Everywhere except Houston, it’s time for teams and fans to try and get to where Houston is. Or it will be in January or February instead of November and December, like it used to be. Anyway, we run through what teams might need and what they might do, for most of them these things don’t line up, and today it’s the NL West’s turn.
Projected 2023 Payroll: $103 million
Notable Free Agents: It’s the Diamondbacks. Name three others than Baumgarner. You can’t.
Could they use Aaron Judge?: If only to get most baseball fans to remember they exist.
What they could use other than Aaron Judge: It doesn’t really matter to them, as this is a full youth movement. Though this movement is not without some merit and excitement. The outfield appears set between Corbin Carroll-Daulton Varsho-Jake McCarthy, with Varsho being a defensive whiz in center, and Carroll flashing some late-season power after his cameo.
The infield is another story, where only Ketel Marte is worth keeping around — and he’s 29 already. They could use an upgrade on the left side, and Christian Walker’s career revival last year at first base at the age of 31 shouldn’t be taken as a sign of things to come, at least not fully. He cut down his strikeouts and sold out for launch angle as he had previously in his career and also being uber-selective, cutting his swing rate by 12 percent. He also had this revival with some shit-ass BABIP luck, so he could be a candidate to be even better in 2023 as well as a deflation candidate. Walker has one more arb year after this one, and considering his age and numbers he might be a trade piece for a D-Backs team that’s still a couple of years away.
The rotation looks to be anchored by Zac Gallen, who had a 2.54 ERA last year, but also benefited from some wild BABIP luck (.237), though Arizona had the best defense in the league according to StatCast. The back end will be taken up by some kids in Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson, and Brandon Pfaadt could arrive in the middle of the season. They’ll likely still trust the pair with the onion on their belt of Madison Baumgarner and Merrill Kelly to be the Obi-Wan to the rest of the young staff. But Kelly’s breakout 2022 came from nowhere and Baumgarner might as well run himself over with his own ATV at this point.
A couple more arms in the ‘pen wouldn’t hurt, that’s if the D-Backs are interested in leaping up from their 74 wins to the 86 or so it takes to at least breathe on a playoff spot for a couple of weeks. Kevin Ginkel and Joe Mantiply are the only ones they can trust out there now. But this is a team aimed at 2024 more than 2023.
Projected 2023 Payroll: $155 million (and you’re about to wonder how it got that high)
Notable Free Agents: Yeah, right
Could they use Aaron Judge?: He would hardly be enough but it would be a start, and who wouldn’t want to see him at altitude 81 times a year?
What could they use besides Judge?: Every goddamn thing. This is a truly weird team run by one of the strangest ownership groups in sports where every failson and doofus kid who spent chemistry class drinking all the materials gets a job. This team is kinda old, and doesn’t have any prospects other than Ezequiel Tovar who’ll be anywhere near ready for years. They’re at both ends of the spectrum with nothing in the middle, and those ends are bad as well.
What they could really use is buying Iron Man parts for Kris Bryant, who only played 42 games last year. The Rockies even had a bad offense when weighted for playing half their games at Coors Field, with only one regular (Ryan McMahon) getting to a wRC+ over 100. They have to be praying that any or all of Charlie Blackmon, Randal Grichuk and his missing L, and C.J. Cron barf up a decent couple months so they can be peddled in their walk years for anything.
The rotation is a disaster too, with Germán Márquez and Kyle Freeland somehow still here and neither over 30 yet! The rest will be made up by the 2K player generator, and the less said the better.
The Rockies are too far gone to be saved in one offseason, and the adoption of any sort of plan would actually be a good start for them. Until then, they’ll play in a really nice park with an awesome beer selection and provide the occasional 19-11 game they’ll lose.
Projected 2023 Payroll: $165 million (don’t worry, it’ll go way higher)
Notable Free Agents: Trea Turner, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner (club option), Joey Gallo (trying to be nice), Tyler Anderson
Could they use Aaron Judge?: No, but they’ll sign him anyway
What could they use besides Judge?: “Use” is doing an awful lot of work here, because we know this team is going to win 105 games while belching up last night’s beer next season. They do have some decisions to make, though. The buzz has been that they’ll seriously consider kicking Mookie Betts back to second to accommodate Judge, though that would make their defense worse in two positions. They have both Miguel Vargas and Michael Busch, who could fill outfield vacancies if Cody Bellinger is non-tendered or at third if Justin Turner is left at a farm upstate. Or they could just sign Xander Bogaerts and kick him over to third after they re-sign Trea Turner. Or any of the other shortstops could be brought in if Turner leaves. Let’s just say there are options.
The rotation is a bit in flux. Kershaw will be back to slot behind Julio Urias and on either side of Tony Gonsolin once he’s done cleaning roadkill out of his facial hair. Tyler Anderson really isn’t a need, but they won’t have Walker Buehler, and Dustin May hasn’t gone through a full season after his Tommy John-itis either. They could probably use just a mid-rotation stabilizer while a litany of kids takes their turns auditioning (Pepiot, Miller, Stone). Or they’ll just sign deGrom and Verlander and trade their collection of pitchers bubbling underneath the surface for Ohtani.
If there’s one area they do need to upgrade it’s the ‘pen, though they will rid themselves of the plague of Craig Kimbrel. Whichever kids don’t make the rotation will probably land here at some point, but they could use a vet or two that they can overpay. Taylor Rogers seems obvious here.
Or they’ll just find a way to bring back prime-era Goose Gossage somehow.
Projected 2023 Payroll: $192 million
Notable Free Agents: Wil Myers and his missing L, Josh Bell, Sean Manea, Jurickson Profar, Mike Clevinger, Robert Suarez, Brandon Drury
Could they use Aaron Judge?: Seeing as how the whole organization’s ethos has been “Sure, why the fuck not?” the past three seasons, let’s just say, “Sure, why the fuck not?”
What they could use other than Judge: They’ll have some interesting calls here. This was only an OK offensive team last season, though most of that will be boosted by a full season and a return to full legend status from Juan Soto and the return of Fernando Tatis Jr. However, both will harm the defense, and the Padres were one of the best defensive teams in the league last year. This is not to be sneezed at.
Re-signing Josh Bell or bringing in another first baseman will keep Jake Cronenworth at second, where they need him. The real ballsy move would be to keep Ha-Seong Kim at short and have Tatis simply DH upon his return, but we want to be in the room when they try to sell that to Tatis. Keeping Kim with a glove on would keep their defense elite. Left field could be somewhere they could look to bump up, as Jurickson Profar has been a faithful servant but there are options out there if A.J. Preller is still in his “TAKE IT TO THE BANK DADDY!” mode. Given the dimensions at Petco, Trent Grisham’s glove is necessary, so if they want to try anything there that player has to be at least as good of a defender. Especially considering the help they’ll need to give Soto in right.
The Padres will need help in the four and five slots of the rotation. Clevinger and Manea just weren’t it last season, and given the health profiles of Yu Darvish or Blake Snell, they’ll need buttresses for the time they miss. Something in the Anderson-Bassitt-Cueto class? Let’s not rule out Preller getting loose after closing time again for one of the big fish either.
The ‘pen could use an arm or two as Josh Hader will go back to refusing to pitch anywhere but the ninth in a save situation. Have to figure Suarez will be brought back and maybe one other arm.
Projected 2023 Payroll: $110 million
Notable Free Agents: Carlos Rodon, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, Joc Pedersen
Could they use Aaron Judge?: Most definitely, and they’re probably going to act like it to bring him home
What could they use besides Judge?: Anyone who can catch the fucking ball. The Giants had one of the worst defenses last year and undid a fair amount of work their staff was able to cobble together. Even if they were to nab Judge they probably still need to overhaul the other two outfield spots. Brandon Nimmo getting on the plane with Judge wouldn’t hurt at all. The Giants can save some money if Casey Schmitt can take over for Longoria at third, but he only has four games at AAA so far, so that’s more middle of the season than the beginning, unless something truly weird happens in Scottsdale. Again, whatever the Giants do, it has to be for guys who don’t wear the glove on their heads.
The rotation was surprisingly good (first in FIP), but loses a lot of steam without Rodon. Bringing him back really should be a high priority, and if they’re not in on the few big fish in the pitching pool then they probably need a couple from the next class down. Alex Cobb, Alex Wood, and Anthony Desclafani are all over 30 and none have been described as innings-eaters in the past. This was an 81-win team with Rodon, so you can see the need.
They could also use an ass-kicker or two in front of Camilo Doval, especially if the defense isn’t getting a major upgrade. No one other than Doval had an outrageous strikeout rate out of the pen, and John Brebbia and Tyler Rogers aren’t really anyone’s idea of the reaper coming in in the seventh or eighth.
It’s a nice story if they can bring Judge home, but they’ll need to show him what else they can do to make his time worth it and why he should give up the best park for a righty with opposite field power to the worst.