NL West Hot Stove Preview
That is, of course, right at the range where adding a little bit of talent can go a long way, since there are a tremendous number of National League teams who figure to be in the same territory. And there's an obvious place to upgrade in the starting pitching department; Webb, Davis, Micah Owings and Johnson are a credible front four, but there's a big drop-off after that (plus, there's no guarantee that Johnson will pitch the entire season). One intriguing fit could be Greg Maddux, if the Padres do not pick up his option; he's still a groundball pitcher and could take advantage of Hudson's vacuum-like defense at second base. Otherwise most of the alternatives require use of the trade market. Nick Piecoro mentions Cliff Lee, Ervin Santana and Daniel Cabrera as possible alternatives. All of those make sense, particularly the latter two, and the Diamondbacks have some excess assets such as Tracy and Quentin to work from.
One potential starting point would be trading third baseman Garrett Atkins for a starting pitcher, and allowing Ian Stewart to graduate to the position. This is not as much of a drop-off as you might think considering that Stewart is a significantly better defensive player, and the market for Atkins should be fairly robust given that several big-market suitors will come up short in the A-Rod derby. I also see no particular reason for the Rockies to break the bank for Torrealba, who had just a .235 EqA last season; I would rather give the job to Iannetta or pursue a higher-impact free agent. And I would devote $10-$12 million to the bullpen, preferring to re-sign my own guys because I know that they're comfortable in Coors.
The Padres' infield is largely set. In the long-run, the group is Headley, Khalil Greene, Antonelli and Gonzalez. Kevin Kouzmanoff will hold Headley off for no longer than one more season; after that the Padres will have to figure out whether Kouz hits enough to warrant a move to a corner outfield position. With Marcus Giles gone there's a chance that Antonelli could make the club out of spring training; otherwise the Padres will be looking at a Tadahito Iguchi-type one-year fix. The pitching should continue to be an asset, though it's a little top-heavy; the Padres should accept Maddux' option and look to add a No. 4 starter, perhaps a flyball pitcher such as Eric Milton, who wouldn't work in most other parks.
But the big decisions are in the outfield, where there's neither much present day talent nor much on the farm. From the following group the Padres need to sign at least one and quite possibly two players: Barry Bonds, who could thrive in San Diego's low-key media environment; Kosuke Fukudome, who has already been linked with the Padres; Torii Hunter, who will require a lot of money but provides a lot of marginal gain in Petco's large outfield; Andruw Jones, who is closer to Hunter in reality than in perception; and Aaron Rowand, for whom largely the same is true.
That group would be significantly better than league average at two positions (C, 2B), slightly better than league average at three positions (SS, LF and probably 1B), about league average in RF, and slightly below league average at CF and 3B (though not for long in LaRoche's case, especially with Nomar Garciaparra serving as his caddy). Overall it's one of the better position-player groups in the league. So then you take the money you're saving yourself on Luis Gonzalez and spend it on a mid-level starting pitcher to round out a rotation of Penny, Lowe, Schmidt and Chad Billingsley. Coupled with the great one-two punch in the bullpen, that's also an above-average group. That's it. You're done. You've spent next to nothing -- and you still have a potential pennant winner on your hands. It looks like about an 88-win core that can creep into the 90s if the veterans stay healthy.
Instead, all rumors are that Ned Colletti's compass is pointed in the opposite direction. What I envision happening is something like the following: Kemp or LaRoche are included in a deal for a premium starting pitcher. And then -- guess what -- you
If the Dodgers feel like they
To get back into playoff contention would require five, maybe six significant free agent signings -- say a first baseman, shortstop, third baseman, left-fielder and closer -- which would probably take the payroll somewhere northward of $120 million. And the problem with that approach is not just that it's expensive, but that it requires tremendous coordination to pull off; if you sign three of your six free-agent targets and get outbid on the others, then you're stuck shelling out $90-$100 million for what's going to be a losing baseball club. There are two approaches I can see making sense here. The first is to go with an old-school, Whitey Herzog speed-and-defense approach, which could work well in a big field like AT&T Park. The Giants allowed 720 runs last year with a +7 FRAA; if you can somehow turn that +7 into a +70, then you're talking about allowing barely more than four runs a game, at which point an offense that plays around one-run strategies could scratch and claw out a few victories. It wouldn't be a
The second approach is to sign Alex Rodriguez. This would not be done with the expectation of having a playoff club in 2008, nor probably in 2009. Rather it would be done to give the fans something to chew on while you give a deep rebuild to the rest of the roster. We know that the fans have been very supportive in San Francisco -- the Giants turned out more than 3.2 million fans last year in spite of having their third consecutive losing season. But throughout that period the Giants at least looked like they were