MLB National League West 2019 Preview
The Diamondbacks face the daunting task of replacing franchise icon and perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt as well as free agents Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock. Although many in the industry believed the Goldschmidt trade to St. Louis signaled an immediate tear-down, the D-backs held on to their other movable assets, including righthander Zack Greinke. They believe that a return to health from Jake Lamb and Steven Souza Jr. will help compensate for the loss of Goldschmidt, the only NL player to make each of the previous six All-Star rosters.
The Rockies won 91 games last season. They’re coming off consecutive appearances in the postseason for the first time in the team’s 26-year history. While they are clearly on the rise, the Rockies, swept by the Brewers in the Division Series last year, are looking to go deeper into October this year and very well might — if the offense improves.
They set franchise lows last year with their .256 average overall and .225 mark on the road. They had a .322 on-base percentage, the second lowest in franchise history, and a plus-35 run differential, the worst of any of the teams in the postseason. GM Jeff Bridich said the offseason priority was to improve the offense. To that end, the Rockies signed Daniel Murphy to a two-year, $24 million deal and will have him play first base. Murphy will add a veteran presence to both the lineup and clubhouse and has been very successful in the postseason. His arrival will free up versatile Ian Desmond to move from first base to, in all probability, center field, where he has ample experience. The lineup will revolve around third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trevor Story, who provide middle-of-the-lineup power and exceptional defense.
Young starters Kyle Freeland and German Marquez made huge strides last season and will anchor a rotation that should be more formidable if talented Jon Gray, who has power stuff, can be more consistent. The bullpen will be better if Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw rebound from poor seasons. Regardless, Scott Oberg and Seunghwan Oh, key parts of the relief corps last season, will help weather the loss of free agent Adam Ottavino.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have had a great run of success — and there is no sign of it ending soon. Despite suffering a World Series hangover that had them 10 games under .500 in mid-May and second in the National League West deep into September, they won their sixth consecutive division title, made their third consecutive NL Championship Series and second consecutive World Series. The 287 games they have won in Dave Roberts’ three years as manager are tied for the fourth most any manager has ever won in his first three seasons, and they have averaged 94 wins per season during this six-year run.
But it hasn’t been good enough.
Each of the past two seasons, baseball’s World Series champion has celebrated on the field at Dodger Stadium — and it hasn’t been the home team. In 2017, the Houston Astros beat the Dodgers in a seven-game series that could have gone either way. The Dodgers pledged to get back in 2018, vowing that it would be different this time. It was. The Boston Red Sox needed just five games to claim the crown.
The World Series drought in L.A. has now reached 30 years, and a fan base spoiled by the annual division titles and deep playoff runs will accept nothing less than a championship as a success.
San Diego Padres
They did it. The Padres made the big move that their fans have been clamoring for — they signed free agent Manny Machado to a staggering 10-year, $300 million dollar contract that gives the team a proven bat in the middle in the lineup and, more important, shows that the franchise is serious about fielding a winning team. The turnaround might not be immediate, but the arrival of Machado combined with a loaded farm system — headlined by top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. — puts the Padres in great shape to be relevant over the next decade.
San Francisco Giants
After two seasons of desperately trying to patch holes around an accomplished but aging core, the Giants are embracing a fresh perspective with new leadership. They lured away former Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi with a five-year contract and a club president title that gives him full authority over all roster decisions, as executive vice president Brian Sabean steps aside into an advisory role. Sabean and deposed GM Bobby Evans gave it one last shot in 2018 by acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, but injuries overwhelmed every area of the club, and the Giants were unable to build momentum. Now they are seeking a reboot, if not a full rebuild.