Trade deadline preview: NL West
With the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline just under two weeks away, we continue our rapid-fire roll through the six divisions to see which teams are buying, which are selling and what moves they can — and should — make. Next up, the National League West, which looks as though it may have more sellers than buyers (NOTE: All teams ranked according to current standings not including Wednesday’s results; playoff odds data supplied by Baseball Prospectus.)
San Francisco Giants (50-40, 3 games ahead)
Playoff odds: 81.5% Division/5.5% Wild Card/87.0%Total
Top needs: Power, rotation insurance
With a 23-16 record since the beginning of June, the Giants have gained 8 1/2 games on the Dodgers to take over the NL West lead. They’ve done it despite outscoring their opponents by just five runs in that span, and just seven overall, highlighting their weaknesses on both sides of the ball. Their offense is scoring 3.98 runs per game (11th in the league); while they’re third in batting average (.262) and sixth in on-base percentage (.320), they’re 13th in slugging percentage (.379), 15th in isolated power (.117) and dead last in home runs (52), with Buster Posey the only player in double digits in that category (11).
Some of that is owed to AT&T Park, where they’ve hit just 15 homers (!) and slugged .364, but their 37 homers on the road are in the league’s lower quartile as well. Some of it is lineup construction, with first baseman Brandon Belt hitting just .246/.356/.402 with four homers while being jerked in and out of the lineup, and Melky Cabrera (.353/.392/.516, with eight homers) and fleet-footed Gregor Blanco (.253/.346/.370 with four homers) claiming corner outfield spots generally reserved for mashers.
How exactly the Giants plan to upgrade is the question, particularly given general manager Brian Sabean expressing his commitment to that outfield (which also features Angel Pagan in center) as well as Belt and anemic-hitting shortstop Brandon Crawford. Aubrey Huff, who is nearing a return from a knee injury, could provide some pop, but it would be at the expense of either Belt or Blanco, not to mention any pitcher who has to suffer Huff’s play in the outfield. The Diamondbacks’ Stephen Drew would make for a handy offensive upgrade at short, but pulling off a deal within the division is tricky. Unlike last year, there’s no Carlos Beltran out there, to say the least.
Meanwhile, Tim Lincecum’s eight-inning, 0-run, 11-strikeout performance against the Astros last Saturday may have earned a reprieve from the bullpen for the two-time Cy Young winner, though it’s worth noting that Lincecum’s only other quality start in his past eight turns came against the similarly offense-deprived Dodgers on June 27. The Giants could still use some rotation insurance in case his struggles re-emerge or if Barry Zito reverts to his usual post-Oakland form, but for now, the team’s more likely pursuit is of a reliever to compensate for Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo picking up the slack for injured closer Brian Wilson.
Los Angeles Dodgers (48-44, 3 games behind in division, 2 1/2 games behind in Wild Card)
Playoff odds: 13.0% Division/10.2% Wild Card/23.2% Total
Top needs: Starting pitching, first base, left field
Even with the returns of dynamic duo Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to the lineup, the Dodgers have lost four of five while scoring just 14 runs; since June 17, they’re a major-league worst 6-19 while averaging 2.28 runs per game, and overall their 3.76 runs per game are second-to-last in the league. The boys in blue are in dire need of offensive help at first base (James Loney is hitting .247/.307/.333) and leftfield (Bobby Abreu has cooled off to .253/.356/.352 after a torrid start) and are said to be interested in upgrades at third base (though Jerry Hairston Jr. has unseated Juan Uribe) and at shortstop, particularly with Dee Gordon out until late August after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated thumb. Alas, the trade market for first basemen and outfielders is rather thin, with the Phillies’ Shane Victorino and the Padres’ Carlos Quentin representing a couple of the more palatable upgrades, though in the case of the latter, it’s worth noting that intradivisional swaps aren’t common. It’s been said that the Dodgers could pursue Jimmy Rollins as an answer to their shortstop need, but the 33-year-old is in the first year of a three-year, $33 million deal, and has 10-and-5 rights that could quash any trade.
With Ted Lilly having only just resumed throwing as he recovers from a shoulder strain, and Chad Billingsley hitting the DL due to elbow inflammation earlier this week, starting pitching is now the Dodgers’ top priority. Ryan Dempster is their top target, with Cole Hamels a more tantalizing possibility given his California roots and the new Dodger ownership’s willingness to explore a long-term deal with the pending free agent. They’re said to be the leading suitor for the former, with a price tag that appears to center around a pair of pitching prospects, onincluding Garrett Gould, the principal in the failed Carlos Lee trade. After years of skimping on draft and international bonuses under the miserly Frank McCourt, the farm system is short of impact bats, but they do have a glut of arms, even if none of them — including 2011 first-round pick Zach Lee — are future aces. That could make a trade for Hamels tough, but it ought to be enough to help them apply other patches.
Arizona Diamondbacks (43-47, 7 games behind in division, 6 1/2 behind in Wild Card)
Playoff odds: 5.5% Division/5.1% Wild Card/10.6% Total
Top needs: Third base, starting pitching
The Diamondbacks lead the league in headscratching, a sub-.500 team whose run differential was in the black going into the weekend but is now four runs into the red as they’ve lost four of five. As noted on Friday, there’s an apparent disharmony within the organization, with general manager Kevin Towers marketing Justin Upton and Stephen Drew, both of whom were publicly criticized by managing partner Ken Kendrick last month. The 24-year-old Upton isn’t hitting for power (.274/.355/.394 with seven homers) and is being viewed as an underachiever, but other teams are salivating over the possibility of trading for him, particularly given the six-year, $50 million deal he’s signed to through 2015. The Pirates and Blue Jays are among those who have shown heavy interest, with the the former more motivated due to their current status as contenders. The latter is a better fit due to their willingness to trade shortstop Yunel Escobar, which would facilitate dealing Drew, a pending free agent who has been supplanted by journeyman Willie Bloomquist while making a particularly slow return (in Kendrick’s view) from an ankle injury. If the Diamondbacks are selling, they could also look to move struggling centerfielder Chris Young (.205/.310/.411) given the presence of the more productive Gerardo Parra (.270/.337/.413), who won a Gold Glove last year but was displaced in leftfield by Jason Kubel.
With neither the Giants or Dodgers looking like powerhouses, there’s a case to be made that the Diamondbacks — who did win the division last year — should be buyers. In that case, third base, where Ryan Roberts is hitting just .243/.290/.356 and has been benched in favor of Bloomquist, is their biggest need. They’ve inquired about the Padres’ Chase Headley, but ESPN’s Buster Olney suggests that strained relations between the Arizona and San Diego front offices complicate that (recall that Towers was the longtime GM of the Padres, while current San Diego GM Josh Byrnes was in Arizona). Given Daniel Hudson’s season-ending UCL tear and highly-touted Trevor Bauer’s early struggles (6.06 ERA and just over four innings per start before being demoted), back-end help for the rotation would appear to be a priority, but the team does have last year’s sweetheart, Josh Collmenter, as an in-house option, and another highly-touted prospect in lefty Tyler Skaggs.
San Diego Padres (37-55, 14 games behind in division, 13 1/2 behind in Wild Card)
Playoff odds: 0.0% Division/0.0% Wild Card/0.0% Total
Top needs: Cost-controlled young players
Byrnes recently said that his team doesn’t have to make any trades at the deadline, but the Padres do have several names that have been bandied about in recent weeks. Quentin (.266/.391/.516 with eight homers in 151 PA) is a legitimate thumper in a market that lacks a certain thump-thing (sorry). Headley is a 28-year-old third baseman who’s cost-controlled through 2015, with a career .299/.366/.449 line away from Petco Park. Huston Street is a proven closer who hasn’t been on the disabled list since early June; he’s got a 1.08 ERA and is a perfect 14-for-14 in save opportunities this year. Clayton Richard, the rare healthy Padres starter in a season where they’ve lost Cory Luebke, Tim Stauffer, Dustin Mosely and Andrew Cashner to injuries, is now drawing interest from the Orioles, Tigers and White Sox. The 28-year-old lefty has a 3.83 ERA and has allowed 1.2 homers per nine, numbers that don’t impress for a pitcher spending half his time in Petco, but he could be an option for a team eying back-end rotation help. As for what they’d seek in return, the Padres are particularly in need of prospects in the middle infield and the rotation, as well as power bats — at this stage, help would be welcome anywhere.
Colorado Rockies (35-55, 15 games behind in division, 14 1/2 behind in Wild Card)
Playoff odds: 0.0% Division/0.0% Wild Card/0.0% Total
Top needs: New management
When we last checked in on the Rockies, they had just launched their four-man rotation experiment, under which they’ve gone 10-15 while allowing “only” 5.24 runs per game, compared to 25-42 while allowing 5.74 runs per game. Their starters’ ERA, which was 6.31 to that point, has been 5.52 since; note that these splits don’t include Wednesday afternoon’s game in which Jeremy Guthrie yielded six runs (four earned) in 2 2/3 innings. All of which is to say that there’s not a whole lot of pitching on offer here, with the possible exception of Jeff Francis, who has put together a 4.76 ERA in eight starts by avoiding the longball (0.7 HR/9) and free pass (1.6 BB/9), and Guthrie, who has posted a 3.67 ERA in 49 innings away from Coors Field, compared to 9.50 in what amounts to the fifth circle of pitchers’ hell. Closer Rafael Betancourt, who’s been above the fray, has a 3.27 ERA and is 15-for-19 in save opportunities; he has drawn interest from the Red Sox, but the Rox don’t appear motivated to move him.
The team does have a couple of bats to offer. Marco Scutaro is 36 and hitting .275/.325/.367, but he’s inexpensive ($6 million in the final year of his three-year deal) and versatile enough to play second or third base as well as shortstop; the Tigers have shown some interest. Ramon Hernandez is 36 as well and hitting just .206/.248/.373, but like Scutaro, his track record is stronger than that; the Mets have shown interest, as have the Nationals. It would rate as a major surprise if the Rockies could get out from under the three-year, $31.5 million deal they just gave Michael Cuddyer, but the Dodgers have been desperate enough to inquire despite his .243/.276/.436 line away from Coors. Caveat emptor.