Results tagged ‘ Dodgers ’

Where the Angels are and where they might be …

Howie KendrickThere’s a lot to take in from the Winter Meetings, and though the Angels’ moves weren’t among the most eventful in the just-completed four-day stint in San Diego, they were active nonetheless. Jerry Dipoto acquired a left-handed bat, a backup catcher and a couple of utility infielders, and most notably, he traded the Angels’ longtime second baseman for one of baseball’s best pitching prospects.

Some of you have asked for my take, but I think it’s best to reserve judgment, because more than two months remain until Spring Training and there’s a good chance — though Dipoto has stressed how much he likes his roster as it stands — that the Angels aren’t done.

What will they do next? I don’t know. And Dipoto may not be so sure, either. I don’t think he was actively shopping Howie Kendrick; using Hank Conger to acquire Nick Tropeano in early November negated the need to part ways with a position player to acquire cost-controlled starting pitching. I think he was planning on going into Spring Training with his roster mostly intact (plus a utility infielder or two), then came the opportunity to use Kendrick to acquire Andrew Heaney and he simply couldn’t walk away from it.

Now he has plenty of starting-pitching depth (Jered Weaver, Garrett Richards, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Heaney, Tropeano, Jose Alvarez, Alex Sanabia, Drew Rucinski project to make up the Major League and Triple-A rotations, with Tyler Skaggs back in 2016) and is roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold. It’s a flexibility Dipoto didn’t foresee having, and now he’s open to where that takes him the rest of the winter.

Maybe he uses that payroll flexibility, or even that pitching depth, to get a middle-of-the-order bat.

Maybe he does nothing.

We don’t know what will happen. All we have to go on is what did happen. Below is a list of 40-man-roster players added and given up by the Angels thus far, listed with their projected cost and the cumulative amount of years they’re controllable for.

Players lost

Howie Kendrick
Hank Conger
Jairo Diaz
Mark Sappington

Projected cost: $11.6M
Years of control: 16

Players gained

Andrew Heaney
Nick Tropeano
Josh Rutledge
Cesar Ramos
Jeremy McBryde
Marc Krauss
Drew Butera
Carlos Perez
Taylor Featherston
Daniel Robertson

Projected cost: $6.2M
Years of control: 49

Marlins Phillies BaseballYou can make two definitive statements from these moves, takeaways that really came to light with the attention-grabbing moves made late Wednesday night

1. The Angels are better long-term, and really, that’s the whole point here. When you’re a team with so much money tied to aging players like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Weaver and Wilson, and want to stay below the luxury-tax threshold, it’s crucial to accrue players on the other side of the roster. The Angels had that, with Mike Trout (granted, now also expensive), Kole Calhoun, Mike Morin, Richards, Shoemaker and Santiago producing in the early stages of their prime last year. And now they have a lot of Major League-ready pitching depth, for the rotation and the bullpen.

2. The Angels are worse short-term, though Dipoto may argue that. Shrewd as it was to flip one year of control with Kendrick for six years of control with Heaney, there’s no discounting how difficult it will be for the Angels to make up for Kendrick’s contributions offensively and defensively. Heaney, the 18th-best prospect in baseball, has a bright future, but he hasn’t proven anything yet, and it remains to be seen if either he or Tropeano will be any better than Santiago in 2015 (the three will compete for the last spot of the rotation).

This is the Dipoto quote that summed up Wednesday’s trade best …

The goal is to figure out how to get younger, better, more cost-effective, put yourself in a situation where you can sustain winning. It’s not to get a bunch of guys that everybody has heard of all the time and run them out there and let it flame out. We’re trying to find a way to turn a veteran roster into a veteran roster that can compete now with the elements that are young and can continue to sustain moving forward. The heaviest criticism of the Angels over the last 10 years are that we’re getting older, or that we’re in a short window to win. I think we’re more sustainable than that.

But it’s all about winning the World Series. And while it’s volatile to continually spend in the free-agent market and disregard the importance of controllable, optionable assets, winning the World Series is all that matters to Arte Moreno.

What makes Dipoto so great is that he’s a visionary, is always a few steps ahead and perpetually keeps a keen eye towards the future.

But can he have the best of both worlds?

Can he have a team that’s set up to remain competitive for a long stretch of time without at least somewhat mortgaging immediate championship hopes, particularly with an Angels team that’s coming off a 98-win season and may currently look just a tad worse on the Major League side?

That’s what I’m wondering.

Alden

Butera acquired from Dodgers for PTBNL or cash …

The Angels acquired veteran catcher Drew Butera for a player to be named later or cash considerations on Tuesday, addressing their need for depth behind the plate in the second day of the Winter Meetings.

Butera, 31, will compete with Carlos Perez, Jackson Williams and Jett Bandy for the backup job behind Chris Iannetta, but unlike the other three players, Butera can’t be optioned to the Minor Leagues.

“Some combination of Drew Butera and that group of three guys are going to make up the games in the big leagues that Chris does not catch for us,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said, “and we feel comfortable with that.”

Butera has posted a .183/.239/.268 slash line while appearing in 251 games in the Majors from 2010-14, a span that saw the Orlando product mostly serve as a backup for the Twins and Dodgers. During that time, Butera – designated for assignment when the Dodgers claimed Ryan Lavarnway off waivers – has thrown out 33 percent of would-be base stealers.

“His defensive skill set is awesome,” Dipoto said. “He can really catch, can really throw, calls a good game, has the experience of being with good teams, catching good pitching staffs. He has a tremendous defensive reputation that certainly outdistances his offensive reputation, but we feel like he’s a nice fit for us.”

With Butera acquired, and the left-handed-hitting Marc Krauss claimed off waivers from the Astros on Monday, Dipoto’s only glaring need is a backup infielder. The Angels’ GM remains interested in resigning Gordon Beckham and has had dialogue with several teams about acquiring an optionable middle infielder, perhaps in exchange for one of his right-handed relievers.

Signing Beckham and trading for an infielder “don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” Dipoto said, given the Angels’ need for organizational infield depth.

“We’re on the lookout,” Dipoto added. “We’re still actively discussing possibilities that line up for us in the Rule 5 Draft and we’ve talked to a variety of teams regarding trades for that type of player. In the meantime, we’ll just keep our ears to the street.”

Alden

CJ: ‘”I have my good stuff; I’m just not locating’ …

C.J. WilsonFor C.J. Wilson, it’s quite simple: He isn’t throwing strikes.

“I have my good stuff; I’m just not locating it precisely,” Wilson said. “Precision is the issue.”

Wilson threw 46 of his 100 pitches for balls in Thursday’s 7-0 loss to the Dodgers. Of the 26 batters he faced, he started off 1-0 10 times and got into three-ball counts nine times. His strike percentage is now 58.6, which would represent a career low (it was 61.4 percent in his previous four years as a starter). His walk rate is 3.94, on pace to be his highest since 2012. And over his last five starts, a stretch in which he’s posted an 11.10 ERA, Wilson has issued 14 walks and two hit batters in 18 2/3 innings.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said “this is probably the worst C.J. has struggled since he’s been a starting pitcher,” which is obvious. “But,” he added, “seeing how hard C.J. works, and seeing that it doesn’t look like it’s anything physical with him, we’re very confident that he’s going to get back on that beam and do what we need him to do.”

Stuff-wise, Chris Iannetta said, Wilson was “much better” from where he was in a six-run, 1 1/3-inning outing against the Rays on Saturday, his first since coming off the disabled list with a right ankle sprain.

“But that’s not saying much,” Wilson added, “because I think I could’ve thrown right-handed and pitched better last time.”

Wilson threw a 60-pitch bullpen session between starts, mainly because he only threw 50 of them in his previous game. Stamina-wise, he feels good. And besides a curveball that had way more bite than he wanted to on Thursday, his stuff is good. But he just can’t put it where he wants.

Here’s how Wilson explained it …

The location is the issue. There’s no issue with stuff or anything else; it’s just location. Today, you can watch the game, you can see the guys that are getting hits that are hitting the ball on the ground. They’re breaking their bats, balls are flaring in there. [Juan] Uribe hit the ball hard, but it’s not like dudes are taking Billy Madison swings and hitting balls off the rocks. The stuff is decent — making guys miss, striking guys out. It’s just the walks. It’s getting to the point where I’m throwing the ball at the corner and it’s not on the corner; it’s off the corner. Or trying to go in and it’s a little bit too far in. If you went through the video and watched every single pitch, the misses that I had tonight were pretty good misses for the most part.

Not good enough. Not by a long shot. Wilson is supposed to be the No. 2 starter in this rotation, a key cog for a team with World Series aspirations. But he’s 8-8 with a 4.82 ERA that’s the third-highest among qualified American League starters. And he’s scuffling at a time when the Angels need starting-pitching help more than ever.

Is he confident it’ll turn around?

“Very confident,” Wilson said, “because the quality of the stuff is there.”

Alden

Hector Santiago: Signed-jersey collector …

Juan Uribe, Hector SantiagoJust as Hector Santiago was lacing up his spikes to take the mound for his Dodger Stadium start on Tuesday night, one of the Dodgers’ clubhouse attendants came over with a jersey, signed by his ensuing opponent, Clayton Kershaw, just as the Angels’ left-hander had requested.

Awkward.

“Yeah,” Santiago said, smiling. “No doubt.”

But Santiago can’t help himself. He’s an avid collector of signed baseball jerseys, with a multitude of opportunities as a Major League player. In his new Arizona home is a two-car garage he turned into his own, personal man cave, with the entire wall space taken up by about 30 signed jerseys. Fifteen more are framed in his personal gymnasium, and several others are scattered in his closet.

How many does he have?

“Whew,” Santiago said. “I’m gonna go with … 150? Right around there.”

The Kershaw-signed jersey was sent along with ones from Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and hitting coach Mark McGwire, joining several recent ones that will be framed soon (Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Billy Williams, Rollie Fingers and Hank Aaron, which Santiago was already offered $4,500 for but will not sell).

“I’m doing pretty good,” Santiago said.

The 26-year-old thought of sending Kershaw his own autographed jersey, even though the Dodgers’ ace didn’t really ask for it, in the hopes that Kershaw would “give me a meatball” when he came to bat.

“But no, he wants to paint fastballs on the black to me,” Santiago said after going 0-for-1 with a sac bunt at the plate, and giving up four runs (three earned) in 5 1/3 innings of the Angels’ 5-4 walk-off loss.

Santiago never got the chance to thank Kershaw, but he’ll try to on Wednesday.

“Maybe I’ll send him my signed broken bat.”

Alden

Trout on Dodger Stadium boos: ‘It pumps me up’ …

Mike Trout, Dee GordonMike Trout was asked about the loud boos he heard from the Angels’ crosstown rival on Monday night, and the star center fielder couldn’t help but smile.

“It’s how baseball should be, you know?” Trout said after the Angels’ 5-0 win at Dodger Stadium. “Little rivalries, cross-town. It’s fun for me.”

Asked how he takes it when fans — in this case, 53,166 — boo him in an opposing ballpark, Trout said: “Oh, it pumps me up. Definitely. When you hear them, that means they’re paying attention to the game and they’re in the game. It’s pretty cool.”

Trout had some fun with it, too. Particularly in the sixth, when he made a couple of running catches, noticed that his face was on the Jumbotron and playfully grinned at Dodgers fans, igniting more boos for a player who’s revered throughout baseball.

“I’m just having fun out there,” Trout said. “That’s why we play the game; have fun. Fans out there bring excitement to you. A lot more boos, but I expect that at Dodger Stadium. It’s going to be a fun next couple of days, for sure.”

Alden

For Morin, trip to the beach is a trip to the DL …

Mike MorinMike Morin was walking on the beach in St. Petersburg, Fla., with a couple of friends Saturday night and cut the bottom of his foot on an unknown object, prompting four stitches and a trip to the disabled list for the Angels’ rookie reliever.

The 23-year-old right-hander – with a 2.36 ERA in 41 appearances – doesn’t require a walking boot and expects to return by the time his disabled-list stint is up in a couple weeks.

But the nature of the ailment made it a difficult one to come to grips with.

“This is pretty tough, especially because this is such an important time for us right now,” Morin said. “It’s something that I need to move forward from, and just try to help this team in other ways. I’m staying positive.”

Some other notes for the Freeway Series opener …

  • Tyler Skaggs got another MRI, this one with a contrasting agent, that confirmed he has a strain in his flexor tendon. “Very happy,” Skaggs said. The 23-year-old isn’t sure when he’ll be back, but he’s confident it’ll happen before the end of the regular season.
  • Collin Cowgill was activated off the disabled list, as the corresponding move for Morin landing on the DL, and feels no restrictions with his right thumb.
  • Joe Thatcher got an MRI on Monday that confirmed a ligament sprain in his left ankle. He’s in a walking boot now, but expects to be back in three to four weeks.
  • The Angels have not lost a season series to the Dodgers since 2006. They’re 15-7 in their last 22 games against the Dodgers.
  • Tommy Lasorda made sure he got a picture with Mike Trout pregame. The Hall of Fame manager previously took a pic with the 22-year-old phenom at a basketball game, but never got it, so he made sure to pose with him Monday. “Keep playing how you’re playing; keep talking how you’re talking,” Lasorda told Trout.

Alden

De La Rosa diagnosed with a forearm strain …

Dane De La Rosa, Scott Van SlykeDane De La Rosa‘s forearm injury, which caused a rough outing against the Dodgers on Thursday and prompted him to leave the game early, was diagnosed as a sprain, an MRI confirmed, and the Angels’ power reliever doesn’t believe he’ll start the season on the disabled list.

“I doubt  it,” a relieved De La Rosa said Friday morning, while hooked up to an electronic muscle massager.

“I should be fine. I’m not sure about the timeline, I can’t really say, but it won’t be too long.”

Starting the sixth inning from Tempe Diablo Stadium, De La Rosa — the journeyman 31-year-old coming off a breakout season in 2013 — allowed five of the seven batters he faced to reach and served up a grand slam to Scott Van Slyke. With two outs in the inning, he was checked on by the Angels’ medical staff and removed from the game.

“I just didn’t feel the ball,” De La Rosa said. “There were a few times when I just had no idea where it was going. I just couldn’t feel fingertips. If you can’t feel your fingertips when you’re pitching, it’s not a good thing.”

De La Rosa said he and the Angels will “attack [rehab] pretty aggressively,” but he didn’t have a gauge on a timeline because he hasn’t visited with the team’s medical staff yet. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said a return by Opening Day, on March 31, is “still realistic because he’s a bullpen guy, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

De La Rosa earned the nickname “Everyday Dane” last season for the frequency of his usage. He pitched in 75 games, fifth-most in the American League, while posting a 2.86 ERA and emerging as the team’s setup man down the stretch.

Asked if all those appearances have caught up with De La Rosa, Scioscia said: “I mean, his bullpens have been great. He didn’t show any signs of anything last year. But I don’t know if you ever really know.”

  • C.J. Wilson on Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away on Thursday: “The pitcher’s elbow is like Humpty Dumpty, and he figured out how to put it back together again.” The Angels left-hander, like many, believes guys like Dr. Jobe and Dr. Lewis Yocum, who passed away last year, should be enshrined in Cooperstown.
  • The Angels will meet with Major League Baseball at some point in the next week, where they’ll look at video of Thursday’s play at home plate. Scioscia said the meeting was pre-planned and not a reaction to yesterday’s play. Mike Trout was looking at pictures of his slide on his phone in the clubhouse and said he’s still confused about Rule 7.13 on home-plate collisions. Many are. “Guess I have to do my homework,” he said.
  • Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is in full uniform today and was chatting up with Trout during warmups. He’ll shag fly balls and take batting practice. Albert Pujols has played golf with him several times and, not surprisingly, says he can drive the ball a long, long way.
  • Catcher John Hester is fine after taking a fastball to his left wrist in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game. He didn’t require X-rays and may even play against the Rockies today.
  • Today is the Angels’ first split-squad game of the spring. Triple-A manager Keith Johnson will focus on the offense, player information coach Rick Eckstein will handle the defense and Erik Bennett will be the pitching coach.
  • Some notes for the game against the Cubs in Tempe today: Kole Calhoun has led off in six of the Angels’ seven Cactus League games, so, yes, he’ll be the leadoff hitter this year. “You kind of get caught in the middle, I guess, because I do like to be aggressive but right now you kind of have to take a step back and see some more pitches,” Calhoun said. … Trout, Pujols, David Freese, Howie Kendrick, J.B. Shuck, Hank Conger and Erick Aybar are also in that lineup, with Hector Santiago starting.
  • Some notes for the game against the Rockies at Salt River Fields: Grant Green will get his first spring start at third base. … Bench competitors Andrew Romine (shortstop), Ian Stewart (first base), Collin Cowgill (center field) and Brennan Boesch (left field) are also in the lineup, with Joe Blanton starting.

Alden

Angels don’t have to wait until Opening Day with Trout

It turns out the Angels no longer have to wait until Opening Day for Mike Trout to put pen to paper on a long-term extension.

The Angels don’t want the average annual value of Trout’s potential new extension — still under negotiations — to affect their Collective Balance Tax payroll until the 2015 season, so that they don’t blow past the $189 million luxury-tax threshold in 2014. But the club recently found out, and confirmed through Major League Baseball, that they don’t necessarily have to wait until after Opening Day to have Trout sign (and subsequently announce) a long-term extension in order for that to be the case.

As soon as Trout’s compensation for 2014 is set, his AAV on a long-term deal automatically won’t count until the following season.

The rule changed shortly after Adrian Gonzalez signed a seven-year, $154 million extension with the Red Sox — a deal that was being talked about in December 2010 and wasn’t signed until the following April for CBT purposes — but it’s unclear when it was adopted.

The purpose for the change was to guard against teams going through an entire spring without having the deal get signed because their weary of the CBT, and then having the player be subject to potential injury and the contract getting nixed.

The Angels are currently in the process of agreeing with their zero to three guys (those who are pre-arbitration), and Trout’s could get done soon. After that, he can sign an extension at any point. Neither side would comment on a potential deal on Monday, but nothing is imminent — despite a Sunday report from Yahoo! Sports that the Angels and Trout are working on a six-year, $150 million contract.

Alden

Pondering a Mike Trout extension …

troutMike Trout spoke to reporters in Arizona for the first time on Wednesday, but before taking questions for 15 minutes, the Angels’ 22-year-old center fielder wanted to say one thing.

I know what you guys are gonna ask. I’m here to get ready for the season. I don’t want to comment on the contract negotiations and stuff. I’m here to just get ready, prepare myself for the upcoming season.

Trout may not talk about it publicly, but his agent and the Angels will surely continue to have dialogue.

The Angels, owner Arte Moreno confirmed, are in “active discussions” with Trout and his agent, Craig Landis, over a long-term deal even though he’s still four years away from free agency. The reason is three-fold: (1) The last thing the Angels want to do is go into a complex, record-breaking, all-over-the-Internet arbitration hearing with Trout next season; (2) signing him to a deal will give the organization some much-needed cost certainty; (3) duh, they’d like to buy out some of his free-agent years before it’s too late.

An important note about a potential Trout extension, which is worth repeating: Even if both sides agree to terms tomorrow, Trout can’t sign the deal (and thus the Angels can’t announce it) until after Opening Day because the organization doesn’t want it to count towards its Collective Balance Tax payroll until 2015, when Vernon Wells and Joe Blanton are off the books and the Angels have more wiggle room.

I explained it in more detail here, but here’s the gist: The CBT payroll, used by Major League Baseball to determine which teams will be taxed for going over the luxury-tax threshold, takes into account the average annual value of contracts, not the yearly breakdown. So, if Trout signs a 10-year, $300 million deal, that would be $30 million counting towards the CBT payroll, even if Trout is only making $15 million in Year 1.

Now, having said all that … I don’t think Trout becomes baseball’s first $300-million player.

That’s the shiny round number everybody keeps been throwing out, but it’d be hard for me to see Trout get that given his service time and his camp’s desire to set him up for two mega contracts.

Let’s say Trout doesn’t sign an extension, so he goes to arbitration and shatters every record based on service time. And let’s say that has him making $15 million as a first-year arbitration-eligible player, $20 million as a second-year arbitration-eligible player and $25 million as a third-year arbitration-eligible player. (That, by the way, is quite generous.) If he gets that, and you factor that into the breakdown of a 10-year, $300 million deal, then in his seven free-agent years, that contract is carrying an AAV north of $34 million.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw just recently set the record for AAV with a seven-year contract that pays him more than $30.7 million annually — but he signed it with one year left before free agency.

The Angels, in my opinion, are still at a point where they can offer less AAV than that and still give Trout’s camp incentive to take it. Why? Because there are no certainties in this game. Trout is the best all-around player in the game, but he’s a whole four years away from free agency. A lot can happen — injuries, under-performance — and it’d be hard to walk away from so much guaranteed money this early. That’s why clubs do this.

The question, of course, is: What’s the price that makes both sides comfortable?

I had this conversation with Jim Bowden while on MLB Network Radio recently. Bowden, whose opinion I respect, said if he’s Trout’s agent, he’s demanding that the Angels pay him more than any other player in baseball if they want to buy out some of his free-agent years. And so I said: What if the Angels offered a long-term contract with, say, an AAV of $22 million (just throwing out a lower number, that may end up being too low)? Would you really turn that down with so much time left before free agency?

“I’d take that risk with that player,” Bowden said.

Fair point. If ever there was a guy to take a risk like that one, it’s probably Trout.

And that’s what makes this all so fascinating.

My guess (and that’s all this is)? I’d say a $35 million AAV for his four free-agent years (Kershaw maxes out at $33 million by 2017). Given that, the (perhaps generous) arbitration projections and the potential desire to make Trout a free agent again at or just before age 30 — seven years, $200 million ($28.6 million AAV) for a Trout extension.

Again, just a guess.

Alden

Division-by-division: NL West …

Yasiel PuigLeading up to Spring Training, I’ll take a look at each of the six divisions in hopes of providing an overview for what to expect this coming season. Next up, the NL West.

Diamondbacks
Last year’s record: 81-81, 2nd place
Key additions: LF Mark Trumbo, CL Addison Reed, C Henry Blanco, OF/1B Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B/1B Andy Marte, SP Alex Sanabia
Key subtractions: SP Tyler Skaggs, CF Adam Eaton, C Wil Nieves, 1B/OF Willie Bloomquist, 3B Matt Davidson, SP Daniel Hudson
Biggest strength: The bullpen. Kevin Towers has always had a reputation for building strong bullpens, and this year’s group should be much better with Reed added to the back end, J.J. Putz expected to be healthy, and the likes of Brad Ziegler, Josh Collmenter, David Hernandez, etc. coming back.
Biggest question: The rotation, though acquiring Bronson Arroyo would surely help. At 24, Patrick Corbin will be counted on to be the team’s ace, after entering last spring fighting for the No. 5 spot, while Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill need to bounce back from up-and-down seasons.
Most important player: Trumbo. The D-backs gave up two talented prospects in Skaggs and Eaton to get him. They need him to adequately adjust to left field and protect Paul Goldschmidt.
In 25 words or less: The D-backs look like a solid group all-around, but are at least a high-impact starting pitcher away from challenging the Dodgers.

Dodgers
Last year’s record: 92-70, 1st place (lost to Cardinals in NLCS)
Key additions: 2B Alexander Guerrero, SP Dan Haren, RP Chris Perez, RP Jamey Wright, OF Mike Baxter, C Miguel Olivo, INF Justin Turner, UT Chone Figgins
Key subtractions: SP Ricky Nolasco, 2B Mark Ellis, SP Chris Capuano, 2B/OF Skip Schumaker, INF Michael Young, INF Nick Punto, UT Jerry Hairston Jr., SP Edinson Volquez, RP Carlos Marmol
Biggest strength: Pitching. The rotation trio of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu is as good as anyone. In the bullpen, they have five experienced closers — Perez, Brian Wilson, Brandon League, J.P. Howell and their actual closer, Kenley Jansen.
Biggest question: Second base. The Dodgers signed Guerrero out of Cuba with a four-year, $28 million contract, but he’s only 26 and has not been exposed to this brand of baseball yet.
Most important player: Matt Kemp. He’s signed to big money through 2019 and needs to get healthy after being limited to 73 games and undergoing left ankle surgery. If he can return to his elite level, the Dodgers’ offense will be a force.
In 25 words or less: Their funds are unlimited, they have stars up and down the roster and they know how to win together. World Series or bust in Hollywood.

Giants
Last year’s record: 76-86, 3rd place
Key additions: LF Michael Morse, SP Tim Hudson, INF Brandon Hicks, SP/RP David Huff, RP Kameron Loe
Key subtractions: OF Andres Torres, SP Barry Zito, SP/RP Chad Gaudin
Biggest strength: The back end of the bullpen. Sergio Romo is coming off a 38-save season and has posted a 2.03 ERA since the start of 2010. Right-hander Santiago Casilla (2.16 ERA) and left-hander Javier Lopez (1.83) were lights out in 2013.
Biggest question: It appears to be the same every year — power. They’ll rely on Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval and Morse — each of whom carry varying levels of concern — to take some of the burden off superstar catcher Buster Posey.
Most important player: Matt Cain. The Giants’ ace needs to get back to being the Cy Young contender of 2009-12, not the guy who went a pedestrian 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 2013, to take some pressure off Tim Lincecum and make San Francisco’s rotation the strength it was a short time ago.
In 25 words or less: There are a lot of questions, from Cain and Lincecum to Morse and Sandoval, but also the ability to contend. It’ll rest on their pitching.

Padres
Last year’s record: 76-86, 3rd place
Key additions: SP Josh Johnson, OF Seth Smith, RP Joaquin Benoit, RP Alex Torres, RP Patrick Schuster, IB/OF Xavier Nady, RP Tony Sipp
Key subtractions: RP Luke Gregerson, INF Ronny Cedeno, SP Jason Marquis, INF Logan Forsythe, SP/RP Anthony Bass
Biggest strength: The bullpen, even with Gregerson going to the A’s in exchange for Smith. Benoit and Torres help make up a solid group with closer Huston Street and middle relievers Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer and Tim Stauffer.
Biggest question: Health. The Padres have had 43 DL moves over the last two years. Each of their infielders were on the shelf at least once last year. Four pitchers — Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Jason Marquis and Casey Kelly — have undergone Tommy John surgery, with news coming out recently that Luebke will require a second such procedure in 20 months. And two of their outfielders, Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin, are coming off their own surgeries.
Most important player: Johnson. The Padres appeared to get a steal by signing the 30-year-old right-hander to a buy-low, $8 million contract in mid-November. If he can recapture the form he had in Miami, the Padres’ rotation suddenly looks a lot better.
In 25 words or less: There’s a nice young core in place in San Diego — if only it can stay healthy.

Rockies
Last year’s record: 74-88, 5th place
Key additions: 1B Justin Morneau, SP Brett Anderson, SP Franklin Morales, RP LaTroy Hawkins, RP Boone Logan, OF Brandon Barnes, OF Drew Stubbs, INF Paul Janish, SP Jordan Lyles
Key subtractions: 1B Todd Helton, SP Jeff Francis, SP Roy Oswalt, RP Rafael Betancourt, C Yorvit Torrealba, INF Jonathan Herrera, RP Josh Outman, SP Drew Pomeranz, CF Dexter Fowler
Biggest strength: Offense. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are two of the best players in the league, Michael Cuddyer quietly had a great 2013 season (.331/.389/.530), Morneau was a steal at $12.5 million over two years and Wilin Rosario (24 years old) and Nolan Arenado (22).
Biggest question: Pitching. The Rockies were active in addressing a pitching staff that ranked 28th in ERA last year, but I’m not sure how much Logan, Hawkins, Anderson, Morales and Lyles actually improve matters.
Most important player: Juan Nicasio. The 27-year-old struggled in his first full season, with a 5.14 ERA in 31 starts. But the Rockies expect big things, and if he improves, the rotation — with Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa at the top — may actually match the offense.
In 25 words or less: The Rockies made a variety of solid moves over the offseason, but spent little money and need a lot of help in the pitching staff.

Predicted order of finish …

  • Dodgers
  • Diamondbacks
  • Giants
  • Rockies
  • Padres

Previous entries: NL East | AL East | NL Central | AL Central

Alden

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