With free agency underway, the offseason is going to pick up steam. What are the big questions facing all 30 teams? Next up is the NL West, in which the Dodgers are trying to figure out how to take that last step to a World Series title.
2018 record: 92-71
2019 World Series odds: 7-1
As the celebration of a second consecutive National League pennant was winding down, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told the story about being a Tampa Bay Rays executive who rooted for other teams to sign star players to gargantuan contracts. He vowed to bring the same practicality to the affluent Dodgers.
“We have tried to maintain discipline and put ourselves in the best position to use our resources as a strength,” Friedman said, “and to not have it be something that hamstrings us for years to come.”
That’s great and all, but what about Manny Machado and Bryce Harper?
Under Friedman, the Dodgers haven’t signed anybody to a nine-figure contract. But this is a unique circumstance for two reasons: Machado and Harper are only 26, which means that theoretically a large chunk of their primes remain, and the Dodgers are back under the luxury-tax threshold, resetting the repeater tax.
Machado and Harper are awkward fits because the Dodgers have a lot of depth. In Machado’s case, they have a returning star shortstop in Corey Seager and are set at third base with Justin Turner. In Harper’s case, they have a loaded outfield that, if considering Alex Verdugo and Andrew Toles, currently includes at least six capable players.
But this is L.A., a city of stars. Machado and Harper are two legitimate ones. And adding either of them — Harper seems more likely, given Machado’s tumultuous 15-week stint with the team — would give the Dodgers even more freedom in the trade market. — Alden Gonzalez
2018 record: 91-71
2019 World Series odds: 30-1
Nolan Arenado is entering his walk year, and the team’s preference obviously would be to sign him to a long-term extension. Even if that doesn’t happen, the Rockies don’t have to trade him. After back-to-back playoff appearances, they can play it out with Arenado and maybe win the first division title in franchise history — even if that likely means losing Arenado in free agency after next season (players rarely re-sign with their teams once they become free agents). We’ll no doubt be swimming in Arenado rumors all offseason, but maybe the Rockies should focus on adding some support for him.
The Rockies were second in the NL in runs, but this was not a good offensive team. In the park-adjusted wRC+, they ranked 25th in the majors. They hit .225 on the road. Ian Desmond was a problem at first base, with a .729 OPS, and the corner outfielders weren’t all that productive. Carlos Gonzalez and DJ LeMahieu also are free agents.
The first move probably is to transition Charlie Blackmon to a corner outfield position, so the Rockies will need a center fielder unless they think David Dahl can play there. Regardless, assuming they’re locked into Desmond because of his big contract, that means finding a big bat for the outfield and maybe a one-year stopgap for second until prospect Brendan Rodgers is ready in 2020. — David Schoenfield
Arizona Diamondbacks: Is it time for the Snakes to shed their skin?
2018 record: 82-80
2019 World Series odds: 60-1
The Diamondbacks’ all-time leader in WAR is Randy Johnson, with 52.6. Ranking second and first among position players is Paul Goldschmidt, with 40.1. Goldy, as they call him, is very much the face of the Arizona franchise. He has been an All-Star for six seasons running, in which time he has hit .301/.406/.541 with per-season averages of 30 homers and 100 RBIs. He’s also 31 and about to enter the last year of his contract.
Thus is the dilemma of the Diamondbacks. After advancing to the NLCS in 2017, Arizona led the NL West for much of the 2018 season. The last date Arizona sat atop its division was Sept. 1. From that date on, the D-backs collapsed in spectacular fashion, going 8-19 to finish a disappointing campaign.
Now what? Two of Arizona’s eight top performers from last season — lefty starter Patrick Corbin and center fielder A.J. Pollock — are hitting free agency, and the Diamondbacks don’t have any particularly strong possibilities to replace either of them. The farm system was ranked 26th by ESPN’s Keith Law before the season.
The payroll, which last season was a stretch at $ 131 million, per Cot’s Contracts, would be up to an estimated $ 146 million with the same roster back, sans the two foundation free agents. Does any of this add up to future contention to you? Well, what really matters is how the Diamondbacks assess their own system, their ability to spend and whether they can scratch back into contention for Goldschmidt’s likely swan song.
If Goldschmidt is traded, that would tell us all we need to know. — Bradford Doolittle
2018 record: 73-89
2019 World Series odds: 100-1
After a 73-89 season in which they scored just 603 runs and hit .239, the Giants and new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi have to face a difficult decision. Whichever way they turn, it should make them one of the focal teams of the offseason.
What worked for L.A. in the NLDS and NLCS — from platoons to the pen — failed in the Fall Classic. But Dodgers brass bristles at the suggestion its philosophy is to blame.
With Bryce Harper a free agent and J.T. Realmuto eager to get out of Miami, some of the division’s biggest names could be headed elsewhere.
From the free agents set to cash in to the big-name stars sure to come up in trade rumors all winter long, keep up with all of the latest action.
The reasons to rebuild are obvious: They had the oldest lineup in the NL in 2018, and it wasn’t good. Buster Posey had hip surgery after the season, and his power game might be extinct. Brandon Belt has missed 108 games the past two seasons. Brandon Crawford will be 32. Evan Longoria will be 33 and had a .281 OBP. The farm system doesn’t offer a lot of hope. On the pitching side, Johnny Cueto is out for the season. Derek Holland, who actually had a solid season, is a free agent. Who knows what Jeff Samardzija can provide?
On the other hand, it’s a team with money to spend, an 85-year-old owner who wants to win and a fan base that still packed AT&T Park, with 3.1 million in attendance. Odds are the Giants try to compete, which means they won’t trade Madison Bumgarner and they’ll make a big push for Bryce Harper. — Schoenfield
San Diego Padres: What can they expect from the youngsters?
2018 record: 66-96
2019 World Series odds: 100-1
The Padres won 66 games in 2018, their fewest since they won 63 in 2008. Not a banner year, but also not far off what was expected — especially with the Dodgers as reigning pennant winners and the Rockies and Diamondbacks showing strength in 2017. But 2019 could be a true preview of the future for the Padres.
We’ve heard a bunch about the impending youth movement of the Toronto Blue Jays, but they aren’t the only team with an influx of young talent on the way. The Padres have a bunch of exciting prospects who could be in San Diego uniforms at some point in 2019. What production will the club get from them? Which prospects will play in the majors next season?
There’s Fernando Tatis Jr., whose 2018 season ended in July due to a thumb injury. The son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatis, who will be 20 on Opening Day, was a shortstop at Double-A at the time of his injury and seems likely to play in the majors at some point in 2019, at least by the end of the year. And he isn’t the only one.
There’s catcher Francisco Mejia, who was acquired from the Indians in July and played in 20 games for the Padres, hitting three homers with a .185 batting average. Moving him to the outfield is a possibility, too. Then there’s MacKenzie Gore, the 19-year-old pitching prospect. Like Tatis Jr., Gore dealt with injuries in 2018, primarily blister issues. He made 16 starts at Class A last season. He is considered one of San Diego’s top prospects along with Tatis Jr. There are others too, including pitcher Adrian Morejon and infielder Luis Urias, who played in 12 games for the big club in 2018, and pitcher Chris Paddack. — Sarah Langs