The NL West is the most tightly bunched division in baseball. As of this writing, every team except the Padres is over .500, and they’re all within five games of each other in the standings. That’s a recipe for a very active trade deadline, as they all try to one-up each other and position themselves for the stretch run.
Before looking into the near future of each team, here are a few bold predictions:
- As a result of Corey Seager’s torn UCL, the Dodgers have a huge hole at shortstop to fill. I predict they will trade for Manny Machado, who is the perfect rental piece to fill in for the rest of the season.
- The Padres have the worst record in the NL at 41-61. There’s no reason for them to hold onto stud reliever Brad Hand any longer. They should swap him for the best prospect they can find. I predict they’ll trade him to Cleveland, who have one of the worst bullpens in baseball. If they’re lucky, they can get someone really good in return, like Francisco Mejia!
There you have it- two bold predictions you can take to the bank! Now we’ll take a look at which direction each team might go this trade season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Obviously, the Dodgers have already made their big move; getting Machado was the biggest move anybody could make. The erstwhile Oriole brings a 156 wRC+ to an already stacked lineup. His 4.0 fWAR is ninth best in baseball among position players. He’s off to a great start in LA, going 5-15 with two walks in his first three games.
The starting rotation is both deep and strong, helmed by Clayton Kershaw, Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Alex Wood, as well as Walker Buehler currently in Triple-A. The relief pitching is another story. Their bullpen has accumulated just 1.8 fWAR this season, 19th in MLB. They also have four relievers on the disabled list. They could very well look to add an arm or two to help set up Kenley Jansen.
As of this writing, the Diamondbacks sit one and a half games behind the Dodgers in the division race and one game behind Atlanta for the second Wild Card. That will definitely change several times over the next few months. To bolster their chances of winning a playoff spot, they’ll need to upgrade their offense.
Only four hitters on the entire team have a wRC+ above league average: Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, and Daniel Descalso. They have six players with at least 100 plate appearances and an OBP south of .300. That’s not good, but at least Zack Greinke is hitting .250! Expect them to rent a good hitter at pretty much any position other than first base, much like they did last year with J.D. Martinez.
This will shock you, so you’d better sit down: the Rockies need more pitching! I know, it’s hard to believe, but outside of Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson, Colorado hasn’t gotten much from it’s pitching staff (though Jon Gray does have excellent peripherals). In spite of this, they’re still in the thick of the playoff race. They reside just a half game behind the Diamondbacks in third place and two games in back of the Dodgers.
Just as some poor soul could be shipped off to the Rockies where he’ll try to pitch in the worst known environs, some lucky hitter could be brought over as well. The Ian Desmond-at-first-base thing isn’t going very well. A slugger like Jose Abreu seems like a logical fit.
Despite playing in a tough division and sporting a negative run differential, the Giants are actually treading water. They’re 51-50, just five games out of first place. As such, they’re a bit of a trade deadline enigma. They’ve been tentatively linked to trade targets like reliever Zach Britton and outfielder Austin Jackson. However, they were said to be dangling starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija before he landed on the disabled list. The team could be in position to both buy and sell, but any move would be designed to help them contend in 2019.
San Diego Padres
The Padres are 20 games under .500, and they could finish the year with a team OBP of .300 or lower for the fifth consecutive season. They haven’t been a good team in many years, and they’re really just waiting for prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr., Luis Urias, and (newly added) Francisco Mejia to announce themselves. In other words, they should be big-time trade deadline sellers.
Brad Hand and Adam Cimber are already gone, but there are still plenty of relievers left to sell. Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen are the most prominent of the remaining relief corps likely to leave town. That’s...about it. There’s really not much left in the cupboard that any other teams would want. Perhaps they can take advantage of a weak starting pitching market and entice someone to take Tyson Ross or Clayton Richard. Most likely, the Padres’ heavy lifting is done after the Hand deal.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983