The loaded Los Angeles Dodgers will be hard to stop not just this year, but for several years to come. These five MLB teams have the best chance to deny them absolute dominance.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are a bona fide superteam.
While that may be a take as hot as a winter night in Fargo, it’s worth appreciating the staggering level of talent Dave Roberts’ club brings into 2022.
There are All-Stars everywhere. Justin Turner and Trea Turner, acquired from Washington last summer to ultimately replace Corey Seager at shortstop, man the left side of the infield. Max Muncy stands at second base, and Freddie Freeman signed for six years and $162 million from Atlanta for good measure. Mookie Betts, possibly the game’s best hitter, is in right field, with yet another former MVP in Cody Bellinger in center. Legendary starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw is heading toward the end of his career, but All-Stars Walker Buehler and Julio Urias are there to carry the torch. After All-Star closer Kenley Jansen left in free agency to the Braves, they replaced him in trading for Craig Kimbrel.
The Dodgers are +450 betting favorites win the 2022 World Series at FanDuel SportsBook, which would be their second title in three years. They also have the fifth-ranked farm system according to MLB.com, making them incredibly well-positioned for not just one more World Series ring, but potentially dynastic success.
Let’s identify five talented clubs with solid long-term foundations that could stop the Los Angeles Dodgers from dominating the league for the next several years.
Tampa Bay Rays
2022 payroll: $79,347,813 (No. 23 in MLB, via Spotrac)
Median active roster age: 28.5
Impending free agents: Corey Kluber, Matt Wisler, Mike Zunino
Since 2010, only three clubs have more regular season wins than the Rays: The Dodgers, Yankees, and Cardinals. Despite a consistently low payroll, the Tampa Bay organization continues to retool and reinvent itself on the fly with timely trades, shrewd signings, and constant development of young players in the pipeline.
Outfielder Randy Arozerena won American League Rookie of the Year in 2021 and he wasn’t even the team’s best first-year player. That distinction goes to 21-year-old shortstop Wander Franco, one of baseball‘s brightest young stars and now the owner of a long-term extension that keeps him around through 2033. They pair with second baseman Brandon Lowe (39 home runs in 2021) and left fielder Austin Meadows (26 homers) to anchor the offense.
All told, none of these hitters are up for free agency before 2025.
They’ll pair with a dynamic young pitching staff led by lefty Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, and Luis Patiño, while their No. 3-ranked farm system will soon deliver infielder Vidal Brujan and outfielder Josh Lowe to the Show.
After winning 100 games last year, the Rays just keep finding ways to stay in the mix.
Toronto Blue Jays
2022 payroll: $166,653,105 (No. 10 in MLB)
Median active roster age: 29
Impending free agents: Ross Stripling
Toronto has the most talented team in the American League on paper and the sport’s biggest home field advantage, led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., recent trade acquisition Matt Champan, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio in the infield and George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel in the outfield. Ace starter Jose Berrios signed a seven-year, $131 million extension over the offseason, with All-Star Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi heading up north to join accomplished hurler Hyun Jin Ryu and rising star Alek Manoah.
Trades and coming-of-age have depleted the team’s once-impeccable farm system, but general manager Ross Atkins did his job. Toronto is set to contend for a long time.
2022 payroll: $173,935,000 (No. 8 in MLB)
Median active roster age: 29.5
Impending free agents: Alex Dickerson, Adam Duvall, Guillermo Heredia, Luke Jackson, Charlie Morton, Will Smith, Dansby Swanson, Tyler Thornburg
Immediately before surprisingly bidding farewell to Freeman, the defending champs traded top prospects to Oakland (which now has a $33 million payroll and is a major sign MLB needs a salary floor) for an able replacement in All-Star first baseman Matt Olson, who subsequently signed an eight-year, $168 million extension with his hometown team. Young All-Star centerpieces Ronald Acuña Jr. (still recovering from last season’s torn ACL) and Ozzie Albies are extended long-term, while slugger Austin Riley isn’t up for free agency until 2026. They have a tough decision coming up regarding impending free agent shortstop Dansby Swanson, but young starters Max Fried and Ian Anderson are both under team control for multiple seasons to come.
Atlanta gutted its farm system to acquire Olson, but pitcher Kyle Muller and outfielder Drew Waters should help the team moving forward as they rise up the pipeline.
San Diego Padres
2022 payroll: $208,022,618 (No. 5 in MLB)
Median active roster age: 29
Impending free agents: Mike Clevinger, Sean Manaea, Joe Musgrove, Craig Stammen
Fernando Tatis Jr.’s broken wrist notwithstanding, the Padres are loaded with talent. San Diego acquired starter Sean Manaea from Oakland (another A’s salary dump!) on Sunday to add to a rotation led by Yu Darvish, former Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Chris Paddack, and top prospect MacKenzie Gore. All-Stars Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth join Tatis on offense, with shortstops Ha-Seong Kim and CJ Abrams and catcher Luis Campusano also on the rise.
The pitching trio of Manaea, Musgrove, and Mike Clevinger hits free agency after the season, but the staff depth is there for a sustained run as the Dodgers’ main rival in the National League West.
Chicago White Sox
2022 payroll: $181,660,734 (No. 7 in MLB)
Median active roster age: 28
Impending free agents: Jose Abreu, Vincent Velasquez
The South Siders took the AL Central with 93 wins last year with a young core under team control that’s only going to get better in the years to come.
Supernova center fielder Luis Robert, All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson, third baseman Yoan Moncada, first baseman Jose Abreu, catcher Yasmani Grandal and outfielder Eloy Jimenez make up a fearsome lineup, with Abreu the only 2023 free agent among them. Pair that bunch a rotation led by All-Stars Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn with young operators Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech and a bullpen featuring Liam Hendricks and you’ve got not just a super-talented nucleus, but one that’s under contract in Chicago for a long time.
While Chicago has the bottom-ranked farm system, their young stars are here to stay and contend with the Dodgers and these other teams for the foreseeable future.