NL West Hot Stove Preview: Offseason plans for Dodgers, D-backs, Giants, Padres, Rockies
This week, SI.com is breaking down the offseason plans for all 30 teams. Teams are presented in order of finish from 2013.
Los Angeles Dodgers
2013 Results: 92-70, first in NL West, lost NLCS to Cardinals
Run differential: +67, ninth in MLB
Pending Free Agents: LHP Chris Capuano, 2B Mark Ellis, UT Jerry Hairston Jr., LHP J.P. Howell, RHP Carlos Marmol, RHP Ricky Nolasco, IF Nick Punto, UT Skip Schumaker, 3B Juan Uribe, RHP Edinson Volquez, RHP Brian Wilson, IF Michael Young
Of the 12 players coming off the books, not a single one received a qualifying offer. Hairston, Marmol, Punto, Schumaker, Volquez and Young are all fungible, though it’s not out of the question that some could return to the Dodgers in bench or bullpen roles.
Wilson and Nolasco both have big paydays in store. The former demonstrated a readiness to return to closing while allowing just one run and striking out 21 in 19 2/3 innings of set-up work in the regular season and playoffs, so he’ll likely move on. The latter put up a 3.70 ERA — his best mark since 2008 — in 199 1/3 innings for the Marlins and Dodgers but was hit hard late in the year. Los Angeles could explore retaining the Southern California native given its two openings in the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu (Josh Beckett and Chad Billinglsey are both trying to come back from season-ending surgeries). If the team doesn’t re-sign Nolasco, it could bring back Capuano, who delivered a 4.26 ERA in 105 2/3 innings. Howell, who turned in a 2.03 ERA in 62 innings, is someone the front office will try to retain.
Among the team’s infielders, Uribe is hitting the market having redeemed himself after two abysmal years; he hit .278/.331/.438 with 12 homers, played outstanding defense (+15 Defensive Runs Saved, +24 Ultimate Zone Rating) and tallied 4.1 WAR. Given his importance in the clubhouse as well — he mentored players as diverse as Ryu and Yasiel Puig — the Dodgers could seek to keep him, though it won’t be with another three-year, $21 million deal given that he turns 35 in March. L.A. declined a $5.75 million club option on Ellis, who delivered good value (5.5 WAR for $7.75 million in 2012-2013) at second base but whose deficiencies were on display in the postseason. The team could bring him back as a utilityman/placeholder for Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero, who was signed to a four-year, $28 million deal but who may need some stateside seasoning because he didn’t play competitively this year.
Top Prospect on the Verge: RHP Zach Lee
With Guerrero something of a mystery and centerfielder Joc Pederson blocked by the glut of outfielders signed to long-term contracts, Lee may be the prospect who helps the Dodgers first. The team’s 2010 first-round pick — whom L.A. lured away from a commitment to play quarterback at LSU — spent the entire year at Double-A Chattanooga and put up a 3.22 ERA, 8.3 strikeouts per nine and a 3.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 142 2/3 innings after splitting 2012 between High A and Double A. Lee sports a 90-96 mph fastball, a plus slider, usable curve and average changeup. His ceiling is as a third or fourth starter, and he could get a look at the back of the 2014 rotation depending upon what the team does this winter and how its injured hurlers fare in spring.
Targets: Third base, starting pitcher, bench
If the Dodgers don’t retain Uribe, they have no in-house alternative ready, and the pickings on the free agent market are slim; Michael Young and Kevin Youkilis have even more dents and dings than at this time a year ago. The best option is probably Jhonny Peralta, who hit .303/.358/.457 with 11 homers in 448 PA for the Tigers but missed 50 games due to a Biogenesis-related PED suspension; he played third base regularly back in 2009 and ’10. If he’s on board, he can serve as Hanley Ramirez’s backup at shortstop as well. Trade targets such as the Padres’ Chase Headley and the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval will be tougher to pry away from division rivals than they might otherwise be, and are probably off the board. A more feasible option would be to pursue the Cardinals’ David Freese, who’s coming off an uncharacteristically down year (.262/.340/.381 with nine homers and −14 DRS).
If money’s burning a hole in L.A’s pockets, a more radical option would be to explore reacquiring Adrian Beltre — owed $51 million over the next three years — from the Rangers on the theory that Texas needs a place for Jurickson Profar to play. The caveats are that in addition to being expensive, Beltre’s defensive numbers took a hit last year, and he turns 35 in April. The Dodgers could offset the money and risk by sending the outfield-poor Rangers Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford, though Matt Kemp’s injury status may lessen their urgency to break up their logjam in the pastures.
If Nolasco and Capuano depart, Los Angeles will be in the market for an experienced starter even if it creates a potential glut should Beckett and Billingsley miraculously wind up in good health at the same time. Recall that last year, the Dodgers had eight starters until the end of spring training but soon found themselves dipping down to Double A to fill out their rotation. There’s talk they could make a run at either Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka or Rays ace David Price, but the former could cost upwards of $100 million including posting, and the latter will cost prospects as well as a long-term extension — all of that in a winter where Kershaw is likely to get his own nine-figure deal. More realistic could be a reunion with free agent Hiroki Kuroda if he chooses to remain stateside.
With Schumaker, Punto, Hairston and Young all free agents, the Dodgers have a chance to remake a relatively weak bench. Of that group, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Punto remain given his facility at shortstop, or to see Ellis shift into a smaller role. A backup outfielder capable of manning centerfield is a must given Kemp’s ongoing injuries; former Dodgers prospect Franklin Gutierrez, who’s going on 31 and coming off a three-year stretch in which he played just 173 games due to injuries and illness, is an interesting option given his defense and power (.248/.273/.503 and 10 homers in 151 PA in 2013).
Bottom line: In their first full year under the Guggenheim Partners, the Dodgers spent more on payroll than any non-Yankees team ever had, and came within two wins of a trip to the World Series. Expect them to continue spending big in pursuit of their first championship since 1988.
2013 Results: 81-81, second in NL West
Run differential: −10, 16th in MLB
Pending Free Agents: IF Willie Bloomquist, 3B/1B Eric Chavez, C Wil Nieves
The trade of Jason Kubel and the release of Eric Hinske cut down on the number of decisions the Diamondbacks had to make with regards to free agents. There’s nothing here that they can’t live without, but it would be no surprise if all three of the above players — each of whom will be entering his age-36 season — returned.
Nieves is coming off a career year with the bat in which he slightly outhit banged-up starter Miguel Montero (.297/.320/.369 in 206 PA). Bloomquist hit .317/.360/.367 in 150 PA and was sufficiently indignant over the Dodgers’ post-clinch pool party in a manner that certainly endeared him to team brass. Chavez hit a robust .281/.332/.478 with nine homers in 254 PA; he also hit the DL twice for a total of six weeks, a tendency that will continue to consign him to a backup role.
Top Prospect on the Verge: RHP Archie Bradley
The seventh pick of the 2011 draft out of an Oklahoma high school, Bradley has ascended to the point that he might be the game’s top pitching prospect, as well as an ace in the making. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he has a prototypical build for a power pitcher, and that’s what he is. Bradley offers an explosive, heavy fastball in the 93-97 mph range, a knee-bending curve and a changeup that has plus potential. He dominated High A and Double A levels, so much so that he was moved up to the latter after just five starts; for the year he posted a 1.84 ERA and 9.6 K/9 in 152 innings.
The Diamondbacks have no shortage of rotation candidates, but it’s reasonable to think that the 21-year-old righty will get his shot sometime in 2014, at least after the Super Two cutoff .
Targets: Power, starting pitching
Despite the presence of NL home run co-leader Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona ranked 11th in the league in homers and ninth in slugging percentage. Martin Prado was the only other player to hit more than 11 (he had 14), while Aaron Hill was the only other player with a slugging percentage higher than .417 (he finished at .462). General manager Kevin Towers has said he’d like to add a power bat either at a corner outfield spot or at third base; he could do that internally via third base prospect Matt Davidson, who hit .280/.350/.481 with 17 homers at Triple A Reno and earned Futures Game MVP honors, then batted .237/.333/.434 for the Snakes in 87 PA.
If they go outside the organization, Marlon Byrd, who hit .291/.336/.511 with 24 homers for the Mets and Pirates in his age-35 season, would fit the bill. So would Corey Hart, who missed all of 2013 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee after batting .279/.343/.514 with an average of 29 homers for the Brewers from 2010-12. Adding such a bat and hoping Cody Ross returns from hip surgery would leave a stockpile of outfielders — Adam Eaton, A.J. Pollock and Fielding Bible Award winner Gerardo Parra — that the team could use to make a deal. Prado, if he’s displaced by Davidson, would be part of a surplus as well, though he’s owed $33 million over the next three years.
Speaking of trades, even with a glut of starting pitching, the Diamondbacks have shown interest in the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija, who threw 213 2/3 innings in 2013 but saw his ERA rise to 4.34 after a 3.81 mark the year before. He has two years remaining before free agency, and an extension in Chicago appears unlikely. Whether Arizona’s interest means trading a younger pitcher (Tyler Skaggs?) or an older one on a short-term deal (Brandon McCarthy?) remains to be seen. The D-backs could also be in the hunt for Price.
Bottom line: Last winter, Arizona worked to remake its culture — adding “grit” — in the hopes that it would lead to greater on-field succes, but the team merely matched the previous year’s record. The D-backs have the talent to contend, though it’s unevenly distributed, and they may well wind up one of the winter’s most active teams on the trade front.
San Francisco Giants
2013 Results: 76-86, tied for third in NL West
Run differential: −62, 21st in MLB
Pending Free Agents: RHP Chad Gaudin, LHP Javier Lopez, OF Andres Torres, RHP Ryan Vogelsong, LHP Barry Zito
The Giants have already gotten a jump on their winter work by retaining potential free agents Hunter Pence (five years, $90 million) and Tim Lincecum (two years, $35 million). They could work to keep both Lopez and Gaudin as well. The former has flourished over the past four years, three and a half of them as a Giant, putting up a 2.37 ERA while averaging 72 appearances and stifling lefties at a .168/.236/.238 clip. He’ll seek a raise from his $4.25 million salary, but he reportedly would prefer to stay in San Francisco. As for the latter, the 30-year-old Gaudin threw 97 innings with a 3.06 ERA while making 12 starts and 18 relief appearances, though he missed about two months due to elbow and wrist injuries. He hasn’t had a guaranteed contract since 2010, so he should be affordable.
Torres, overexposed once Angel Pagan went down with injury, isn’t likely to return to his 2009-10 level as he turns 36, so he will be easy to part with. Likewise for Zito, whose $18 million club option was never going to be picked up (hence the $7 million buyout); he ends his Giants career with a 4.62 ERA (86 ERA+) and a grand total of 3.0 WAR across seven seasons.
The most intriguing of the bunch is Vogelsong, whose $6.5 million option was declined. After more than a decade of bouncing around the majors, minors and international scene, the now-36-year-old righty threw 369 1/3 innings with a 3.05 ERA for San Francisco in 2011 and ’12. In 2013, however, he was tagged for a 5.73 ERA in 103 2/3 innings and spent 80 days on the DL due to a HBP-induced broken pinkie that required surgery. The Giants have two rotation openings behind Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Lincecum, so Vogelsong could be back via a deal with a lower base salary plus incentives.
Top Prospect on the Verge: LHP Edwin Escobar
Top overall prospect Kyle Crick is unlikely to reach the big leagues in 2014, having been limited to 14 starts at High A this year, but Escobar may get there. The 21-year-old lefty split 2013 between High A and Double A, posting a 2.80 ERA, 10.2 strikeouts per nine and a 4.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 128 2/3 innings, a performance that boosted his stock considerably. Escobar sports a low-90s fastball with good movement and command, and he changes speeds effectively with his curve and changeup. He’s most likely a back-end starter, but with that part of the rotation in flux, he should get a chance to show his wares in San Francisco at some point in 2014.
NEXT: Giants’ targets, breakdowns of Padres and Rockies