Home MLB MLB offseason so far: NL West

MLB offseason so far: NL West

by Matt Smith

Looking at the MLB team depth charts over the Christmas period has reminded me how easy it is to lose track of some of the roster decisions that teams have made amid the headline-grabbing signings.

As the Christmas to New Year period is normally quiet on the Hot Stove front, it’s a good time to review the main moves that each team has made so far over the offseason.  Today we start with the National League West division, looking at the teams in the order they finished in 2011.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Manager Kirk Gibson and General Manager Kevin Towers have both been rewarded for the team’s 2011 NL West triumph with new three-year contracts.  Towers showed that he believes this team can continue to compete in the near future by trading away prospects – including one of their best in Jarrod Parker – to acquire starting pitcher Trevor Cahill from the Oakland A’s.  The D-Backs have had considerable success in trading for young starters in recent seasons and Cahill is a good bet to continue this trend alongside Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson in the rotation.

Arizona have also signed former Twin Jason Kubel to play left field in a case of power over (Gerardo) Parra.  Kubel isn’t great with the glove and all things considered it could be argued that Parra is actually the better, more-rounded, player.  However, Kubel should add some thump and having Parra as a fourth outfielder is a good position to be in.

San Francisco Giants

General Manager Brian Sabean is working over this offseason with the contract status of Matt Cain (a free agent at the end of the 2012 season) and Tim Lincecum (under contract for the next two years, but eligible for salary arbitration in those years) as key issues in the background as he looks to improve the roster.

Despite the welcome prospect of Buster Posey’s return from injury, this team once again needs some additions to the batting lineup.  Carlos Beltran has moved on to the Cardinals after performing well as a rental player at the end of the 2011 season and the team’s rumoured interest in shortstops Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins didn’t result in either joining the club.  They have added two outfielders (Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan) via trades and Brandon Belt could develop into an everyday player for them in 2012, but otherwise it looks like being a fairly quiet offseason in San Francisco. 

Los Angeles Dodgers

A rare piece of good news for fans of this beleaguered organization came in November when the Dodgers agreed an eight-year contract extension with Matt Kemp.  The team would also like to agree an extension with 2011 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, while a significant proportion of the rest of the 2011 roster look set to be allowed to leave as free agents. Hiroki Kuroda is perhaps the only one they will miss to any great extent.

The Dodgers’ ongoing ownership saga makes it unlikely that they will pursue any major additions in the near future and their efforts so far in this offseason have centred on picking up solid veterans (Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Jerry Hairston) on short-term deals.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies, coming off a very disappointing 2011 campaign, went shopping on the free agent market prior to Christmas by signing Michael Cuddyer and former Dodger Casey Blake. 

Before these additions, the Rockies had mainly been shaking up their roster by trading players away. Huston Street has moved on to take Heath Bell’s place as the Padres’ closer while Ian Stewart and Chris Iannetta, neither of whom quite developed into the players that the Rockies hoped they would become, have joined the Cubs and Angels respectively.  Former Red Ramon Hernandez will take Iannetta’s place behind the plate after signing a two-year contract as a free agent.

San Diego Padres

The Padres’ enjoyable 2010 season is fading further into the distance as the rebuilding project, begun one year ago with the trade of Adrian Gonzalez, continues this offseason.

There seemed to be a chance that free agent closer Heath Bell might accept a home-town discount to stay with the team, but the appeal of being part of the Miami Marlins’ move into a new ballpark proved too good to turn down.

Bell’s departure was always a possibility, and that may in part account for the Padres’ quick work in finding a replacement in Huston Street, but two other departures were less expected.  General Manager Jed Hoyer left the team to join up with former Red Sox colleague Theo Epstein at the Chicago Cubs, being replaced by former D-Backs GM Josh Byrnes. 

Byrnes then made a surprise deal by trading young ace Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds. The move leaves the Padres short of a top-line starter in 2012, but has brought in some excellent young talent in Yonder Alonso and catching prospect Yasmani Grandal.

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