The NL West was the best division in baseball last year which comes as no surprise considering it had three playoff teams. However, none of those teams were able to grab the World Series title. In this article, I will examine each team and predict the biggest offseason moves each franchise should make to improve their chances at a World Series.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 104-58
The Dodgers came so close last year, falling to the Houston Astros in the World Series four games to three. Looking ahead to the 2018 season, they are a pretty complete team. They have an exceptional pitching staff, one that can even afford to let Yu Darvish walk in free agency. Their infield is great, headlined by National League Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger. They also have a good bullpen, which has one of (if not the best) closers in the game in Kenley Jansen.
The only potential issue is the outfield. While still solid, the Dodgers’ outfield could use an improvement. There is one player out there that could be the final piece for the Dodgers to win a championship, and here’s a hint: He is not a free agent.
That player is Giancarlo Stanton, reigning National League MVP. There has been a lot of talk of the Miami Marlins potentially trading the slugger and the Dodgers are the perfect suitors. They have the financial ability to take on his massive contract as well as a wealth of prospects in the minor leagues to give to Miami in return. The Dodgers can afford to give up a few of their top prospects and possibly at least one Major League bat like Joc Pederson. If general manager Farhan Zaidi can manage to acquire Stanton, then the Dodgers become the instant World Series favorites for 2018. The time for the Dodgers is now. They need to go all in.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 93-69
The Diamondbacks had a very nice season, improving their win total from 2016 by 24 games. They also reached the postseason for the first time since 2011. If they want to take another step forward in 2018, there are a few moves they should make.
Catcher Chris Iannetta is a free agent, so the Diamondbacks have a chance to upgrade. The best catcher on the market is Jonathan Lucroy, and he could help Arizona have an even better season next year. However, if they do not want to dish out the money to sign Lucroy, they could always try to bring Iannetta back, who had a good season proving he is still a middle-of-the-road starter. They could also divert the money that would be spent on Lucroy to potentially bringing back star outfielder J.D. Martinez.
Martinez hit 45 home runs with a .303 batting average and 1.066 OPS last season, establishing himself as one of the top players in the game. However, this also means he will be demanding a huge contract, one that Arizona may not have the means to offer. If they cannot re-sign Martinez, there are a few other avenues that can be pursued. Quality corner outfield options that could be acquired for a low price include Melky Cabrera and Curtis Granderson, who could each start or come off the bench, depending on what they decide to do with Yasmany Tomás. They could also go for a pricier option in Jay Bruce, who will command a higher salary than Cabrera or Granderson, but still significantly less than Martinez. Either way, they need to sign a catcher and at least one outfielder if they want to have a season comparable to, or better, than 2017.
Colorado Rockies: 87-75
The Rockies have a starting pitching problem, and until it is solved they will have a hard time succeeding in the playoffs. Tyler Chatwood, the Rockies number one starting pitcher last season, is a free agent, which only makes matters worse. Part of the problem is playing 81 games at Coors Field, which has an elevation of 5,211 feet, almost five times more than the next highest. Due to the high elevation batted balls fly farther, and that could mean the difference between a long fly ball out and a home run. Therefore, hitters’ stats are always a bit better and pitchers’ stats are always a bit worse. However, some improvements can still be made to the staff.
If the Rockies want to spend big money on one of the premium starting pitchers out on the market they could go after Arrietta or Darvish, however it would most likely cost more than they would be willing to spend. There are a few lower-priced ground-ball pitchers that could do well in Colorado, such as Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner and Lance Lynn. All three were in the top 30 in ground ball outs last season, which should help minimize the effect playing at Coors Field has on a pitcher. The Rockies also lose three bullpen pieces, including Greg Holland, from a squad that was already weak. They should try to bring Holland back, as well as sign at least one more like Luke Gregerson or Jeanmar Gomez. The Rockies are promising and, with a few right moves, they could be serious contenders.
San Diego Padres: 71-91
The Padres have a lot of problems, finishing dead last in runs, batting average and on-base percentage last season. They can definitely get better, but there is most likely nothing they can do which would push them into playoff contention for next year. The Padres can take two paths, and they both center around Wil Myers. They can try to trade Myers for prospects, or they can hold on to Myers and work with the pieces they already have. Both options have pros and cons. If they trade Myers they will most likely get a couple of top-notch prospects in return. It would improve their future potential and maybe in a few years they could have the same type of success the Astros have today. However, they would lose one of baseball’s best young stars.
If the Padres decide not to trade Myers they would get to retain his services for years to come because they have him signed through the 2022 season. However, none of the Padres top 10 prospects are in AAA ball yet, so it will be at least a couple of years before the Padres can make use of the strong farm system they have. Unfortunately, this would mean wasting most of the years Myers has left on his contract. In the meantime, the Padres should focus on acquiring a strong veteran presence or two to help mentor some of the young players that they have. This spot could be filled by former division rival Andre Ethier or starting pitchers R.A. Dickey and John Lackey, all of whom would make good additions to the team. Have low expectations for 2018 if you are a Padres fan.
San Francisco Giants: 64-98
The Giants were tied with the Detroit Tigers for the worst record in baseball last year, but they also were very unlucky. Most notably, star pitcher Madison Bumgarner was injured for almost three months following a dirt bike accident. Buster Posey, Mark Melancon, Hunter Pence, Michael Morse, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik all spent time on the disabled list as well. I believe the Giants can still be a contender, despite their awful record last season. They have enough strong pieces to make a push for one of the wild card spots. However, that is only if they make a few moves through free agency to do so.
The first priority on the Giants’ list should be signing a third baseman. Their current starter is Pablo Sandoval, who has proven he is no longer a viable option at the major league level. If the Giants really want to spend the big bucks, they could make a run at Mike Moustakas. Moustakas is the best third baseman on the market, and would help improve the Giants slugging percentage, which was the worst in the MLB last year. However, if they are unable or unwilling to sign Moustakas they could go after Yunel Escobar, a solid third baseman who hits with a good average. They should also add some outfield depth, perhaps Austin Jackson or Norichika Aoki who are both solid bench players and possibly borderline starters. Don’t give up on the Giants just yet, after all, 2018 is an even year.
Jorge Eckardt is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.