Next season will be an even year for the all of baseball which means just like death and taxes, it is (almost) certain that the San Francisco Giants will win the World Series if 2010s have taught us anything. The Giants have taken home the hardware in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with 2016 being the lone even year without a championship in the Bay during an even year.
Unfortunately for the Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers have had a stranglehold on the division for the past five seasons while the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are on the Dodger’s coattail.
While the Dodgers sit in a comfortable position heading into the 2018 season, the other four teams will require a busy winter to contest for the division crown.
Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58 in 2017)
In 2017, the Dodgers posted one of the most impressive stretches in baseball history with a 43-7 record starting on June 7. Following that stretch, the Dodgers started another streak, one that thwarted their chances of finishing with the best record in baseball history. The team lost 16 games in a row in August and snapped the streak on Sept. 1 with a 1-0 win over the San Diego Padres.
Despite the inconsistencies at times, the Dodgers finished with the best record in baseball and coasted to a division title in a division that send three teams to the postseason. The Dodgers eventually lost in the World Series after taking the Houston Astros to seven games.
Biggest need: Cut payroll.
With only a few departures from last year’s squad, the Dodgers do not need to have an active offseason. The team already shipped Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson to the Braves for Matt Kemp to relieve some payroll pressure. Cutting payroll should be the main focus for this team the rest of the winter with an outrageously talented free agent class looming over all of baseball after the 2018 season.
Yasmani Grandal and Pedro Baez seem like the two most likely candidates to be on the move before the 2018 season in order to drop the payroll by close to $10 million, while most likely losing Yu Darvish to free agency.
Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69 in 2017)
In a division that has been dominated by the Dodgers and Giants for the better part of a decade, the Diamondbacks proved that they were a contender for the division crown in 2017. Arizona finished 11 games back of the Dodgers and hosted the NL Wild Card game.
The emergence of Robbie Ray and arrival of J.D. Martinez provided the Diamondbacks with the fuel to make it to the NLDS. Ray will be back for the 2018 season, but Martinez is still on the free agent market.
Biggest need: Find a way to resign J.D.
The Diamondbacks completed arguably the best move in baseball before the trade deadline in receiving the best outfield bat on the market. Martinez provided Arizona with a spark in the latter part of the season, hitting .302 with 29 home runs and 65 RBIs in only 62 games.
Beyond the numbers, the most important role that Martinez played was protecting star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. With Martinez in the lineup, opposing pitchers could not pitch around Goldschmidt, the most potent bat in Arizona’s lineup.
Colorado Rockies (87-75 in 2017)
Another team that spoiled the decade long dominance of the Giants and Dodgers were the Colorado Rockies. After finishing with a losing record in 2016, the Rockies made some lineup changes bringing Ian Desmond over from the Texas Rangers to go along with a solid core of Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu.
To go along with a potent lineup, the Rockies possess one of the best bullpens in all the majors. With the recent addition of Wade Davis, the Rockies filled the void of Greg Holland who is currently a free agent.
Biggest need: RELAX
There are rumors of the Rockies cashing in by trading away Arenado or Blackmon while they can get a huge return for them. Why give away your two best players after making it to the postseason the previous year?
The Rockies don’t bolster the strongest rotation in the league, but there are very few pitchers in the league that would have a lot of success at Coors field.
Colorado’s focus for the rest of the winter should be trying to extend their two franchise players to stay in contention in the West.
San Diego Padres (71-91 in 2017)
In what is shaping up to be the most competitive division in baseball, the San Diego Padres are the only team that likely will not be buyers for the 2018 season. Finishing 33 games behind the Dodgers, the Padres will be building for the future instead of making moves for the upcoming season.
The Padres are set to offer Eric Hosmer a long-term deal in which he would be the centerpiece of the offense with Wil Myers. Hosmer is a player that the Padres feel they can build a franchise around for the foreseeable future after seeing his success in Kansas City.
Biggest need: Cash in
It might not be during the preseason, but the Padres should look to move some of their players that will have interest from teams in contention come the trade deadline next year.
The most attractive piece that will likely be on the move is closer Brad Hand. He recorded 21 saves for San Diego last season despite not having the closer role the entire season. In 79.1 innings, Hand carried an impressive 2.16 ERA with 104 strikeouts.
Relief pitchers are always a hot commodity come the trade deadline, and Hand figures to be a top target.
San Francisco Giants (64-98 in 2017)
Baseball fans are accustomed to seeing the San Francisco Giants in October, but not so much last season. A horrific start turned into a laughable end of the season and a last place finish in the NL West.
Madison Bumgarner crashing his ATV and injuring his throwing shoulder was the epitome of the Giants 2017 season. After an abysmal season, the Giants can only improve and it’s expected they will.
The addition of Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays will help the Giants lineup against all of the great lefty pitchers on the Dodgers. Longoria is a good start, but the Giants still have a lot of work to do.
Biggest need: Good defensive outfielders
In order to win games at AT&T Park, a good defensive outfield is imperative. The Giants fielded one of the worst defensive outfields from a metrics standpoint last season, something that needs to change this year.
There are plenty of names on the market/trade block for the Giants to go after. Two of the best fits would be free agent Lorenzo Cain or Cincinnati Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton.
Hamilton is one of the few players in the league that has the speed to cover a massive San Francisco outfield. His defense makes him an attractive option for the Giants, but Hamilton’s bat has hindered his effectiveness throughout his career.
Cain swings a much bigger bat than Hamilton, and he’s not a slouch in the field either. The best fit for the Giants is Cain, a plus defender who can be effective from the right side of the plate, just like Longoria.
(Main photo credit:Jayne Kamin/USA TODAY Sports)