NL West: Off-season so far

Now that the calendar has moved from 2014 to 2015, we’re past the mid off-season hump and it’s downhill all the way towards Spring Training games in March and the MLB regular season getting underway at the start of April.

That makes it a good time to review where all the teams are in terms of their off-season recruits and what they may be looking to do over the next six or seven weeks before teams report back to their Spring Training camps.

I’ll be looking at each division in turn over the next week, starting with the home of the reigning World Series champions.

The story of the NL West offseason so far begins with the surprising San Diego Padres.

Back in November most rumours surrounding the Padres concerned their leading three starting pitchers – Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy – and the potential that one or more might be traded away.

Instead, San Diego has decided to add rather than subtract by completely revamping their outfield through trading for Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers. Whether they have done enough to push their way into Wild Card contention remains to be seen, but it’s great to see another team going for it rather than dreaming of a better year that may take a long time to come.

The Padres’ pursuit of a playoff place would be helped by the LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants taking a step back. The Boston Red Sox have done their best to help by taking away Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval as free agent signings and in the case of the Giants the loss of the Kung Fu Panda may hurt the most.

Sandoval’s overall contributions haven’t really matched his lofty star status forged by postseason exploits and his position as a fan favourite; however replacing him with the underwhelming Casey McGehee isn’t a good start and that comes as part of a disappointing offseason so far, highlighted by the failed pursuit of Jon Lester.

The Dodgers meanwhile have had a shake-up in the Front Office and on their Major League roster, with Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick now manning the middle infield, Yasmani Grandal taking over catching duties and Brandon McCarthy joining the rotation. They haven’t made a glamour move or significantly improved what was already a talented roster, but they have freshened things up whilst giving themselves a bit of flexibility (such as trading Kemp to allow top prospect Joc Pederson to take over in centrefield) so that they remain the best team in the division.

The Giants still have plenty of talent and experience too, yet so far judging their offseason – and adding in their now traditional World Series swoon – you would give the Padres a fighting chance at grabbing second place and a potential Wild Card.

Colorado are still stuck in limbo with the too-often-injured Troy Tulowtizki and Carlos Gonzalez, whilst Arizona have made managerial changes (on the field and at General Manager level) and moves on the margins, so that both teams look set to battle for the fourth and fifth spots. Watching how the D-Backs’ new Cuban recruit Yasmany Thomas gets on will be the main sub-plot.

Above them, the main thing to look for over the next couple of months is what the Giants do, if we accept that the Padres have probably finished their main moves and the Dodgers will tinker to help cement first place. Adding another impact starter would really help the Giants and that remains a possibility with the likes of Max Scherzer and James Shields on the market.

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