Saturday, January 17, 2009

Changes and Chances in the Wild, Wild NL West

Tuesday January 6, 2009

(Note: Yes I know it’s the 17th. This post turned out to be a whale of a project on limited time and then I took a 9 day trip to 4 different countries and left this sitting on my desktop computer at home. I am STILL not completely finished, so I am going to post what I have and update it as I can. Bear with me please. I promise it will be done before pitchers and catcher report. lol)

On one of my favorite message boards, Friar Nation, a question was posed about what changes were made by each of the NL West teams in the off season and what effect would that have on the teams chance at winning the division.

Once I started my answer, I realized it was a little longer and more involved than a post on a message board should be so I decided to take a crack at it here.

I have not included players signed to minor league deals unless they are expected to crack the 25 man roster and make a substantial contribution. In other words Rule V draftees and guys that are not expected to come in and contribute are not included with the exception of the Padres who may just play ALL of their minor league signings and Rule V draftees.

Here goes.


- LHP Randy Johnson. 30 starts 11 wins 184.1 IP
- RHP Connor Robertson 27 yr old Rookie reliever traded to Mets for Schoeneweis
- SS/2B David Eckstein

Free Agents not expected to be resigned
- Reliever Juan Cruz. 2.61 ERA with 8 holds in 57 appearances
- OF Adam Dunn. 8 hr and 26 rbi in 144 abs, roughly 1/4 of a season
- Starting 2B Orlando Hudson. Hit team leading .305 and played solid D
- Closer/Reliever Brandon Lyon. Team leading 26 saves in 61 appearances

- 2B Felipe Lopez. 28 yr old hit .385/.426/.538 in limited duty w/the Cardinals
- LH Reliever Scott Schoeneweis. Lefty specialist 3.34 era in 56 appearances for Mets
- Brought back Tony Clark

What this means to their chances to win the NL West
30 starts, 130 relief appearances, and 2 everyday position players left.
50-60 Relief appearances were added and 1 everyday position player.
Max Sherzer will be expected to fill the shoes of future HOF in starts, innings and wins. Those are HUGE shoes to fill for a 24 year old with just 7 starts and no wins to his credit.

With Eric Byrnes still iffy for opening day and a lot of holes still left to fill, the Diamondbacks figure to regress from their 82 wins season in 2008 if they don’t make more moves this off season.


- Of Matt Holliday. .321/.409/.538/.947 with 25 HR & 88 RBI
- Closer Brian Fuentes 30 saves with a 2.73 ERA in 67 appearances
- 2B Jayson Nix Little Used Backup
- OF Willy Taveras Speedy CF Hit .251/.308 with 68 SB in 479 AB
- RP Matt Herges - 5.04 ERA in 58 appearances (FA signed with Indians)
- RP Luis Vizcaino 46 IP and 5.28 in 43 appearances

Free Agents not expected to be resigned
- SP Livan Hernandez - 13 wins in 31 starts w/ 6.05 ERA for Rockies & Twins in 2008.
- C Adam Melhuse. A little used backup. Just 15 games played between Rockies & Rangers in 2008.

- LH reliever Alan Embree Aging LH specialist had 4.96 era in 70 appearances for A's
- OF Carlos Gonzalez 23 yr old hit .242/.273/.361 in 330 abs his first season at ML for A's. Expected to take the place of Willy Taveras in CF
- RH Starter Greg Smith 24 yr old had 7 wins & 4.16 era in 190 IP for A's. Had Elbow surgery in offseason.
- Closer/Reliever Huston Street 18 saves & 3.73 era in 70 appearances for A's

What this means to their chances to win the NL West
The Rockies lost a perennial MVP candidate in Holliday and one of the best closers in baseball in Fuentes and a true leadoff hitter in Taveras.
31 starts, 168 relief appearances, 25 hrs, 30 saves, and 68 stolen bases gone.
30 starts, 60-70 relief appearances, 4-5 hrs, 4-5 sb, and 18 saves added.
Taveras had a poor season in 2008, but just one year prior he had hit .320/.367
Gonzalez will fill in ably on defense and has more pop in his bat, but will not be able to match the speed or batting average of Taveras.
Huston Street is a reasonable replacement for Fuentes or a good setup man for Corpas.
Smith was the big cog in the trade for Holliday and he is a question mark for 2009 due to elbow surgery in late October. If he heals successfully and if he can continue to progress, he can be a good addition to the Rockies rotation. IF.
Helton is also ailing, he had back surgery September 30th, and his production has seen a marked decline in recent years.
The addition of Jason Marquis would be a wash with Hernandez. A durable, but not good, starting pitcher.

All in All the Rockies have taken a step backwards and are now relying on unproven and in the case of Smith, injured young players to take the place of veterans. A repeat of the 74 win 2008 season is probable if they keep their current lineup.

Los Angeles

- RH SP/RP Chan Ho Park
- SP Greg Maddux
- SP Brad Penny
- RP Scott Proctor
- OF Andruw Jones

Free Agents not expected to be resigned
- LH RP Joe Beimel
- C Gary Bennett
- SS Angel Berroa
- 3B/1B Nomar Garciaparra
- SP Jason Johnson
- 2B Jeff Kent
- SP Derek Lowe (FA signed with Atlanta)
- Util Pablo Ozuna (FA signed with Philadelphia?)
- Closer Takashi Saito (FA signed with Boston)
- Pinch Hitter Mark Sweeney

- 2B Mark Loretta
- SP/RP Claudio Vargas
- RP Guillermo Mota

Free agent but who knows what will happen
- OF Manny Ramirez

What this means to their chances to win the NL West
The Dodgers have lost more than half of their relief appearances, more than half of their saves, more than half of their starts, and 3 players with at least some starts at key positions in 2008

By resigning Blake and Furcal, have made splashes in the FA market but not really improved their team. No one has played a full season in the ML after having the surgery Furcal had, so he will again be a question mark health wise all season and Blake has always been considered a utility man, not an everyday 3B.

Mark Loretta is a solid utility man and probably a much better role model for young prospects to learn from in 2009, but certainly will not provide the offense of future HOF Jeff Kent.

Claudio Vargas is a swing man that may be expected to start in a depleted Dodger pitching staff.

If the Dodgers sign Manny Ramirez they can once again be named as the favorites in the NL West. His offensive production is enough to improve the entire lineup. He gives opposing teams a bat to fear in the middle of the lineup and the batters hitting in front of and immediately behind him will see better pitches to hit, improving everyone’s production.

If they don’t sign Manny, their suspect offense and thoroughly depleted pitching will see them make a huge step backwards towards the pack in 2009.

San Diego

- C Josh Bard Signed with BOS ($1.6 mil, 1 year)
- C Michael Barrett Signed with TOR (minor league deal)
- RP Kevin Cameron Signed with OAK (minor league deal)
- SP Enrique Gonzalez Signed with BOS (minor league deal)
- SS Khalil Greene Traded to St Louis
- RP/SP Clay Hensley Signed with HOU (minor league deal)
- OF Paul McAnulty Signed with BOS (minor league deal)
- 2B Tadihito Iguchi

Free Agents not expected to be resigned
- OF Chip Ambres
- SP Shawn Estes Signed with the LA Dodgers (minor league deal)
- SP Charlie Haeger
- Closer Trevor Hoffman Signed with Milwaukee

- 2B David Eckstein -

3 signed to minor league deals and added to 40 man roster
RP Chris Britton
RP Mark Worrell
2B Travis Denker – picked up on waivers from Giants

2 picked up in Rule V draft and added to 40 man roster
RP Ivan Nova
2B Everth Cabrera

4 signed to minor league deal and invited to Spring Training
SP/RP Kevin Correia
C Eliezer Alonzo
Util Chris Burke
SP Mark Prior

What this means to their chances to win the NL West
30 Saves, 142 relief appearances, and 3 starting position players gone.
Added an unknown number of relief appearances from players with little or no ML experience, a swing man in Correia, and a starting 2B.

Eckstein will start at 2B, give them a legitimate #2 hitter and allow the Padres to give Antonelli more time to play everyday at AAA and get his hitting stroke back. LRod will give the Padres a better batting average with average defense at SS. They will miss the power bat of Greene, but not his lack of clutch hitting.

The loss of Hoffman will hurt the Padres in the short run. While Bell is a competent reliever, he is no Hoffman and 1st year closers, regardless of their ML experience, average nearly 20% lower save percentage than Hoffman’s 2008 save percentage. In the long term it may free up money to make a trade at the deadline, maybe including Giles, that will set up the team for years to come at other positions.

The Padres probably will not compete in the NL West, but they will improve. Just an improvement from MLB record injuries in 2008 to MLB average injuries in 2009 will give them a huge boost.

I can see them winning 74-78 games in 2009 and climbing out of the cellar.

San Francisco

C Eliezer Alfonzo C
SP/RP Kevin Correia
RP Brad Hennessey

Free Agents not expected to be resigned
- 1B Rich Aurilia
- SS Omar Vizquel
- RP Tyler Walker Signed with SEA

- RP Jeremy Affeldt
- RP Bob Howry
- SP Randy Johnson
- SS Edgar Renteria

What this means to their chances to win the NL West
The Giants lost little; a swing man, a reliever, a backup corner infielder and an aging SS.
They have added a future HOF pitcher, a good and slightly less aged SS and 2 good relievers.

The offense of the Giants while still suspect is better and they will offer arguably the best rotation in baseball and an improved bullpen in 2009.

An improvement is probable over their 72 win campaign in 2008. 80-84?

Closing Thoughts
As bad as the Giants were last year, the Padres picked up 3 castaways from their trash heap, Alonzo who got popped for steroids and spent 50 days on suspension in 2008, Correia who is returning from injury in 2008 and Travis Denker who no one can really figure out why he was available on the waiver wire.

As of today 2 teams are in definite decline for 2009, 2 will improve (the Padres have no where to go but up) and the Dodgers are in limbo waiting on Manny.

None of the teams in the West have what I would call a World Series caliber team, but then neither did the 2007 Rockies or the 2006 Cardinals.

Without Manny, no team in the West is a prohibitive favorite to even win the West, let alone take a run deep in the playoffs.