PHOENIX -- The pundits are starting to speak, and nobody seems to know what to make of these Los Angeles Dodgers.
It is not like the predictions are for total disaster, although disaster is a subjective term. For every few guesses that put them in the playoffs, there is one that has them out of the postseason entirely. And there seem to be fewer predictions of them winning the whole thing.
Don’t count the Dodgers' National League West rivals among the confused. Zack Greinke might have taken his pitching savvy to the rival Arizona Diamondbacks, but San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy will not be lulled into a false sense of security.
“They have so much talent there and it’s not one guy that helps you win a division,” Bochy told ESPN.com at an annual spring gathering of Cactus League managers and general managers. “They’re going to be there, everyone knows it, and we know how strong they are. Their pitching is still strong, they have young players coming and they will be a team to contend with.”
As for the Diamondbacks themselves, not even their double whammy of adding Greinke while taking an ace-like pitcher away from a division rival makes them think the Dodgers are wounded animals now.
“One of the things we talk about are the expectations, and everybody wants to know what you think,” Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said. “The expectation for us is that our division is going to be really good. The Giants have really loaded, they’re really good, and the Dodgers are excellent. They might have lost Zack, but they have a lot of depth, good hitters, bullpen arms and depth in their system.”
Both Bochy and Hale noted that the Dodgers are the three-time defending division champions, making them impossible to overlook regardless of the fact that they lost a quality pitcher.
“I think everybody felt like if somebody else got [Greinke] that wasn’t the Dodgers or Giants, at least they weren’t going to have these two aces on their team,” Hale said. “If he stays with the Dodgers, it’s [Clayton] Kershaw and Greinke, and if he goes to the Giants, it’s [Madison] Bumgarner and Greinke. I think everybody in baseball took a deep breath that you’re not going to have to face those two monsters every time.”
The Dodgers don’t concern themselves with pundit predictions, of course, but they do seem amused at how their team is being judged by who they lost instead of by who they still have.
“When you’re in a front office, you just know that every year, every version of the team will be a little different,” Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said. “Last offseason, there was a lot of talk about right-handed power and not having Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp anymore. Then we would up leading the NL in homers.”
It’s not only the dismantling of the Kershaw-Greinke one-two punch that raises eyebrows, though; it’s a bullpen that needs to prove itself, a power offense that was prone to stagnant stretches and the fact that Dodgers dealt with a number of injuries and continue to have talented, but older, players at key positions.
“This year, obviously, our rotation looks a little different,” Zaidi said. “It’s probably a little more balanced than it was in the past. And we feel good about the way things have turned out.
“Even last year, I remember when we were introducing some of our players, thinking about the concern of the players you lost and not so much the factoring in of the players you brought in. I think that’s natural until you actually see these guys in uniform and make an impact for their new team.”