Wow, I picked an eventful day to be on the road. As the comments to yesterday's thread showed, the Rockies moves of signing Luis Vizcaino and Chris George sort of pale in comparison to moves made by the Diamondbacks to revamp their pitching staff by trading for Dan Haren and dealing closer Jose Valverde for Chad Qualls and Chris Burke. The AZ Snakepit has the complete breakdown from the D-backs' side. The ramifications for these moves as far as the division in 2008 aren't as easy to gauge as they probably should be due to the nature of the way the Snakes won in 2007. Haren unquestionably makes the team's rotation much better, and Qualls isn't as far removed from Valverde's value that the closer label would have us believe add in Chris Burke, and I think the Snakes won that trade. What happened to the Astros looking for a reliever and starter for Burke anyway?
Anyway, the Diamondbacks won the NL West in 2007 while being outscored which doesn't happen very often. I'm not saying this to take anything away from their crown, it doesn't matter how they came about those ninety wins, they did and they earned it. The issue is that we have to factor how they came about that negative run differential in trying to predict what happens in 2008. Factoring also that their lineup is more likely than any in the division to get better by keeping the same personnel, that the two left handed members of their rotation are fading with age, that their bullpen remains kind of shallow, that their defense mixes the legitimately great (Orlando Hudson, Chris Young) with the mediocre (Stephen Drew, Eric Byrnes) it all adds up to a pretty solid albeit flawed team in the coming season. I think more than anything these trades allow Arizona to go from being a half step back of the rest of the division's contenders (despite winning last season) to a step ahead.
I think the moves added a lot to the surface value of the club for the next couple of seasons, but an issue of pitching depth remains. Last year, I thought they were an overrated team with a too young and inconsistent offense (which I was right about) and a pitching staff that lacked any serious teeth beyond Brandon Webb (which I was wrong about). For 2008, I think they are a scary and serious contender that we'll have to deal with. I think the Rockies still catch up in 2009 and 2010, frankly, as they are married to Eric Byrnes in left field for the duration of his contract, and I'm of the opinion that their infield production won't live up to their expectations. By then, our young pitching matures, and while Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe might be fading, we should get a serious boost from Chris Nelson and/or Dexter Fowler, as well as peak performance by Ian Stewart and Tulo.
I think I'd give the Snakes the edge in the division for next season at this point, right now I'd rank the teams like they finished last year with the exception of switching Los Angeles and San Diego:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Francisco