|National League West Offseason Grades|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on February 02, 2009
Well, there is plenty of time for more deals to change the landscape across the Majors, including potential trades and free-agent signings, but with Spring Training just a little over three weeks away, it’s time to offer some opinions on what teams did to prepare for the upcoming season.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The offseason has been brutal for LA, as they’ve seen the loss of starters Brad Penny and Derek Lowe, closer Takashi Saito, as well as Manny Ramirez to free agency. They’ve also said goodbye to second baseman Jeff Kent (retirement) and the disappointing Andruw Jones and Nomar Garciaparra, not to mention a slew of lesser players (RP Scott Proctor, SS Angel Berroa, SP Chan Ho Park, IF Pablo Ozuna, RP Guillermo Mota, SP Jason Johnson). That’s a lot to lose. And while the Dodgers do think they can make up for some of those losses via their own farm system, they don’t have a player capable of replacing Manny, Penny or Lowe on the horizon.
Their few additions -- Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus and LHP Shawn Estes -- won’t pick up much, if any, of the slack. That means the Dodgers essentially failed to do anything but become less competitive during the offseason.
Arizona Diamondbacks: We can’t call them the “Baby” Backs anymore since this team has grown up a lot since the 2007 playoffs, but failed to take that next step forward in 2008 despite only missing the playoffs by a couple of games. They didn’t quite have enough pitching and the Dodgers had Manny.
Well, Manny isn’t a Dodger any longer and the D’Backs have what looks to be far and away the best starting rotation in the West. New addition Jon Garland, who had an off season last year, joins a rotation of Brandon Webb, Danny Haren, Doug Davis and Max Scherzer. Garland looks to be a more-than-able replacement for the long-past-his-prime Randy Johnson and should help the team win more games.
The bullpen will be a bit less steady however, as the D’Backs did lose closer Brandon Lyon (signed as a FA by the Tigers) and reliever Juan Cruz. Cruz was replaced by Scott Schoenweis (trade from the Mets) which is a downgrade. The D’Backs won’t have a closer problem however as Jon Rauch, who they acquired for the playoff run last season, can step to the fore and take over closer duties -- something he did in Washington before being acquired. The falloff shouldn’t be a great one.
However, the offensive picture looks a little less bright as middle infielders David Eckstein and Orlando Hudson, as well as slugger Adam Dunn, all walked away as free agents. Still, the loss of all three can be minimized if the D’Backs get a healthy Eric Brynes back and a few of the young hitters like Mark Reynolds can raise their average by a handful of points.
Colorado Rockies: Baseball fans around the nation were left shaking their heads when they watched the Rockies trade away superstar Matt Holliday to the A’s for closer Huston Street, LHP Greg Smith and singles hitter Carlos Gonzalez. It was a salary dumping move after the Rockies failed to compete last season, but not a terrible trade for the Rockies in terms of return -- but only if the Rockies end up flipping some of the players.
The keystone player here probably isn’t Huston Street who will compete for, but not be assured of the closer’s job. It certainly isn’t OF Carlos Gonzalez who doesn’t have much in terms of power. But the man who could be the prize here is Greg Smith -- a soft tossing lefty without much velocity but stuff that reminds one of players like Tom Glavine or an in-his-prime Mark Mulder. The downside is that he’s a terrible fit for Colorado since he’s in essence a fly ball pitcher. At Coors, fly balls, well ...fly.
That doesn’t mean he won’t be a serviceable pitcher, but that he might not achieve all he could while in a Rockies uniform. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first pitcher to have potential to merely be serviceable in Colorado; fellow starter Jason Marquis (brought in from the Cubs) also has just that as an expectation.
Their other notable pitching addition is reliever Alan Embree, who should help a bullpen which should be considerably better than it was in 2008. That was the key to the Rockies’ success back in 2007.
Offensively, they have made no notable additions, but lost failed spark plug Willy Tavares (signed with the Reds).
San Francisco Giants: The Giants rebuilding is well underway and fans should look forward to a marginally better season. It’s still largely about the youngsters but the Giants have made steps to anchor the infield a bit by bringing in SS Edgar Renteria with his solid defense and better-than-average offensive (for the position) potential.
But their splashiest addition isn’t a long term one. Randy Johnson, who is still a decent pitcher, is here not just for what his arm brings to the table, but for the fannies he’ll put in the seats as they come to watch the Big Unit’s last hurrah.
They lost no one of note, save defensive whiz Omar Vizquel, who was more than adequately replaced.
San Diego Padres: You only need to look at season ticket sales to realize that the Padres are going to be a bad team in 2009. They are also very much a team in transition, currently in the process not just of rebuilding, but in the process of being sold too. The Padres have been cleaning house and have actively been trying to deal all of their top players who make good money. Gone is Khalil Greene (traded to the Cards) and Jake Peavy is on the block.
They’ll try to play with their young talent and a smattering of lesser acquisitions (David Eckstein, RHP Mark Worrell, RHP Ivan Nova, RHP Jae Kuk Ryu and Chris Burke), but it will be a very long season in San Diego.
How would you rate the NL West's offseason? Make your opinion heard in the comments section below.