Even without in-person Winter Meetings in 2020, this week still marks something of an ignition switch for Hot Stove season. The non-tender deadline has passed, and the free-agent class is set.
In the National League West, the offseason will be a fascinating one -- for a variety of reasons. A reigning champ is looking to stay on its perch. An upstart contender is aiming to take the next step. A superstar third baseman might be available via trade -- and he might fit with another team in the division.
So what's the primary objective for each NL West team before the end of the year? What's one move to watch before the calendar flips? Here's a look at where each team stands:
At last year’s Winter Meetings, the D-backs laid the groundwork for what would wind up being a five-year, $85 million deal with left-hander Madison Bumgarner. Given the uncertainty of what next season might look like in terms of revenue, though, this year the D-backs are taking a much more measured approach. General manager Mike Hazen has engaged with other teams, but it seems at this point the club is going to let the market define itself and then see if there might be some bargains it can nab later on. Hazen still feels good about the team’s starting-rotation depth, but the bullpen will need to be rebuilt. As for the offense, team-wide slumps at crucial times over the last three years are cause for concern, but there might not be much the team can do about it right now.
Since the Dodgers were purchased by Guggenheim, they’ve been the rumored landing spot for every big-ticket name on the offseason market, as they are now. While it drives headlines to link them to Trevor Bauer, DJ LeMahieu and Francisco Lindor, they usually buy on sale, especially when those players have Tampa Bay ties to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Two available free agents fit that low-risk, high-reward reclamation profile -- reliever Kirby Yates and starter Chris Archer. Yates is coming off surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow. If he’s healthy, Yates and his splitter would provide an intriguing and contrasting alternative to newly acquired Corey Knebel, if Kenley Jansen can’t regain his dominance. Archer had more serious surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, so he’s riskier, but the Dodgers can afford to wait out his recovery.
Kevin Gausman is back in the fold after accepting a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer, but the starting rotation remains an area of need for the Giants, who have at least two spots to fill after losing Drew Smyly to the Braves and non-tendering Tyler Anderson. There are several intriguing free-agent arms available, so expect San Francisco to canvass the market in an attempt to upgrade a group that ranked 21st in the Majors with a 4.99 ERA in 2020. Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer is the biggest name out there, but the Giants seem more likely to restock their depth by targeting a couple of starters who are looking to rebuild their value after subpar seasons. James Paxton, Jake Odorizzi, Carlos Rodón and Jon Lester are among the potential fits for the Giants, who have become a desirable destination for free-agent pitchers following their success with recent reclamation projects like Gausman, Smyly and Drew Pomeranz.
With Mike Clevinger out for the 2021 season following Tommy John surgery, the Padres suddenly need to make up those innings somewhere. No doubt, Clevinger is a huge loss. But the team has several avenues to fill the void. The Padres have quality internal options, including top pitching prospects Luis Patiño and MacKenzie Gore. They're looking externally, too -- at both the trade and free-agent markets. It doesn't necessarily have to be a starter of Clevinger's stature, because the Padres' second order of business is to find a lockdown back-end reliever who will help ease some of the burden on the starting rotation. A reunion with closer Trevor Rosenthal could still be in the cards.
If trading superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado is not an inevitability, it's at least something the Rockies must explore with a seriousness that no one foresaw when he signed his eight-year, $260 million contract before the 2019 season. Already, a report that the Dodgers could be his destination has sparked a spate of similar musings. But beyond the fact the Dodgers could need to replace free agent Justin Turner at third base, is Chavez Ravine even the most feasible destination for Arenado -- due $199 million over the next six years? The immediate issue with the rumors with the Dodgers is they involve the Rockies receiving prospects or young Major League pitchers. But giving up that much inexpensive talent would require the Rockies to pay a heavy portion of Arenado's salary. Not to mention, they'd have to compete against him some 19 times a year.