Okay, I hate these double whammies where not only do you not get the guy you want, but he ends up going to one of your big rivals. Tad Iguchi, you are now dead to me. May you realize that the demon spirit of a spurned Marcus Giles is far more difficult to work with at second than the remnants of Kaz-Mat.
This move almost guarantees a stressful Spring for me, as Iguchi was the last available "safe" player at the position. What's left is a lot of unknowns and more risky plays with our unproven in house guys becoming the safest options. While I'm hopeful that Jayson Nix's turnaround is for real, I'm also not blind to his minor league career to that point and his projections for 2008. Likewise, Ian Stewart seems promising, but that's a heck of a position switch.
Okay, so be it. So last night must have been a lucky day for embarking on new adventures in Japan as it seems all the news was concerning players on the other side of the Pacific. All three moves impact how our division will shake out next year: Iguchi to the Pods, Kuroda to the Dodgers (or not, according to Rosenthal) and Fukudome to the Cubs (and not San Diego). I'm liking the moves LA has made this offseason, but the other three contending teams seem to be missing out on making headway with key priorities. San Diego has upgraded second and solidified the bottom of their rotation but is losing a lot of offense in the outfield, Arizona hasn't made any progress in filling the Livan Hernandez hole or otherwise patching their rotation, and the Rockies look like they might lose a little ground at second while keeping the rest of the team mostly in tact.
There's still a lot of time left before pitchers and catchers report, but right now I'd have to grade the moves of the NL West this way:
Los Angeles - B, This is contingent on the Kuroda rumbling being legit, but Kuroda plus Andruw replacing Randy Wolf plus Luis Gonzalez is hard to knock.
San Diego - C, Iguchi raises this grade quite a bit, but I like the way they've built their roster with their other transactions, be it drafting Callix Crabbe and two arms trying to be 2008's version of Kevin Cameron in the Rule 5 draft, selling Terrmel Sledge to Japan, or signing Wolf as a decent fill at the bottom of their rotation. That said, losing out on Fukudome and Bradley leaves their outfield with more questions than answers.
Colorado - C-, so far their best move of the 2008 offseason has been to help 2009 and beyond in the Aaron Cook extension, otherwise we've been coasting. Getting Yorvit Torrealba back and the fact that our in house replacement options for Kazuo Matsui are better than Arizona's in house replacement options for Livan Hernandez and Tony Clark keep us out of a similar D grade.
Arizona - D, They missed out on Kuroda, apparently, and haven't offered Oakland enough to get Dan Haren yet. If either of those facts change in their favor, obviously this grade goes way up, but so far their big move of the offseason has been to trade some quality outfield depth in Carlos Quentin for a guy still two years from contributing to an MLB club.
San Francisco - D-, the Giants are in such a bad spot relative to the other teams in the division that Brian Sabean probably doesn't know where to start making a fix. So he hasn't. If you look at the Giants roster and the upper levels of their system, contention in 2008 and 2009 seems outside the realm of possibility, particularly given where the other clubs in the division are. At best they can hope for mediocrity, but as last year showed, the days when that will cut it in the NL West are over. 2010? I don't know, the Giants have monetary resources to make this possible, but I think to really build a quality lineup six or seven deep, they should focus on 2011 or 2012. Now here's the issue; relying on two, young talented arms like Lincecum and Cain to still be young, talented and healthy four years from now is foolish. This is why Sabean's open to trading one of them, but from an outsider's perspective, I think the Giants might be best served as a team if he trades both, targeting talented players who will make their debuts in the next three seasons rather than a guy like Alex Rios.