PHOENIX — Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman held a midnight press conference one night at the winter meetings, smiling throughout as he tried to explain a flurry of roster moves that reshaped the league’s most expensive roster. A.J. Preller’s had his moment in the spotlight, too. The new Padres general manager was the talk of baseball after kickstarting a renovation of his own, one that infused a weak-hitting lineup with mashers and added a new ace to a division full of them. The Diamondbacks picked up a new slugger in the offseason, while the Rockies … well, stay healthy, Troy Tulowitzki. He remains the face of the franchise despite another offseason of trade rumors.
Add it up and you’ve got a division that stole headlines throughout the offseason, and that’s before you even mention the team that held a parade for the third time in five seasons. While the Dodgers are reigning National League West champs, all of these teams are technically chasing the Giants, who had a quiet offseason for the most part but bring back the vast majority of a title squad.
You’re forgiven if you missed some of the hot stove action after another long October. That's what we're here for. As pitchers and catchers report, here’s a look at how the division rivals altered the landscape of the West, and what it means in the big picture:
LOS ANGELES DODGERS:
WHAT THEY ADDED: The Dodgers won 94 games last year, took the division for a second straight season and enter this one as the favorites to win the West again. They probably would have been favored regardless, but the new brain trust — led by Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi — felt some serious remodeling was needed. Gone are Hanley Ramirez and Dee Gordon, replaced in the middle of the infield by former Phillies star Jimmy Rollins and former Angel Howie Kendrick. The big move came in mid-December, when Matt Kemp was sent to San Diego for a package headlined by catcher Yasmani Grandal. The Dodgers also tore up the back end of their rotation, adding right-hander Brandon McCarthy and lefty Brett Anderson. The bullpen was a tire fire last season, so the new front office ate the money owed Brian Wilson, jettisoned other well-known names and dealt for players like Joel Peralta, Juan Nicasio, Chris Hatcher and Adam Liberatore. Chris Heisey, formerly a Cincinnati Red, is around as outfield depth.
[RELATED: Dodgers chart new course with rebuilt roster]
WILL IT WORK? At the very least, life in the clubhouse should be much easier for manager Don Mattingly. The Giants have reacted to the Dodgers’ spending sprees by pointing out that you can’t buy chemistry, but Los Angeles is trying. They’ve added some quality clubhouse guys to a room that was by most accounts toxic last season, and the pieces fit better than they did a year ago. The Dodgers will be better defensively up the middle, especially if rookie center fielder Joc Pederson (a former Bay Area prep star) lives up to expectations. That’ll help the new starters, but only if they stay on the field; McCarthy and Anderson have combined for just two 30-start seasons. The bullpen remains a question mark, but this plan seems to have a better shot at working than the “Sign Washed Up Former All-Star Closers” one they previously implemented. Simply put, these guys are favorites for a reason.
SAN DIEGO PADRES:
WHAT THEY ADDED: There’s a chance Preller will swing another move or two that makes this post somewhat irrelevant before you can read it, but for now, here’s the scorecard: In his first winter in San Diego, Preller traded for Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, catcher Derek Norris, third baseman Will Middlebrooks and right-hander Brandon Maurer, and signed James Shields, Brandon Morrow, Clint Barmes and others. The Padres lost some key 2014 pieces, like outfielder Seth Smith, but for the most part dealt prospects to other teams.
[RELATED: James Shields headed to NL West]
WILL IT WORK? Many around the game remain skeptical, pointing to the fact that the roster, while star-studded, is rather ill-conceived. Kemp, Myers and Upton provide much-needed right-handed power, but it’s hard to see how that’s a passable defensive outfield at spacious Petco Park. Myers, in particular, will be out of place in center field, where he has started just six times in the big leagues. The lineup is awfully right-handed, too (the Giants face the Padres 19 times, so Sergio Romo will face the Padres 19 times). The rotation figures to be all right-handed, but it’s stocked with talent and should be among the best in baseball if Andrew Cashner stays healthy. The Padres look like they’re still a move or two away from seriously contending, and you can bet Preller is trying to make them.
WHAT THEY ADDED: The big move was made early, when the Diamondbacks outbid the Giants and others for Yasmany Tomas, who got a $68.5 million deal. The Diamondbacks plan to play Tomas at third base, although that could change down the line. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson is now listed near the top of the starting pitcher depth chart, and right-handers Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster came over in a deal that sent Wade Miley to Boston. Lefty Robbie Ray was acquired in the deal that sent Didi Gregorius to New York. The Diamondbacks dipped into the Cuban market a second time when they added 22-year-old pitcher Yoan Lopez.
WILL IT WORK? Tomas, Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo could make life miserable for pitchers visiting Chase Field, but in a division filled with quality pitching at the top, the Diamondbacks are playing from behind. Hellickson hasn’t had an above average ERA+ since 2012 and De La Rosa, Webster and Ray are unproven in the big leagues. As it stands, Josh Collmenter is in line to start opening day. New manager Chip Hale and GM Dave Stewart have a lot of work to do with a club that won just 64 games last season.
WHAT THEY ADDED: As mentioned above, stay healthy, Tulo. If you’re familiar with last season’s Rockies roster, you’re familiar with this season’s Rockies roster.
WILL IT WORK? For the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, this question essentially is asking if the team will win a title, or win the division. For the Rockies, getting back near .500 would be a good start. They haven’t had a winning season since 2010, although last season’s club was near the top of the division until the last week of May.