If you would have told me five years ago that the San Diego Padres would eliminate my Los Angeles Dodgers in the postseason in the near future, I’d laugh in your face and tell you to keep dreaming.
But here we are, entering the 2023 baseball season, following a 2022 that included the Dodgers losing to the Padres in the divisional series. Ask any Dodger fan and they’ll tell you that was a tough pill to swallow. Having to watch that game in San Diego among celebrating Friar fans was like choking on the pill.
The scary part is that the Padres actually got better over the offseason while the Dodgers certainly got worse. The Padres just signed perennial All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to a 11-year deal worth $280 million guaranteed.
While it’s a major overpay by A.J. Preller, there’s no denying that he just added one of the best bats in baseball to a lineup that already has Juan Soto, Manny Machado and a soon-to-return Fernando Tatis Jr. Machado signed an extension over the offseason, also for 11 years but worth $350 million. Machado’s and Bogaerts’ deals both have no-trade clauses and no opt-outs, meaning both are locked down through their age 41 seasons, and Tatis has a no-trade clause until 2029.
Additionally, Yu Darvish signed a six-year contract and Joe Musgrove signed a five-year contract. There’s a lot of starpower in San Diego for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ offseason was headlined by the loss of Trea Turner, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger. Tyler Anderson pitched his way to an All-Star season with the Dodgers last year, but made the half-hour move to play in Anaheim for the Angels this year. Some other notable losses for the Dodgers are Andrew Heaney, Tommy Kahnle, Chris Martin and Joey Gallo.
To make things worse, starting pitcher Walker Buehler will remain sidelined for the majority of the 2023 season (possibly the whole season) due to undergoing Tommy John surgery last August.
However, the Dodgers’ offseason wasn’t as doom-and-gloom as it seems. The Dodgers went out and got J.D. Martinez on a one-year deal, a very reliable bat to put in the lineup. They picked up Noah Syndergaard on a one-year deal as well, a fairly low risk move. Jason Heyward signed a minor league contract and wound up making the big league squad. They also acquired J.P. Feyereisen, a very solid bullpen arm, but he most likely won’t be ready to pitch again until late 2023 due to shoulder surgery.
For comparison, the Padres’ starting lineup for the majority of the season will consist of Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., Nelson Cruz, Jake Cronenworth, Ha-seong Kim, Trent Grisham and Luis Campusano/Austin Nola. The Dodgers’ lineup will consist of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith, Max Muncy, Miguel Vargas, Miguel Rojas and a combination of James Outman, Chris Taylor, Jason Heyward and Trayce Thompson.
This is probably the best the Padres lineup has ever looked. As a Dodger fan, it’s a mixture of saddening and weird. For years, the Padres were never seen as a real threat and sat comfortably in the bottom half of the NL West. From the years 2008 to 2019, the Padres’ record was under .500 every year but one (2010), but over the past few years, they’ve certainly shifted the narrative and have become a hub of stardom.
As I said earlier, watching that NLDS loss to the Padres last season was brutal. That Dodgers squad was special, and I was fully expecting a deep playoff run. But much to my dismay, they got first-rounded, and not only did they get first-rounded, but it was to the division rival Padres. And of course it had to be while I’m living in San Diego, surrounded by Padre fans as well as friends who are purely antagonists, celebrating as if they won the lottery despite not knowing the name of anyone on the roster.
Assuming the Padres’ successes continue and they’re even better than last season, it might be a long season for me as a Dodger fan. Not because the Dodgers will be bad, but because I’ll be hearing about it from insufferable Padres fans if they do get over the hump and win the division. I have to admit, this star-studded Padres lineup has me a little worried about the division.
However, I still think my Dodgers will prevail and win the division. They’re off to a shaky start, but so are the Padres. These two lineups are going to hit, but pitching and defense are where the Dodgers are going to edge out the Padres. I’ll take the second ranked bullpen last year over the 14th ranked. I’ll also take the second best rotation from last year over the eighth. The Dodgers also ranked above the Padres in team defensive runs saved by ten spots.
The Padres have more appeal in their top heavy superstars, but the Dodgers are a deeper team with better defense and pitching. Maybe one day they’ll get the division back from us, but not this year.
Written By: Cade Michaelson