The Dodgers rolled through the regular season, but bowed out in the Division Series. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants did their even year thing once again and claimed their third title in five seasons with a roster where free agency was almost an afterthought. Titles aren’t won in the offseason, and the Giants are continually proof of that.
Free agents: none
It’s a new era in Phoenix, and honestly, I can’t see the Diamondbacks being very active in the free agency market this winter. The only player they lost was Eric Chavez, who retired and took a job in the Yankees front office. Arizona’s got several enticing, major league ready options in the outfield and infield, and they’ll probably look to trade from that depth (Mark Trumbo, Didi Gregorius, etc) to improve their club in 2015.
Arizona can jump back into contention next year with the players they have. This team was crushed by injuries last year, losing three pitchers to Tommy John surgery and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to a broken hand (among many others). With several pitching prospects knocking on the door, Arizona would be best served simply not spending much money to fill holes this winter and trading from their surplus of infielders and outfielders to position themselves well for next year.
Free agents: Brett Anderson, Matt Belisle, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Masset, Franklin Morales
Needs: pitching, pitching, and more pitching
It’s always the same damn story in Colorado. The Rockies have a great offense, no pitching staff, and that ends up biting them in the ass. They’re in a better position this winter than in prior offseasons, and their rotation actually looks…not half bad. However, the bullpen appears to be shaky, and the team could be shot in the foot if Michael Cuddyer accepts their qualifying offer. That will likely necessitate a trade of either Carlos Gonzalez, but given Gonzalez’s injury concerns, that might not be the worst thing in the world.
I highly doubt the Rockies will be sniffing around much in the way of offensive talent, and if they do dip into the free agent market to bolster their pitching staff, they probably won’t be making a huge splash – think guys like former Rockie Brett Anderson.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Free agents: Kevin Correia, Roberto Hernandez, Paul Maholm, Chris Perez, Hanley Ramirez, Jamey Wright
Needs: Bullpen, shortstop?, starting pitcher?
Andrew Friedman has two tasks in Los Angeles – make the Dodgers bullpen not suck, and find a way to rid the club of one of their ugly outfield contracts. Ned Colleti’s bullpen-building method, namely, throwing money at pitchers he’s heard of, blew up in his face down the stretch last season, and Friedman will likely do a better job at putting competent arms in front of dominant closer Kenley Jansen. As for *who* Friedman will target, I really have no idea. With the Rays, he had much success with rescuing guys like J.P. Howell, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney off the scrap heap for peanuts – could a strategy like that play out once again?
The Dodgers also have a bit of a problem in their outfield. Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp are all making eight figures, and the presence of Yasiel Puig and top prospect Joc Pederson has created a logjam. Managing to dump one of those contracts would give the Dodgers more flexibility in the outfield to play their three best instead of trying to shoehorn declining veterans into the lineup.
The shortstop vacancy is almost a tertiary priority in regards to this year’s Dodgers team. Cuban signee Erisbel Arruebarrena could take over, but he hasn’t hit for a lick since the club signed him in February. If only the Dodgers could merge him with fellow Cuban Alex Guerrero, who can hit but can’t field. If Hanley Ramirez doesn’t re-sign with the club, given their other priorities, going with Arruebarrena might be the most prudent course of action.
San Diego Padres
Free agents: Josh Johnson, Tim Stauffer
Needs: Outfield? I have no idea
The San Diego Padres are a franchise that could best be described as “interesting” going into 2015. They’ve actually got a pretty solid, young rotation, led by Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, and Tyson Ross. Their bullpen remains solid, even after the trades of Luke Gregerson and Huston Street over the last year. It’s the offense that’s a problem, and the Padres have made their best with the guys they have. Their outfield consists of three 30-somethings and Cameron Maybin, who can’t stay on the field. They’ve continually got nothing out of first base, and catcher Yasmani Grandal took over at the position when Yonder Alonso went on the DL. Second baseman Jedd Gyorko is signed long-term, but took a monumental step back in 2014. Shortstop and 2013 breakout player Everth Cabrera fell into a black hole in 2014. Their third baseman is Yangervis Solarte, a minor league journeyman acquired in the Chase Headley trade.
The Padres need to do better offensively, but financial constraints have put them in an impossible position. I see no reason for them to not try to move some of their veteran hitters and go young across the board – at least try to build towards something instead of constantly hanging out in neutral.
San Francisco Giants
Free agents: Michael Morse, Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong
Needs: Starting pitching, bullpen, third base
The defending champions don’t need to rebuild – they can reload. Yes, some very important players are free agents this winter. But the club already has in-house replacements that missed time in 2014 because of injury. Angel Pagan can take back over in center, shifting Gregor Blanco to Michael Morse’s spot in left. With Joe Panik now entrenched at second base, the returning Marco Scutaro can slide over to third if Pablo Sandoval skips town. The rotation spots of Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong can be devoured by Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, fresh off of a bullpen stint. The Giants have plenty of live arms in the upper minors to replace Lincecum and Sergio Romo in the bullpen. It’s all about continuity here, and San Francisco doesn’t need to rock the boat if they lose their departing stars.