1. Los Angeles Dodgers –
Biggest Need: Shed Some Dead Weight
The Los Angeles Dodgers ended up being my biggest shock in 2018. You might be wondering how the hell a team with the biggest payroll in baseball could shock me by reaching the World Series. Truth be told that’s because I had little faith in them getting anywhere this postseason. Roughly a week away from the close of the regular season, the Dodgers weren’t in the playoffs at all. A late surge pushed them up through the Wild Card and led to them winning their division in a one game playoff with the Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers proceeded to walk briskly past the inexperience Atlanta Braves and it took a Game 7 decider for them to finally put down the Brewers. With the money that LA spends, they surely shouldn’t be struggling this much, especially in a spectacularly underwhelming National League in 2018.
The Dodgers are eventually going to spend absurd amounts of money, in the offseason to maintain their slot atop baseball’s payroll giants. But before they start handing out blank checks to all of the free agents they fancy, they might want to take a moment to reevaluate some of the mega-millions deals they’re still paying the guys on their roster. If I’m the Dodgers, I’m looking at guys like Matt Kemp, Rich Hill, & Kenley Jansen who combined account for roughly $60 Million of the Dodgers’ 2019 payroll. All of them have proved both their worth but the Dodgers have a logjam at these positions with a host of youngsters slowly starting to break through into big league roles. Moving these three for solid returns might be ideal especially when considering what the Dodgers appear to be hunting this winter.
It would appear the Dodgers are all in on Bryce Harper, giving them an answer to crosstown rivals the Angels, and Mike Trout. Now in their current state, this just comes across as a spoil of riches unless for some reason Harper agrees to return to his roots as a Catcher (you’re more likely to see him play first in NY). The Dodgers’ prime focus should be on securing a backstop, and if they can’t find a way to woo Yasmani Grandal back to Hollywood, then why not kick the tires on a deal for the Royals’ Salvador Perez.
2. Colorado Rockies –
Biggest Need: Pitching, Pitching and More Pitching
Now this has single-handedly been the biggest gripe with the Rockies for the better part of the last 27 years. Translation: since the dawn of the franchise. Whether you attribute it to high altitude, close fences, or poor front office maneuvering, the Rockies have never been able to cultivate a capable pitching staff. Contrary to popular belief however, it is very much possible for a pitcher in Colorado to have success. In the mid-2000s we watched Ubaldo Jimenez jump start his career in the rocky mountain state with a slew of great performances.
This offense is already set, potent, and built to bash. Throw in the park that they play 81 games a year in, and guys like Trevor Sotry and Nolan Arenado will be able to lead a juggernaut lineup year in and year out. Now though they need to officially embark on a spending spree to usurp the Dodgers in the West as they nearly did this year. Of the upmost priority this winter needs to be a front line starter and would there really be a better way to build a rotation than with a man already familiar and successful within your division: Patrick Corbin.
Next up, try and sure up your bullpen. The beauty of this free agent class is that the bullpen possibilities are fairly deep. A team like the Rockies, not known for spending a ton could bolster their ‘pen with midtier talent as a cost efficient solution.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks –
Biggest Need: FIRESALE!
At the start of the 2018 season, the DBacks seemed poised to blow through the National League to combat rumors that they were done. By mid-June however they found themselves slipping down the standings quickly, playing far more true to what those in the know thought they would be after losing JD Martinez last winter. Now we see them in the sports world’s dreaded mid-card. They’re too good to get choice selections in the draft or give youngsters a chance in the big leagues, but not good enough to actually contend even in their own division.
The answer now is quite obvious, since they’re likely to lose Patrick Corbin in the coming months to free agency and Paul Goldschmidt next year to a similar fate; sell it all. Why wait for your stars to abandon you with minimal to no return on investment? Instead you can speed up your decline in an effort to revamp your roster in a shorter time period as well. Hound the market at the Winter Meetings looking for prime prospects in exchange for your All-Stars. Goldschmidt is an MVP-candidate every year and a multi-time gold glove winner at first base…few teams if any wouldn’t want to lock that up today to avoid having to painfully negotiate next winter in free agency without a track record of success together.
You won’t get as strong a package for the likes of Zack Greinke, but moving him and his massive contract is a must if you have any intention of moving on towards the future. Arizona’s windows might have closed with the rise of the Rockies, but if you play your cards right now you could be back in the game in the not so distant future.
4. San Francisco Giants –
Biggest Need: New Direction
There’s an easy Glee reference here where I imply that Bruce Bochy needs to do his best Mr. Schuester impression and give this band of misfits “New Directions” and leads them to a championship. But quite frankly that was way too good of a show to have a reference be wasted on this incarnation of the San Francisco Giants. So between the Cubs winning in 2016 and the Red Sox in 2018…that whole even year nonsense can definitely be laid to rest now right? Great because it’s time for something of a roster overhaul in the Bay that is long overdue.
Gone for this franchise are the days of a juiced up Barry Bonds was hitting 50+ bombs a year, that park isn’t built to see sluggers succeed. I understand that this era of baseball in which the three true out comes (homers, walks, strikeouts) are all that matter, but no team playing half of their games at AT&T Stadium is going to see success when hedging their bets on the long ball. Pitching was once a given with this franchise, and while it has tailed off drastically in recent years it is reasonable to suspect that they could right the ship pretty easily in a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
Offensively this team needs to make a splash as a contact and small ball type of team a la the 2015 Kansas City Royals. While this style of play didn’t stick for long and certainly isn’t found in the rest of baseball today, if the Giants can bring in the right crop of contact and speed guys they could run the table (no pun intended) out West sooner than you might think.
5. San Diego Padres –
Biggest Need: Find An Identity
Here’s what you have to understand about the difference between the Padres and the Giants: the Giants are currently barking up the wrong tree…the Padres aren’t even in the park. The boys from San Diego made a splash in the form of Eric Hosmer last winter, but have done little else since then. It seems as though they were waiting for youngsters Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe to take a step up in their development and craft their identity in their image…but when neither reached for that next level they were forced to just sit on their hands.
That shouldn’t be a legitimate strategy for any major league front office in 2018. Just waiting for the prospects to bloom isn’t enough anymore, especially when in 2017-2018 splits you’re not seeing the drastic improvements you were expecting. Instead the Padres need to set the course and force feed an ideology to their budding-ballplayers. No farmer just lets his crops grow freely, he carefully conforms their growth to a pre-established system. Now if you’re looking to play small ball, then make sure your youngsters are learning how to do so. If you’re trying to slug it out with the best of them, then curate a minor league system that can give you power-bats.
The immediate goal for the Padres has to be setting a course and bringing in the correct set of veterans who help mold their younger pieces into that system.