Can the Colorado Rockies Keep Up with the Rest of the West?
Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Over the past couple of weeks, the National League West has seen its fair share of moves. The Giants, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks have all been active so far this offseason while the Padres have been fairly quiet. The Rockies made one move with today’s Ian Desmond signing … but is that enough to keep up in the division?
With that question in mind, let’s look at the other three division contenders who made offseason moves. They have made plenty. Are they enough to keep the postseason hopefully Rockies on the outside looking in again in October?
We will start with the reigning division champs, the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have not added any new players but over the past couple days have retained three key contributors from last year’s team, re-signing closer Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner. These two moves along with the three-year deal they agreed on with mid-season acquisition Rich Hill were the main offseason goals for LA.
The Dodgers other moves so far this offseason have been mostly to shed some payroll as they traded Howie Kendrick to the Phillies, and Carlos Ruiz to the Mariners. In return, the Dodgers have received Vidal Nuno, Darnell Sweeney and Darin Ruf, who all have minimal major league experience and may not factor into next year’s plan.
The Dodgers will have one of the best rotations in the league led by arguably the best pitcher in the game, Clayton Kershaw. Hill, Kenta Maeda, and highly touted prospects Julio Urias and Jose DeLeon could give them the best rotation in the division. The offense will be the question mark as Corey Seager and Turner seem the only sure things in the lineup. The Dodgers have been connected with reliever Greg Holland, as well as second baseman Brian Dozier.
If they can pull off some trades to improve the offense, the Dodgers will once again be a force in the NL West.
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Oct 1, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Mark Melancon (43) jogs onto the field from the bullpen against the Miami Marlins in the eighth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The San Francisco Giants also made a splash in the offseason, grabbing Mark Melancon from the free agent pool. The four-year, $62 million dollar deal was too much for the Rockies and other teams to compete with. The Giants hope that Melancon will be the difference for a bullpen that struggled mightily in 2016.
The rest of the pitching corps will look largely the same as last year. Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto will lead the rotation with Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore giving them four very solid starters.
Clearly, the pitching should be very good again but it is hard to know what to expect from the offense, who ranked 27th in runs scored following the All-Star break last year. The Giants have not added any big bats, and seemingly will count on Eduardo Nunez at third base and a combination of Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker in left field. There appear to be some holes in the lineup for San Francisco but that seems to be the situation every year and they always find a way to win. If Melancon and the bullpen can hold on to slim leads, the Giants will again be hard to beat.
Aug 19, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcher Fernando Rodney (56) reacts after earning a save against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the ninth inning at PNC Park. Miami won 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The major player in the 2015 offseason was the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been fairly quiet this year. The Diamondbacks have so far signed catcher Jeff Mathis to replace Welington Castillo, and also added reliever Fernando Rodney to the bullpen. The biggest move was trading Jean Segura and two prospects to the Mariners for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte. Walker will have high expectations to bolster a rotation that was one of the biggest disappointments in all of baseball last year. The Diamondbacks will hope for bounce back years from Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller.
The biggest addition for the Diamondbacks will be A.J. Pollock, who had turned himself into a superstar in 2015 before missing almost all of 2016 with an elbow injury. The Diamondbacks offense is always good, especially at Chase Field, so adding Pollock back into the mix along with David Peralta should be enough to make up for the absence of Jean Segura, especially if Brandon Drury, Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb can build upon breakout years in 2016.
The Diamondbacks could find themselves in the mix in 2017 if the pitching staff can play at their highest potential.
Oct 7, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers center fielder Ian Desmond (20) hits an RBI single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fourth inning of game two of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball series at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
So where do the Rockies fit among these teams? In my opinion, they will have the best offense in the NL West again. With Ian Desmond inked to a five-year deal, the Rockies will be able to play him anywhere on the diamond and have an above average hitter. That will make the offense very scary.
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The pitching will be the big question mark as always. The Rockies were unable to keep up financially with the Giants for Melancon and were never even in the conversation for Hill or Jansen. This is nothing new as starters and relievers often avoid Coors Field and the Rockies haven’t been willing in recent years to loosen their wallets enough to make it worth their while.
This year may be different with the signing of Desmond … perhaps the first of many offseason moves for the Rockies. If they can sign a first baseman and let Desmond play in the outfield, they would have some very interesting options. If trading Charlie Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez could allow Jeff Bridich to snag a starter, reliever or both, the Rockies will have bettered the offseason improvements of their division rivals.
The division outlook will likely depend on Bridich’s ability to do this. The signing of Desmond seems like it could be the first step of him creatively acquiring the pitching the Rockies need to win the offseason.