Baseball’s labor negotiations have entered the Temple of Doom this winter, and the hope is that the owners and players will quit stalling and find a mine cart that will carry them out of danger before spring training is threatened.
But just because it’s going to be a while until the two sides hammer out some sort of resolution, that doesn’t mean we have to stop discussing what might/should happen when the sport eventually resumes.
Because when it does, and teams are allowed to sign free agents and make trades again, you’re going to see a flurry of activity. It will probably be a lot of fun, honestly, to see free agents ink contracts and to see teams make trade after trade. After all, what else are front office types going to do during the lockout other than plan their back-in-the-saddle strategy?
So we’re taking a division-by-division look at what’s on the docket for all 30 teams. Today, it’s the NL West.
San Francisco Giants
Pre-lockout recap: Brandon Belt, coming off an interesting season — career-high 29 home runs despite missing 60-plus games with injuries (including the postseason) — accepted the team’s qualifying offer, so he’s back. The Giants also brought back starters Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood, and added Alex Cobb to the rotation.
The very first thing to do: Remember how Kris Bryant felt like the perfect fit for the Giants at the trade deadline, and then the Giants went out and acquired him? Well, Bryant’s still a perfect fit for the Giants, with his defensive versatility and right-handed bat — especially with Buster Posey’s retirement. Signing Bryant quickly — they have more than enough payroll muscle and space to make it happen — would give the Giants lots of flexibility for the rest of the offseason.
Also on the list: DeSclafani, Wood and Cobb join postseason ace Logan Webb in the rotation; will the Giants be satisfied with internal options for the No. 5 starter roll or go out and add another established starter?
Los Angeles Dodgers
Pre-lockout recap: Any conversation about the pre-lockout Dodgers revolves around which players left, despite the Dodgers making an effort to bring them back to Hollywood. Max Scherzer took Steve Cohen’s billion dollars (slight exaggeration) to pitch for the Mets the next few years, and Corey Seager took the Rangers’ third-of-a-billion (not an exaggeration) to play in Texas in an effort to revive a franchise that’s scuffled lately. Of course, they did bring back Chris Taylor, giving them the versatile defender who has helped the team cover injuries to other players all over the diamond for several years now. That’s huge. They also took an $8 million flyer on Andrew Heaney and added veteran Daniel Hudson to the bullpen.
The very first thing to do: By the time the lockout ends, Clayton Kershaw should know which team he’d like to play for in 2022. First, he’ll have time to figure out where he stands, health-wise. And, second, he’ll know whether he wants to stay with the Dodgers or play closer to home — the Rangers would LOVE to add him to their staff. The Dodgers need to check that one off the list quickly, because that affects what they’ll do with the rotation, and how many arms they need to add.
Also on the list: Is Kenley Jansen coming back? Who’s closing games? There’s no doubt that the Dodgers will be active, and there are a lot of avenues they could pursue.
San Diego Padres
Pre-lockout recap: The biggest news was hiring Bob Melvin away from the A’s to be the new Padres manager, in a rather stunning move. Melvin, a veteran manager with an impressive track record, is a significant departure from the past two managers in San Diego (Andy Greene and Jayce Tingler). The Padres made a couple of additions to the pitching staff, but nobody who will reassure fans who watched the 2021 season turn into a disaster.
The very first thing to do: It was no secret that the Padres were looking to trade Eric Hosmer at the July 30 trade deadline (well, mostly Hosmer’s contract). Those efforts will continue, and maybe a new CBA will provide a little more certainty. Teams and players can’t talk, but teams can still discuss trades, and with everything else paused, now is a great time to work out trades like this one.
Also on the list: Add some power to the outfield. Figure out whether Wil Myers is getting traded, too. Figure out who’s closing games. Long to-do list.
Pre-lockout recap: Rockies fans had to watch Jon Gray, the homegrown solid starter, sign a four-year, $56 million deal with the Rangers after Colorado decided he wasn’t worth tendering a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer. So the Rockies get no compensation, and the fans are frustrated. On the bright side, they did bring back C.J. Cron, who hit 28 homers with a 130 OPS+, on a two-year deal, starter Antonio Senzatela on a five-year deal and catcher Elias Diaz on a three-year deal.
The very first thing to do: Sounds odd to say the Rockies need bats — they ALWAYS have bats — but the Rockies need bats, plural. Trevor Story technically could still return, but realistically that’s not happening, so there’s a hole at shortstop. Rockies outfielders hit just 46 home runs last year, a total that ranked 29th of the 30 MLB teams (just ahead of 110-loss Arizona’s 45). And, of course, the DH spot is likely coming to the NL, too.
Also on the list: They signed Senzatela to the extension, which is excellent for the stability of the rotation, but they need to replace Gray’s 29 starts. And the bullpen? Yep, they need bullpen help.
Pre-lockout recap: In a bit of a surprising move, the Diamondbacks signed closer Mark Melancon, who will be 37 in March but led MLB with 39 saves in 2021. It’s odd because Arizona won only 52 games the entire season, so spending money on an established closer feels a bit strange. But, hey, having someone back there you trust to lock down the win opportunities that arise is a good thing, so kudos to the D-backs. Also, you have to remember the Diamondbacks did not expect to be awful last year, but pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. The goal is not another 100-loss year in 2022.
The very first thing to do: Sure, they’d love to count on a full season of a healthy Madison Bumgarner and others, but finding more quality rotation options is a must.
Also on the list: Figuring out what to do with Ketel Marte is a priority, but it’s not urgent, if that makes sense. When he’s been healthy the past few seasons, he’s produced like an All-Star/MVP candidate, and he’s on a contract that includes a couple team options that are decidedly team-friendly when he’s producing like that. If the right deal comes along — basically, an offer they just can’t refuse — they should probably deal him.
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