First of all, I'd like to apologize to Russ and PR's readers for my lost weekend. My Rockies burnout from 2008 was probably inevitable, but my hope is that it's over with and I can get back into the swing of writing Rox after putting it aside for a bit. So, yeah, let's get back into this.
Since the last division team standing bowed out of the picture last night, we chould update the picture for 2009 a bit.
1. Los Angeles - The Dodgers got to the NLCS and have a solid young core to build around, but they're going to have to do a disproportionate amount of that building this winter. The team has 14 players entering free agency and it stands to lose most of them. The one key player they look likely to keep is Rafael Furcal, but he'll be an expensive pick-up and added to the arbitration raises for Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton and Andre Ethier, and the wasted money already spent on Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre, the Dodgers deep pocketbook might not be able to satisfactorily fill all the team's needs this winter. Fans of the other teams in the division should pay particular attention to how the team goes about replacing the bats of Casey Blake and Manny Ramirez and the rotation slot of Derek Lowe.
2. Arizona - The Diamondbacks figure to be fairly strong again for next season, even if they aren't able to re-sign Adam Dunn. They will also likely have problems getting out of the 84-90 win range without a very strong second season from Max Scherzer if they don't bring Dunn back. Sort of like the Rockies, they have a problem with a shallow bullpen that figures to be even more shaky in 2009, and could prove to be more of a weakness than it has been the last couple of seasons. Moves that Josh Byrnes has made to shore up this problem area over the last year, specifically acquiring Chad Qualls and Jon Rauch, have worked about as well as Dan O'Dowd's Luis Vizcaino idea.
3. Colorado - Casey Weathers' TJ surgery means that one of the team's major internal options to replace the value of Brian Fuentes in the bullpen has gone by the wayside. Are there others internally? Not close enough, unfortunately. Aaron Weatherford is still probably a year plus away from being ready for MLB play. Esmil Rogers and Conor Graham might be the closest otherwise, but jumping them over AA and AAA while also shifting them to the bullpen is too much to ask for. A couple of wild cards -emphasis on wild- might be Samuel Deduno and Pedro Strop, who figure to start pitching again this year after their own season losing arm surgeries. Sort of like Graham and Rogers, however, their circumstance would normally dictate a season long recovery in the minors. I mention all of this as a preamble to the worry that O'Dowd might be more inclined to seek relief help as part of a Garrett Atkins or Matt Holliday trade this winter. Thiswould be something to cringe over, as we would most certainly be getting a low value return at that point.
4. San Francisco - the Giants new ownership wants the team to compete this season, but seems to be unaware how far from that level the team is. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if the Giants are major players on the free agent market and as is their usual custom, they should throw a lot of money uselessly at some veteran player.
5. San Diego - The Padres are putting out feelers for a Jake Peavy trade, and Khalil Greene also looks to be on his way out. Already gone are catchers Michael Barrett and Josh Bard. All of this seems to be pointing to a bigger rebuild by San Diego, which should leave them out of contention again in 2009.
Greg Reynolds better turn out to provide some value to the team. All the Evan Longoria and Tim Lincecum stories are just embarrassing. It's clear that Reynolds won't be the kind of player that either of those two superstars are. I'm just hoping that 2008 isn't his high point in the MLB at this point. With the Reynolds reminder and the Casey Weathers elbow blow-up, it looks like all the bearish opinions for the top of two of the last three Rockies drafts were right, will Christian Friedrich break that streak? It's too early to call, but in his first season he showed signs that he could go either way.