Most pressing questions facing NL West clubs
Ready or not, the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches. It's 40 days away as of Thursday, and the first significant in-season deal of 2018 has already taken place, with Kelvin Herrera going from Kansas City to Washington.
So while the market may not get super-hot for another few weeks, clubs have reached the point of asking themselves what they have and what they need. In light of that, MLB.com is taking a look at one question each team must answer before deciding to buy, sell or stand pat. Here's the National League West.
The question: Who looks better, sooner: A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza Jr., or Robbie Ray and Shelby Miller?
It's pretty remarkable that Arizona is in first place without so many key players, including its second-best pitcher and second-best everyday player. All four of the above names are on the comeback trail, and how quickly and effectively they all return will have an impact on what general manager Mike Hazen will decide to do.
Ray and Pollock, in particular, are the keys. Ray, returning from a strained right oblique, should provide a significant boost to a rotation that has been effective at the top but lacking in depth. Pollock, whose fractured left thumb has not progressed as quickly as he or the team might have hoped, would bring a desperately needed spark to an offense that has been anemic at times.
But whereas there's every reason to think Ray will be himself when he returns, it's less clear with Pollock. Given how problematic hand injuries can be for power hitters, it's fair to wonder how close he'll be to 100 percent effectiveness.
If Pollack comes back strong, and soon, and so does Souza, Arizona may decide it's set on the offensive side. If Pollock scuffles, and Ray and Miller (returning from Tommy John surgery) look strong, the D-backs may look to add a bat instead of a starter.
The question: Do they have enough to get from the starters to Kenley Jansen?
This is another team with quite a few issues that has done an excellent job overcoming them. But even if and when they get to full strength, there are questions about what Los Angeles has in the middle innings. And the Dodgers don't have a rotation full of guys who pitch deep into games, so they need that depth.
Still, even if the front office decides it does need relief help, that doesn't necessarily mean it will add a reliever. The Dodgers could, for example, get a starter and move Kenta Maeda to the bullpen. There are lots of options here.
The question: How good are they, really? And will we even get the chance to find out?
The Giants aren't going to sell. Of that we can be pretty confident. But that doesn't mean they'll aggressively buy, either. It will depend in part on, well, just how good this team is.
And the thing is, that's hard to know. They're now going to do without Hunter Strickland for a couple of months. He joins Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Evan Longoria as big pieces on the DL.
With all those missing pieces, San Francisco has battled to a record a bit below .500, and it deserves credit for that. But if the Giants are still around even in late July, they probably won't add aggressively. If we get some read that a healthy San Francisco team could push deep into October, you might see some significant activity.
The question: Who's part of the core?
Odds are the Padres will sell. They've remained competitive, and there are reasons to be optimistic about their rebuild. But they're not going to be buyers, barring something shocking.
So the question becomes, whom do they trade? Brad Hand, the most talked about potential trade asset, is signed through 2020 with an option for '21. There's no need to move him without getting real value in return.
San Diego has a glut of outfielders, some of whom could be used to help keep the rebuild going. If, for example, it decides Hunter Renfroe is not a core piece, then he could be moved.
Then there's someone like Christian Villanueva, who has been a revelation this year. It's highly unlikely that the Padres will move him, but they do need to decide whether they view him as a building block or as a complementary piece.
San Diego will make moves, but it's time to figure out who the club believes will still be around when the rebuild is over.
The question: Can they trust any of their high-dollar relievers?
Colorado committed more than $100 million to relievers this offseason, adding Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw and re-signing Jake McGee. To say it has gone poorly might actually be generous. Davis' high-4s ERA is the best of the bunch. Adam Ottavino has been brilliant, but the rest of the bullpen has been a big problem for the Rox.
The problem is, the Rockies have made long-term commitments to all three guys. All are signed beyond 2018. So the ideal thing would be for at least one or two of them to get going. Regardless, they may decide their greatest need is relief pitching (though they also really need a bat or two).
But it will be more of a surgical strike if Colorado can regain some confidence in at least one of its signees, rather than potentially needing an overhaul if all three continue to struggle.