Championship Series. This was thanks in large part to Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Darvish Yu, and Blake Snell, who were acquired via trade and free agency. And, of course, Ha-Sung Kim.
But San Diego has been one of the most disappointing teams this season, despite finishing third overall with a $249 million opening payroll, just ahead of the Dodgers. The recent spending has been significant. Fernando Tatis Jr. (14 years, $340 million), Xander Bogaerts (11 years, $280 million), Darvish Yu (6 years, $108 million), Joe Musgrove (5 years, $100 million), Robert Suarez (5 years, $46 million), Manny Machado (10 years, $350 million), and Jake Cronenweth (7 years, $80 million) are the last seven players signed by Preller. Of those seven, only Tatis is on track to make it this year. Call it reckless.
It’s interesting to note that San Diego offered free agent Aaron Judge 12 years and $415 million last December. They were willing to spend that kind of money on Jersey even after acquiring Bogart.
As of today, the Padres are 62-72, 22 games behind the Dodgers in the division. The offseason is already underway.