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TSN.ca: 2014 National League West preview

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TSN.ca Staff
3/25/2014 9:28:16 AM
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Baseball season is just around the corner and TSN.ca has you covered for who's in, who's out and what to expect from all 30 teams. Check in every day this week for two new division previews, finishing up with Scott MacArthur's look at the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. Here's what to expect out of the National League West in 2014.

NL WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks

GM: Kevin Towers

Manager: Kirk Gibson

2013: 81-81, third in NL West. Did not qualify for playoffs.

That was Then: Gibby's men were pretty much perfectly average in 2013.

Apart from the unforgettable brawl that erupted in mid-June when Ian Kennedy plunked Zack Greinke (which, by the way, featured an incredible number of ex-MLB All-Stars on the coaching staffs - including the entire side of Montgomery Burns' softball team's infield) the D-backs were 50/50 nearly the entire season.

Never finishing a single month more than three games above or below .500 nor boasting a winning or losing streak of more than five games, the team was consistent from start to finish.

The big story for the team was Paul Goldschmidt's emergence as one of the game's elite offensive weapons. Tops in homers and RBI, winning a Gold Glove and finishing second in MVP balloting, the third-year pro was a mammoth presence in the middle of an otherwise middling offence.

They wound up second in the West in large part to the Giants' drop-off, but clearly had it in mind to shake things up once the off-season kicked into gear.

This is Now: There are a lot of intriguing names among the list of players that flew into or out of Arizona this off-season (see below).

For the second straight year the D-backs dealt away a one-time blue chip arm. In 2013 it was Trevor Bauer that was Cleveland-bound and this past off-season it was Tyler Skaggs that was sacrificed in order to land Mark Trumbo's streaky bat from the Los Angeles Angels.

With last season's mid-summer jettisoning of Ian Kennedy, one has to wonder what the end-game is with the D-backs' pitching.

That said, Trumbo put either directly in front of or behind Paul Goldschmidt gives Arizona one of the most fear-inducing power combos in all of baseball. That might have been the greater concern for Kevin Towers, considering his team tied for the fifth-least round-trippers in the bigs in 2013.

Addison Reed is a nice pick-up for a team that featured a less-than-inspiring closer-by-committee approach last season and Bronson Arroyo will eat a large share of innings for the team's young-ish rotation.

Who's In?: SP Bronson Arroyo (two-year contract), RP Addison Reed (trade with CHW), 1B Mark Trumbo (trade with LAA).

Who's Out?: RP Heath Bell (trade with TB), IF Willie Bloomquist (signed with SEA), RP Shawn Camp (signed with PHI), 3B Matt Davidson (trade with CHW), OF Adam Eaton (trade with CHW), C Wil Nieves (signed with PHI), SP Tyler Skaggs (trade with LAA), SS Josh Wilson (singed with TEX).

Colorado Rockies

GM: Dan O'Dowd

Manager: Walt Weiss

2013: 74-88, fifth in NL West. Did not qualify for playoffs.

That was Then: The Rockies view didn't get any better in 2013, as they held down their place in the N.L. West cellar, albeit not finishing as miserably as they did the previous year.

Injuries were once again a problem for the Rockies' core, as Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez missed a combined 88 games due to injury. The pair can be one of the most dynamic pairings in all of baseball - but neither has played more than 145 games in any single season since 2009.

Jorge de la Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin actually put up good win totals and decent numbers, especially considering they were on a last-place club, but the back end of the rotation was patchwork for much of the year.

One of the game's quietest All-Stars (and potential Hall-of-Famers) bid farewell to the Coors Field faithful, as Todd Helton hung up his spikes after 16 seasons in Denver. Helton retired the franchise leader in games played, hits, home runs, RBI, total bases and more and the team has already announced plans to retire his number 17.

This is Now: A quick look at the transactions below will reveal the amount of upheaval there's been for the Rocks since October.

Will all the changes turn the fortunes?

Brett Anderson can be an impact arm, but he's a health risk.

Drew Stubbs and Justin Morneau could help the offence, but Morneau, too, comes with injury baggage and is well removed from MVP or even All-Star form. Dealing Dexter Fowler, too, seems an odd move, considering he still had some contract control and plenty of speed to burn.

But the key for the Rockies, like every year, will come down to the health of Tulo and CarGo. If both can find even moderate health, their career numbers suggest they will carry the Rockies offence. But that's a huge "if" and not one that the Rockies seem too intent to plan contingencies for.

Who's In?: SP Brett Anderson (trade with OAK), OF Brandon Barnes (trade with HOU), RP Matt Belisle (mutual option exercised), RP LaTroy Hawkins (one-year contract), RP Boone Logan (three-year contract), SP Jordan Lyles (trade with HOU), C Michael McKenry (minor league contract), RP Franklin Morales (trade with BOS), 1B Justin Morneau (two-year contract), OF Drew Stubbs (trade with CLE).

Who's Out?: RP Mitchell Boggs (signed with CHW), RP Edgmer Escalona (signed with BAL), OF Dexter Fowler (trade with HOU), SP Jeff Francis (signed with CIN), SP Jon Garland (released), 1B Todd Helton (retired), IF Jonathan Herrera (trade with BOS), SP Jeff Manship (signed with PHI), RP Josh Outman (trade with CLE), SP Drew Pomeranz (trade with OAK), C Yorvit Torrealba (signed with LAA).

Los Angeles Dodgers

GM: Ned Colletti

Manager: Don Mattingly

2013: 92-70, first in NL West. Lost to St. Louis in National League Championship Series.

That was Then: Having money certainly seems to suit the Dodgers fine.

A year removed from bankruptcy, the Dodgers built on the momentum they'd established at the end of 2012. With millions in cast-offs from the Boston Red Sox still on the payroll, the Dodgers went out and spent even more, grabbing Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and re-upping Brandon League to build one of the majors' truly frightening staffs.

But the big shift came in June with the arrival of Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig. Powerful, fast and electrifying, Puig shook up the N.L. West and added a needed boost to the Dodgers outfield that saw Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford all battle injuries.

The Dodgers wound up running away with the N.L. West, winning by a comfortable 11 games and all but eliminating the shame of the Frank McCourt years.

Post-season play would prove an up-and-down experience at Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers would put the sticks to the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, winning their three games by a combined 13 runs, but their nemesis would rear its head in the form of unlikely rookie Michael Wacha in the NLCS.

The 22-year-old held the Dodgers to just seven hits over two scoreless starts, beating Kershaw in a pivotal Game 2 and the decisive Game 6.

This is Now: If you liked last year, you might love this year.

The thought of an entire year with a Puig-Kemp-Ethier outfield â€" health-permitting â€" is enough to make Dodger fans eager for the 2014 season.

The Dodgers rotation, already a thing of beauty, went and bettered itself by adding Paul Maholm and Dan Haren. The Dodgers also re-upped Brian Wilson, who looked very much his "Fear the Beard" self after being cut adrift by the Giants prior to 2013.

The infield will take some re-shaping, with Mark Ellis moving to St. Louis and Michael Young calling it a career, but if Hanley Ramirez can stretch what he did in 2013 over a full season he might well have a career year.

It would be a surprise if the Dodgers weren't a playoff team. The only question heading into this year is: Are they a championship team?

Who's In?: P Dan Haren, SP Paul Maholm (one-year contract), RP Chris Perez (one-year contract), IF Justin Turner (minor league contract), RP Jamey Wright (one-year contract).

Who's Out?: RP Ronald Belisario (signed with CHW), 2B Mark Ellis (signed with STL), SP Ted Lilly (retired), RP Carlos Marmol (signed with MIA), RP Peter Moylan (signed with HOU), SP Ricky Nolasco (signed with MIN), IF Nick Punto (signed with OAK), IF Skip Schumaker (signed with CIN), SP Edinson Volquez (signed with PIT), IF Michael Young (retired).

San Diego Padres

GM: Josh Byrnes

Manager: Bud Black

2013: 76-86, third in NL West. Did not qualify for playoffs.

That was Then: All-in-all, you could probably say that the Padres 2013 campaign comes out as a positive, but there were plenty of ups and downs to be considered before reaching a final verdict.

The good news is that the team finished third in the division, ahead (once the math got worked out) of the Giants. They were above .500 for a good chunk of June, which marked the first time the club had been in that position since the end of 2010 and they finished strong, going 16-11 in September including series wins over three divisional opponents.

Jedd Gyorko was also a rookie standout, leading the team in dingers (23) and RBIs (63).

The Bad news came from the Biogenesis verdict that saw shortstop Everth Cabrera slapped with a 50-game suspension. His ban, coupled with the one handed to catcher Yasmani Grandal at the end of the 2012 campaign hung a gigantic cloud over the team's core talent.

Add in a host of injuries that limited first baseman Yonder Alonso to just 97 games in 2013 and it was really a year that a lot of Padres players would like to have buried in the past.

It will be interesting to see how they follow it up.

This is Now: The Padres took a chance with their off-season strategy, but if the gamble pays off San Diego could be poised to at least be respectable in the West.

Joaquin Benoit will eat a whole bunch of innings out of the 'pen and provides a nice back-up plan should Huston Street falter or get hurt. He and Alex Torres should ease some of the sting of dealing away Luke Gregerson.

Similarly, Seth Smith provides some pretty decent pop off the bench and is a nice addition as far as fourth outfielders go.

That's not the risky part.

If the Padres signed pre-shoulder surgery, 2010 edition of Josh Johnson for $8 million, they've added a big piece to their rotation. He's a player that was once one of the NL's best arms and might be worth a one-year flier.

That said, he was bad in 2013 with the Toronto Blue Jays. He missed all of May with a triceps injury and was shut down in August with forearm tightness. If it were just a season of injuries that would be problematic enough, but he logged just 81.1 innings, going 2-8 and posting a grotesque 1.66 WHIP.

A one-year deal is never truly risky, but an $8 million investment is not exactly a low-risk proposition for a player that underwent off-season elbow surgery. He's already expected to miss at least a month with a flexor strain.

Who's In?: RP Joaquin Benoit (two-year contract), IF Ryan Jackson (trade with HOU), SP Josh Johnson (one-year contract), OF Seth Smith (trade with OAK), RP Alex Torres (trade with TB).

Who's Out?: RP Anthony Bass (trade with HOU), RP Brad Boxberger (trade with TB), RP Brad Brach (trade with BAL), IF Logan Forsythe (trade with TB), RP Luke Gregerson (trade with OAK), 1B Jesus Guzman (trade with HOU), RP Colt Hynes (trade with CLE), OF Mark Kotsay (retired), RP Tommy Layne (signed with BOS).

San Francisco Giants

GM: Brian Sabean

Manager: Bruce Bochy

2013: 76-86, fourth in NL West. Did not qualify for playoffs.

That was Then: It's never easy defending a championship and Giants' fans found that out once more in 2013.

After locking Buster Posey down to a mammoth extension in March, the Giants actually got off to a pretty decent start last season, playing .650 baseball through the first 20 games of the season. But the summer would not be kind to San Fran, as the Giants would drop 19 of 24 games in late June and early July.

Shortly after that horrible stretch Tim Lincecum would make history by throwing a 148-pitch no-hitter, the second-highest count in MLB history.

Losing Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong for stretches didn't help their rotation any and by the time the dust settled the Giants were fourth in the West, posting their first sub-.500 season since 2009.

This is Now: With the amount of talent the Giants have at their core, it's hard to believe they can't contend, despite the disappointment that was 2013. After all, they missed the playoffs the year after their 2010 triumph and came right back to win another championship the next year.

They went out and added a wealth of experience to their starting rotation by taking a two-year chance on right-hander Tim Hudson, whose 205 career wins are tops amongst active MLB pitchers. He should add some nice insulation at the back end of their rotation behind the likes of Cain, Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner.

A suddenly-trim Pablo Sandoval will be an interesting sight for the Giants this season and the Panda has made spring training promises to lose even more weight. Meanwhile, the continued development of Brandon Belt could provide even more runs for the traditionally run-starved team.

Who's In?: SP Tim Hudson (two-year contact), SP David Huff (minor league contract), OF Michael Morse (one-year contract).

Who's Out?: RP Jose Mijares (signed with BOS), SP Chad Gaudin (signed with PHI), SP Guillermo Moscoso (signed in Japan), OF Francisco Peguero (signed with BAL), OF Kensuke Tanaka (signed with TEX).

Puig Kemp and Ethier (Photo: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
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