While preseason projections pegged the Los Angeles Dodgers to cruise to a seventh consecutive National League West title, other teams in the division had reasons for optimism with their outlook as well.
The Colorado Rockies, just one year removed from forcing a tie-breaking, NL West-deciding Game 163 with the Dodgers, kept the majority of their core in tact for the 2019 season. They saw DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino sign with the New York Yankees in free agency, but made a splash of their own by luring Daniel Murphy away from the Chicago Cubs.
The Rockies also took care of some internal business by extending franchise cornerstone Nolan Arenado to a whopping eight-year, $260 million contract that will keep him in the organization through the 2026 season.
Despite an encouraging sequence of events, the 2019 season was an unmitigated disaster for the Rockies. They finished the year with a disappointing 71-91 record — good for a fourth-place finish in the NL West.
Rather than fill some of their holes in free agency this offseason, Rockies owner Dick Monfort cited the Dodgers’ patient approach of building a roster from within that can lead to sustainable success down the road, per Nick Groke of The Athletic:
“The Dodgers didn’t really change a lot,” Monfort said of the Rockies’ rival in the NL West, the team that finished 35 games ahead Colorado to win a seventh consecutive division title. “Did they have any big signings? (A.J.) Pollock was the only one and he was hurt half the year. And yet, they won, what, 14-15 more games than they did a year ago? Part of the deal is, you have to be patient.”
As Monfort noted, the Dodgers enjoyed a 14-win improvement this season despite only making a couple of modest free agent signings in A.J. Pollock and Joe Kelly last winter.
It’s worth noting that the Dodgers additionally overhauled their roster via trade, shipping out the likes of Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood while replenishing the farm system with top prospects Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray.
Having cleared multiple roster spots, the Dodgers internally improved by giving bigger roles to some of their promising Minor League talent. Alex Verdugo was a beneficiary at the start of the season, eventually claiming a starting spot in the outfield, while the trio of Will Smith, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May earned more opportunities as the season progressed to boot.
Colorado will need to hope for a similar scenario as their ability to spend in the open market will be limited.