NL West: A Four-Team Race to the Post-Season
The Rockies have reason to feel they put a foundation for success in place a year ago.
Despite a series of injuries that hit the starting rotation particularly hard, the Rockies found the young arms that allowed them to claim an NL wild-card spot and advance to the post-season for the fourth time in franchise history.
And for an encore?
Time will only tell.
But one thing is for sure. The NL West title goes through Dodger Stadium. The Giants are regrouping and ready to be a factor again. And there is no reason to think the D-Backs are going to fade into the sunset.
With apologies to the Padres, the NL West has four teams with a legitimate reason to show up in Arizona for spring training feeling they have the ability to advance to the post-season.
THE DODGERS have won five consecutive NL West titles, and despite having gone 29 years without a World Championship to celebrate, they did return to the World Series for the first time since 1988 last October, and they have at least reached the post-season in 11 of the last 23 seasons.
Get the picture? This is a team that cut nearly $50 million from its payroll in the off-season and did not lose a significant member of the roster that took the Astros to seven games in the World Series. They are young and talented – Justin Turner and Logan Forsythe are the only 30-somethings in the lineup – and they can strong arm the opposition with a rotation built around Clayton Kershaw and bullpen anchored by Kenley Jansen.
Key departures: None.
Key addition: $50 million of payroll to play with and the ability to splurge next off-season and face a 20 percent tax for excessive spending instead of 50 percent.
THE ROCKIES surprised a year ago by advancing to the post-season and are not getting a lot of national respect this spring, but they do have a foundation with a rotation that a year ago saw four rookies started 93 games, and in which the elder statesman is 28-year-old Chad Bettis.
Key departures: Carlos Gonzalez was a disappointment for four months but a change in sleep habits and adjustment in his approach at the plate saw him fill a critical role final two months of 2017. Jonathan Lucroy brought life to the catching corps and had offensive potential.
Key additions: Signing Wade Davis fills a closer void created by the departure of Greg Holland. Right-hander Bryan Shaw provides a replacement for Pat Neshek as the right-handed setup man, and Shaw will be with the team from day one. Neshek was a trading-deadline addition.
THE GIANTS had the worst record in MLB a year ago, a far cry from a team that won the World Series in three of the six years prior to that. They rebuilt their offense in the off-season, put Brian Sabean back in charge of day to day front office operations, and figure to have a big lift from the potentially healthy duo of rotation ace Madison Bumgarner and closer Mark Melancon.
Key departures: One-time ace Matt Cain retired, and that means the Giants will be looking for two young arms to step into the rotation behind Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Smardzjia, but Cain’s impact has been minimal on the mound the last four years (11-30, 66 starts).
Key additions: The offense is revamped with the additions of center fielder Austin Jackson, right fielder Andrew McCutcheon and third baseman Evan Longoria. The trading deadline addition of Sam Dyson provides late-inning support for Melancon, who is healthy, and the off-season signing of Tony Watson brings a late-inning lefty.
THE DIAMONDBACKS made a second half run and claimed the No. 1 NL wild-card spot thanks in a large part to the trading deadline addition of J.D. Martinez, who not only hit 29 home runs in 62 games, but provided big-time lineup protection for Paul Goldschmidt. Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray gave the D-Backs the best top three of any rotation.
Key departures: Martinez is still sitting on the open market, having been unable to get the $200 million deal agent Scott Boras was predicting last fall, and he could return for a full season if the D-Backs bit on the $30 million one-year deal being rumored. Without him the D-Backs will need Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb to step it up for the sake of Goldschmidt.
Key additions: The development of Archie Bradley, who filled a setup role in his relief debut last year, and signing of free agent Brad Boxberger figure to make the ninth inning a lot less uneasy than a year ago when the D-Backs turned to Fernando Rodney to close out games.
THE PADRES are still building. They made a splash on Saturday, agreeing to an eight-year deal with free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, an interesting move by a team with so many needs in light of the fact it will force a position change for it's most established player, Wil Myers. They have to beef up the rotation, though, to be taken seriously.
Key departures: None.
Key additions: There is none bigger than Hosmer, who as well as being an elite player brings a clubhouse impact as well. Chase Headley returns to where his career began and provides a veteran presence for the young team. Freddy Galvis came over in a deal with the Phillies and will provide spark at shortstop.