An interesting NL West rumor today in the Boston Globe brings up something else I've wanted to address. Anyway, somebody speculates that Dontrelle Willis will be a Dodger by midseason, with Matt Kemp and other prospects heading back to Florida. Why I bring this up is that along with depth, it's important to look at what our divisional rival teams have as collateral that they could use for upgrades mid-stream. With the weird tilt of the imbalanced schedule, we'll be able to see in April how each NL West team stacks up against the rest, and what improvements would be necessary for the second half. Another round of divisional play before the trade deadline gives a chance to make final decisions on those initial observances.
The Dodgers used this schedule to their advantage in 2006, with the acquisition of Greg Maddux to anchor the bottom of their rotation (which had been pretty bad up to that point) even though their attempt to get some offense at short with Julio Lugo floundered. Anyhow, I'm going to ignore roster excesses that teams are trying to get rid of this Spring and take a quick look at what each club is likely to have to offer midseason:
Arizona: Eric Byrnes will be a free agent at the end of the season, and even if Carlos Gonzalez doesn't click this year, the Snakes have several other options to fill in at left should an opportunity to trade come up. Also, Arizona's still got plenty of bottom of the rotation/relief young arms to deal. Last year a couple netted Livan Hernandez for the Snakes. Don't look for a blockbuster trade from Josh Byrnes involving Arizona's A-list prospects, he seems intent on keeping them as long as possible.
Colorado: If Clint Barmes is to be traded at all, I don't see it happening until the season heats up, so I'll put him on the list. With Fogg and Lawrence (assuming he stays on the club and isn't cut) ahead of Ubaldo Jimenez on the depth chart right now, I am looking for a move or two involving these pitchers to clear the way for U-ball's ascent as well. Like the D-backs, the Rockies have been relunctant to deal prospects, but we're starting to get a crowd at AAA, so one or two of our minor leaguers (corners like Koshansky, Miller or Gaetti or other excess infielders like Nix, Macri or Quintanilla) might find themselves in a different organization if the right deal comes along.
Los Angeles: Lots of prospects and maybe a veteran swing starter/reliever like Tomko or Hendrickson give Los Angeles some buying power. Coletti wouldn't be afraid to pull the trigger on a package of A-grade prospects for A-grade help type of deal, this is one of the reasons to look at the Dodgers as favorites over teams -like the Rockies and D-backs- that are forced by economy to take fewer risks in trade.
San Diego: The Padres' bullpen seems to be their best bargaining chip, and don't discount the ability of other GM's to overvalue relievers at the deadline. A mostly bare farm system would be harder to tap, but as last season's George Kottaras for David Wells deal showed, the Padres aren't afraid to use what they have even if it isn't much in quantity/quality.
San Francisco: The Giants have only three prospects worth looking at that they're not going to touch, an aging lineup filled with undesirable contracts, barely enough starters to get through, and a suspect bullpen. Let's see what does that leave.., They do have that seal mascot, and probably a case of beer or something laying around.., I don't know, maybe some clams or something from the Wharf...
Being a baseball reporter is a difficult job -not that I've ever had it- but you've got deadlines and editors to deal with, sensitive contacts to keep schmoozed, a tricky travel schedule that doesn't allow for the greatest home life, a salary that's probably not quite as high as most of us imagine and plenty of snarky critics inhabiting the blogosphere waiting to pounce on you. I know it doesn't seem like it always from my camp, but I really do at least respect the reporters who cover the Rockies for the work they put in. So today I'm giving Troy E. Renck a free pass without snarky commentary for these two articles:
Of course I might have gotten the titles a little messed up, sorry. Anyway, the second article's footnotes brings up the junk for junk trade proposed with the Royals of BK for Angel Berroa, which would presumable free us to deal Barmes. Now, from what I understand, the reason we haven't dealt Barmes isn't because we need him as a AAA shortstop, but because we think he'll be a candidate for second base, 2008. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't this trade not really address that issue? Would you want Berroa at second in 2008, especially at what he's getting paid? Multiple GM's must seriously be paying too much attention to their NCAA brackets, and not really looking at what's going on in baseball. Despite Kim's hissy fit, I don't think we are quite that desperate to unload him just yet.