The Dodgers didn’t really need Trevor Bauer.
Similar to when the Nationals signed Max Scherzer in 2015, Los Angeles was already slated to enter the 2021 season with five quality starters and plenty of pitching depth behind them. It wasn’t quite the best rotation in the majors but the Dodgers were as much in the running for that title as any other team.
Now, there’s no doubt about it. Bauer, the 2020 NL Cy Young award winner, joins a Dodgers rotation that already had a group of players that had combined for four Cy Youngs, 14 All-Star appearances and an MVP. It’s a star-studded group that further cements the Dodgers’ status as favorites to run it back and win the World Series again this season.
Here are the top 10 rotations in baseball heading into the 2021 season.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Projected rotation: Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, David Price, Julio Urías
Not only does Los Angeles have the stars, but it also has the depth. If one or even two of these pitchers were to go down with an injury, the Dodgers would have capable arms Tony Gonsolin (fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2020) and Dustin May (fifth) ready to take their place.
2. New York Mets
Projected rotation: Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi (IL: Noah Syndergaard)
The Mets have spent much of the offseason addressing their rotation, signing Stroman to a qualifying offer before acquiring Carrasco as part of the Francisco Lindor trade and making the low-risk move for Lucchesi. Noah Syndergaard is expected to return from Tommy John surgery before the summer ends, making New York’s potential playoff rotation look like a gauntlet with no easy matchups.
3. Chicago White Sox
Projected rotation: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, Carlos Rodón
Chicago struck early this winter in bolstering its rotation when it traded a pair of young pitchers to the Rangers for Lynn. Over the last two seasons, Lynn ranks second among all starters in bWAR (9.8) and is tied for the fourth-most quality starts (30). He finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting last season, one spot behind Keuchel and one ahead of Giolito.
4. Washington Nationals
Projected rotation: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Jon Lester, Joe Ross/Austin Voth/Erick Fedde
The Nationals have the potential to be No. 1 on this list by June, but first, their top starters need to re-establish themselves as All-Stars. Scherzer will be tasked with proving he’s still elite at 37 years old. Strasburg is returning from carpal tunnel surgery that limited him to just two starts in 2020. Corbin led the majors in hits allowed (85) last year and his strikeout numbers plummeted. If all three return to form and stay healthy, there is no ceiling for the 2021 Nationals.
5. San Diego Padres
Projected rotation: Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack, Joe Musgrove (IL: Mike Clevinger)
San Diego’s back-to-back trades for Snell and Darvish were splashy, but the Padres’ rotation is similar to the Nationals’ in that many of their pitchers are entering prove-it seasons. Though Snell is a strikeout machine, he’s still trying to replicate the success that won him AL Cy Young in 2018. Darvish is starting to get past his prime at 34 years old while Lamet is looking to prove his 2020 breakout was no fluke. With no Clevinger this year, the Padres are pushing all their chips in on Snell, Darvish and Lamet.
6. Atlanta Braves
Projected rotation: Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Charlie Morton, Drew Smyly
The Braves will go into 2021 with Soroka (23 years old), Fried (27) and Anderson (22) anchoring their rotation despite none of them having thrown more than 300 innings in their MLB careers. Behind them will be veterans Morton (37) and Smyly (31), who have combined for over 2,000 innings. All in all, it makes for an exciting Braves rotation that’s hard to project moving forward.
7. New York Yankees
Projected rotation: Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Domingo Germán, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery (IL: Luis Severino)
The Yankees could wind up employing the best 1-2 pitcher combo in baseball between Cole and Kluber after signing the latter to a one-year deal this offseason. But first, Kluber must prove he can stay healthy coming off consecutive seasons in which injuries limited him to fewer than 40 innings. New York should also get a couple of boosts with the return of Luis Severino and the looming call-up of prospect Deivi García.
8. Miami Marlins
Projected rotation: Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, Sixto Sánchez, Trevor Rogers, Elieser Hernandez
If you’re a fan of young pitching, Miami is the place for you. All five of their projected starters will be 26 or younger this season, a sign that the Marlins’ rebuild has really begun to bear its fruit. Those five won’t be the last of their pitching prospects to reach the majors, either. Edward Cabrera and Braxton Garrett are already on the 40-man roster and 2020 No. 3 overall pick Max Meyer isn’t far behind.
9. Cleveland Indians
Projected rotation: Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Triston McKenzie, Aaron Civale, Logan Allen/Scott Moss
It’s hard to grapple with the fact that a rotation headlined by Bieber is all the way down at ninth, but that’s what happens when a team trades Clevinger, Bauer and Carrasco over a two-year span. Plesac and McKenzie impressed in limited samples last year while Moss could be the next highly regarded Indians pitching prospect to reach the majors and thrive. The star power just isn’t what it used to be.
10. St. Louis Cardinals
Projected rotation: Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Kwang-Hyun Kim, Alex Reyes (IL: Dakota Hudson)
Losing Hudson for the year hurts, but the Cardinals will get Mikolas back after he missed the entire 2020 campaign. Flaherty is one of the best young starters in the game and Kim emerged as a legitimate starter last year, even starting a playoff game. The biggest questions will be whether Wainwright can be a dependable arm at his age and Reyes can finally assume his long-awaited spot in the rotation.
Just missed: Toronto Blue Jays
Projected rotation: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Robbie Ray, Nate Pearson, Tyler Chatwood/Steven Matz
While the Blue Jays get a lot of hype for their lineup, they’re going into 2021 with a rotation that includes a Cy Young contender (Ryu), two establish inning eaters (Roark and Ray), a top prospect looking to break out (Pearson) and a competition for their No. 5 spot (Chatwood vs. Matz). There are much worse places for a rotation to be.