The MLB Winter Meetings officially start today and run through next Thursday, ending with the Rule 5 Draft. This year, the meetings take place in Las Vegas, the hometown of Bryce Harper just to make things more fun. These are typically the busiest days of the offseason, where some of the the biggest trades and free agent signings tend to go down. This is when all hot stove trade rumors and signings are floated around, so this’ll be interesting. Here’s an early look at next year’s N.L. West before anything too crazy happens.
Last year, the Dodgers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks were battling all season long for the division title until Arizona fell apart over the last month. The Giants and Padres are both too far away from the top tier in the West to be competitive barring major offseason moves. Each of the Dodgers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks have big contributors from their 2018 seasons hitting the open market.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- Manny Machado (.905 OPS, 141 wRC+) – 6.2 fWAR, 5.7 bWAR
- Yasmani Grandal (.815 OPS, 125 wRC+) – 3.6 fWAR, 3.3 bWAR
- Brian Dozier (.696 OPS, 90 wRC+) – 0.8 fWAR, 1.0 bWAR
Machado is one of the best infielders in the entire league and losing him would drastically affect any team. Unlike most teams, the Dodgers have Corey Seager returning to take Machado’s place. It’s still not one hundred percent clear as to how Tommy John and arthroscopic hip surgery will affect his return, workload, or performance. Meanwhile, if Grandal goes elsewhere, catcher will be the only position where there is a legitimate hole. Austin Barnes had a pretty bad year (77 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR) after a great 2017 (142 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR). If his true offensive ability lies somewhere in between, that’s a great starting catcher. Barnes is an elite framer which helps the entire pitching staff tremendously. If the Dodgers look elsewhere for catching, it likely comes down to Grandal, Wilson Ramos, or a trade for J.T. Realmuto. Dozier was bad last year, and was worse once he was traded to the Dodgers. There are too many solid second base options on the roster to make this one hurt.
- DJ LeMahieu (.749 OPS, 86 wRC+) – 2.0 fWAR, 3.0 bWAR
- Carlos Gonzalez (.796 OPS, 96 wRC+) – 1.7 fWAR, 0.4 bWAR
- Adam Ottavino (2.43 ERA, 2.74 FIP) – 2.0 fWAR, 2.6 bWAR
In 2018, the Rockies didn’t get a ton of offensive production outside of Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. Their success was mainly based off a great starting rotation and those three offensive studs. LeMahieu and Gonzalez weren’t exactly big offensive threats to opposing teams, but they were still the Rockies fourth and fifth most valuable position players. That says a lot on what actually hindered Colorado and kept them from passing up the Dodgers earlier in the season. Most teams could afford to lose those two, but the Rockies would have an even weaker offense outside of their top three. On the other hand, Ottavino broke out as one of the top relievers in baseball. He’ll definitely have strong offers coming in, which is good for him and potentially very bad for the Rockies.
- Patrick Corbin (3.15 ERA, 2.47 FIP) – 6.3 fWAR, 4.6 bWAR
- Paul Goldschmidt (.922 OPS, 145 wRC+) – 5.1 fWAR, 5.4 bWAR
- A.J. Pollock (.800 OPS, 110 wRC+) – 2.5 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR
Arizona last won the West in 2011, and since then have only made they playoffs once. That was in 2017, when they got swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS. They collapsed towards the end of last year, and with Corbin and Pollock hitting free agency and Goldschmidt just a year away, it looks as if they’re throwing in the towel. Corbin signed a six-year, 140 million dollar contract with the Nationals, and Goldschmidt was traded to the Cardinals, signaling that a Pollock reunion is probably unlikely. This doesn’t need much explanation. They haven’t been able to beat the Dodgers, and now look to be behind the Rockies moving forward. Their best pitcher is gone, their franchise star and offensive powerhouse is gone, while another important contributor in Pollock is likely to leave as well. This looks rough for Arizona.
San Francisco Giants
- Derek Holland (3.57 ERA, 3.87 FIP) – 2.0 fWAR, 2.1 bWAR
Holland isn’t a huge name, but he’s the best the Giants had last season. This won’t be a huge loss if they let him walk, but last year he led the team in starts (30) and innings (171.1). They’ll return a similar team to last year and be hopeful they get healthy seasons from Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, and Johnny Cueto. Their biggest addition of the offseason is likely to be hiring Farhan Zaidi as their President of Baseball Operations. This could make things interesting, as he’s likely making anyone on the roster available in trades, regardless of their roles during the Giants’ World Series runs.
San Diego Padres
The Padres aren’t losing much to free agency, and have already added Garrett Richards on an interesting two-year deal, of which he’ll miss the first year. Richards is good, but he’s always injured. He’s thrown a total of 138.2 innings over the last three seasons, albeit with a 3.06 ERA. They still have 10 prospects in the overall Top 100, and their competitive window won’t be for a couple more years barring huge signings and trades. They’ll be good, just not yet.
The 2019 N.L. West is obviously impossible to project in December of 2018. As of now, it looks like the Rockies are losing the least production, but if LeMahieu and Gonzalez leave, their sluggish offense projects to get even worse. The Dodgers might lose Grandal, but they would still look like the far and away best team in the west, even without making any more moves. Ultimately, it looks like it’ll come down to the Rockies and the Dodgers at the top of the West again, with the clear edge going to the Dodgers as of right now. However, clear edges mean nothing — just think back to the 2018 regular season.