NL West: Progress Reports Before the Winter Meetings

Okay, so over the last few weeks I've been taking a look at how the four primary contenders in the NL West have been stacking up to each other (sorry San Diego) and it's begun to paint a picture of where each team needs to take the remainder of their offseason before the 2009 season starts. I've only alluded to the pitching thus far and it's going to remain that way. Given how fluid pitching situations tend to be, I feel it's wise not to get into a lot of detail until just before the season starts.

Arizona:

Strengths:

  • Top of the rotation
  • Starting outfield (Upton, Young, Jackson)
  • HR's

Weaknesses:

  • Bottom of the rotation
  • second base
  • OBP
  • The next generation
  • money

What they've done: Talked to some risky plays for the second base opening, let Adam Dunn walk for nothing.

What still needs to be done: Given their fiscal constraints, targeting higher quality complementary pieces (I like Alex Cora for the Rockies, he'd fit decently in Arizona, also) would help. Restocking the bullpen should be a priority as well. Scout like crazy to make the most of their draft haul.

Colorado:

Strengths:

  • OBP
  • Positional depth and balance
  • Bottom of the rotation

Weaknesses:

 

  • Top of the rotation
  • Second base
  • no 30 HR player
  • money 

 

What they've done: Traded Matt Holliday for Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez. Replaced some coaches. Protected a lot of minor leaguers from the Rule 5 draft. Looked at LHRP's.

What needs to be done: If the return fits, trade Willy Taveras and possibly Garrett Atkins or Yorvit Torrealba. Extend Chris Iannetta. Find more pitching particularly an ace that's willing to come pitch at Coors Field for peanuts. Bobo the elephant comes to mind.

Los Angeles:

Strengths:

  • Core position players in their prime
  • bullpen
  • defense

Weaknesses:

  • Bench and position player depth
  • Empty slots throughout the roster
  • center field
  • too much faith in rookies/youth

What they've done: Talked about not signing Manny. Filled some minor league slots with guys that can't play in the MLB.

What needs to be done: Signing Manny. And a pitcher. And an infielder. And another pitcher. And another infielder. And some bench players.

 

San Francisco Giants:

Strengths:

  • Top of the rotation
  • Next generation
  • money
  • the bullpen, now

Weaknesses:

 

  • inferior lineup still
  • second base
  • infield defense
  • bottom of the rotation
  • no HR's.

 

What they've done: Fixed the bullpen by signing Bobby Howry and Jeremy Affeldt. Signed Edgar Renteria. Kicked the tires on a few other players.

What needs to be done: Sign a slugger or three.

**********

Overview

As we get further along in the offseason without Ned Colletti filling any holes whatsoever, I'm losing confidence that the Dodgers will be able to get done what they need to in order to repeat. I think they've got a pretty solid young heart of the lineup in Kemp, Martin, Ethier and Loney, but there's a lack of quality complementing that group. Similarly, Billingsley and Kuroda are a decent start to a rotation, Kershaw's a phenom, but just a start to a competitive rotation doesn't bring home the bacon. To illustrate, forget all the conjecture, forget who did what last season and look at each team's 25 man roster right now and pick a winner. You'd be crazy to choose Los Angeles. For all these reasons, I've got a feeling that the Dodgers will wind up being a fairly big disappointment to their fans in 2009. But where does that leave us? Arizona and Colorado are stuck with what they have due to the fiscal contraint being exercised by their owners. The Giants are progressing rapidly with money spent, but still a little too far away, albeit getting close enough to be worrisome, and San Diego's not even in the conversation. 

Why should we still fear the Dodgers? There's also the fact that each important part of the 2008 Dodgers squad that left for free agency is not only still out there, but seemingly losing options besides Los Angeles where to sign. The Oakland A's withdrew their offer to Rafael Furcal. The Minnesota Twins have stopped negotiating with Casey Blake. Manny, as far as I can tell, hasn't even fielded an offer besides the Dodgers opening bid.The only exception to this is Derek Lowe, who's so popular that he's certain to get his wish granted to leave LA.  

I think there's still a substantial opening here, I like the Rockies lineup depth and lack of easy outs, I like the top of the rotations in Arizona and San Fran. LA may not be able to completely rebuild their 2008 team, but they'll get some portion of it back to support that core. At this point, until the Dodgers actually do something to scare me off the assessment, I'm thinking either Colorado or Arizona will emerge as the spoiler and NL West winner in 2009. Because the difference between the three teams is very close, it's probably going to come down to benches, bullpens and defense, which should give the Rockies an edge, but of course you already knew I thought that. Still, I could see an argument that Webb/Haren give the edge to Arizona, while I think San Francisco is still in a position where a couple of things have to go wrong with the other three to win, but they aren't far off.

As for Vegas, I'd expect what happens there to stay there for Dan O'Dowd and Josh Byrnes, Sabean might pick up a souvenir or two, and Colletti better hope he brings back a jackpot because he's falling behind here.

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