The calendar has flipped to 2021 and spring training is (probably) only six short weeks away. Hopefully MLB and the MLBPA can put their differences aside and get spring training and the regular season started on time, though I fear I'm being overly optimistic.
Throughout the offseason my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we remembered our favorite moments of 2020. This week we're going to discuss the two NL West powerhouses.
R.J. Anderson: Maybe, and maybe only for the time being. I think we have to remember the Dodgers have much of their offseason ahead of them—all of the top free agents are on the board, most of the top trade targets, and so on. The Dodgers need a new third baseman and a new outfielder, and it's easy to envision them swinging from the heels and recreating separation. Still, you have to applaud what the Padres have done—this winter and over the past few years.
Matt Snyder: If the rosters were frozen right now until the start of the season and especially if the Padres had Mike Clevinger for this season, I'd be prepared to either pick the Padres or say things look neck-and-neck. But the Dodgers still have the resources to go out and fill whatever small holes they have on their deep MLB roster right now. Given that we know the offseason will continue to unfold -- it's just going to take months longer than we've grown accustomed, even with the past few slow years -- I'd be pretty confident in picking the Dodgers to win the NL West right now. Almost any other division, and I'd be on the Padres. League and geography hurts them here.
Dayn Perry: Adding not one but two strong rotation pieces narrowly tips the scales for me. In the absence of any additional moves by the Dodgers, I'd pick the Padres by a nose in the NL West. That said, I expect the Dodgers to do some things this offseason. Whatever they do, the Padres with their impressive mix of young and veteran talents and still strong farm system are legit threats to win the World Series in 2021.
Mike Axisa: I'll tell you what, the ZiPS projection system thinks so. When ZiPS guru Dan Szymborski ran the numbers earlier this week, the system pegged both the Dodgers and Padres as true talent 98-win teams. The completely objective system thinks they're even. Of course, ZiPS is very high on Ha-Seong Kim (4 WAR in 2021), and it's betting on Dinelson Lamet staying healthy, but it believes San Diego really is that damn good.
Personally, I think there is still a little bit of a gap between the Padres and Dodgers, mostly because I worry about Lamet's health -- he finished last year hurt and has a long injury history -- and I think there are a few regression candidates on their roster. Darvish and Lamet combined for a 2.05 ERA in 145 innings last year. I love them both, but I can't reasonably expect them to be that good again in 2021. Do we really expect Wil Myers to be that good again too?
Perhaps the upside that comes with having a young roster and so much talent on the upswing (Fernando Tatis Jr., Trent Grisham, MacKenzie Gore, etc.) is enough to mitigate any regression. I still think there's a gap between the two teams though, especially because the Dodgers aren't done this offseason (Justin Turner? DJ LeMahieu?). The Padres are definitely the biggest threat the Dodgers have faced since their run of division titles started in 2013. That I'm sure of.
Katherine Acquavella: I'll give the Padres the slight edge in the NL West. For now, at least. I think back to last year's NLDS between the two rivals, and how different it could have been if it was Darvish-Snell-Lamet as their 1-2-3 instead of Clevinger (who was injured)-Davies-Morejon. Although, as everyone has mentioned, the Dodgers are not yet done with their offseason moves and they'll likely be adding a few more crucial players --possibly some more bullpen help, signing a top free agent, figuring out their situation at third baseman with free agent Justin Turner -- before 2021 Opening Day. It could be too close to call right now, but we'll definitely have a better idea come April 1.