We’ll finish up this series with the NL West, a division where four teams are nominally still alive, though only three teams behaved as if they are still contending. The Dodgers made the biggest splash of the trade season by acquiring Manny Machado, and then followed that up by getting Brian Dozier, who only homered in his first two games with the team. But the Diamondbacks didn’t fade away after the Dodgers caught (and for a while, passed) them, and they’ve also reloaded for the stretch run.
Padres – The Padres were the only obvious seller in the division, but unfortunately they didn’t have much left sell. They made the one obvious trade, sending closer Brad Hand along with Adam Cimber to the Indians for Francisco Mejia. The big question for the Padres is where Mejia fits – his defense behind the plate hasn’t graded out well in the past, and incumbent Austin Hedges still has a lot of power potential and is much better defensively. Still, I’m a big believer of adding the best talent period, regardless of fit, when you’re a rebuilding club, so I like the move for them anyhow.
But as a consequence of their limited activity there’s also been little windfall in terms of playing time. Those that picked up Kirby Yates have definitely benefited however, as Yates has converted all four save chances he’s inherited plus logged a win since the trade. He has also struck out multiple batters in five of his last seven outings, and has 60 strikeouts in 45.1 innings on the season. There was some thought that the Padres might also try to flip him before the deadline, but that didn’t materialize.
They have had two players go on the DL since the deadline, creating opportunities in the short term. Wil Myers went on the DL with a foot injury on Aug. 3, but he’s on target to return on Monday. That has opened up some time in the outfield, allowing both Hunter Renfoe and Franmil Reyes to play, but when Myers comes back that’s going to create an obvious squeeze, but it now seems that Myers is going to get playing time at third base. So it now looks as if Christian Villanueva is the playing time loser. Meanwhile in the rotation, Eric Lauer is out with a forearm injury, creating space for Jacob Nix to make his debut last night. Nix had missed most of the first half of the season with a groin injury and then a “non-physical ailment,” but then was turning in a good campaign for Double-A San Antonio and made one start at Triple-A El Paso before his winning MLB debut Friday. Nix was putting numbers at San Antonio this year that he hadn’t been able to do earlier in his career as a pro – so the question is whether that was an outlier, or did something click? I expect he’ll get limited chances the rest of the way and might even begin 2019 in El Paso, unless he does great down this stretch. We rate him as the Padres’ #16 prospect, according to our guru James Anderson.
Giants – Faced with the dilemma of whether they were contenders in the NL West or the Wild Card, the Giants did … nothing. They were the only team in baseball That didn’t make a trade after the All-Star break. Their big news is that they lost Johnny Cueto for the season, as he needed Tommy John elbow surgery. There’s been a number of rumors surrounding Andrew McCutchen, but nothing of note has occurred yet.
Internally, the only big change is that Brandon Belt is on the DL, creating room for Austin Slater to get most of the playing time at first base. They’ve also found ways to get Steven Duggar in the lineup, most often in center field.
Rockies – The only trade that the Rockies made was naturally for another reliever, this time for Seunghwan Oh from the Blue Jays. This after they spent $106 million (not just for this year, that would be a record) on their bullpen over the offseason, only to see the likes of Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw have career-worst seasons. It’s almost as if the Rockies haven’t yet learned the lessons of Coors Field after all these years. Almost. Oh slots in as part of the set-up crew, and might end up getting more eighth-inning work if Wade Davis continues to melt down and Adam Ottavino gets promoted to the closer role.
Meanwhile, the offense remains deceptively bad. They’re fourth in the NL in runs scored per game (4.69), behind the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers, but keep in mind how much Coors Field bumps that up. On the road they’re hitting just .230 and averaging 4.28 runs per game. Using more advanced metrics, the Rockies are 13th in the NL, ahead of only the Giants and Padres, in wOBA (.298) and wRC+ (84).
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So of course, the Rockies did next nothing to improve their offense. Their only significant change has been an internal one, recalling David Dahl and playing him, mostly at the expense of Gerardo Parra, though Carlos Gonzalez has also sat once in this span. I support this move – the Rockies need to give precious playing time to Dahl and to Ryan McMahon, instead of the tenured players. This isn’t a rebuilding decision – this is one that should make them more competitive right now.
Dodgers – By trading for two premium position players, the Dodgers have created a lot of chaos in their lineup. Much like the Brewers, they’re going to have to be creative to find playing time for a lot of good hitters. Machado and Dozier both are going to play most every day, though Machado did get a day off from starting on Friday night. When Justin Turner returned from the DL, it really created a squeeze in playing time for multiple players. Max Muncy has not started three of the last six games. Chris Taylor sat out Saturday, but he’s played more than I would have expected, in part to Muncy going through a slump. Matt Kemp and Cody Bellinger have also received days off here-and-there. The player probably hurt the most has been Enrique Hernandez, who now pretty much plays exclusively against left-handers.
The bullpen received a big shakeup Thursday when Kenley Jansen was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat while in Colorado, and now will be shut down for at least a month. The Dodgers are going to try to fashion a committee of sorts between Scott Alexander, Pedro Baez and now Kenta Maeda, who will shift to the bullpen. Alex Wood’s upcoming return from the DL gives the Dodgers the latitude to move him from the rotation – much to my chagrin in the NFBC Main Event.
Diamondbacks – The big move for the Diamondbacks was to go get Eduardo Escobar, just in time before they declared Jake Lamb out for the season with his shoulder injury. They also added relievers Matt Andriese, Brad Ziegler and Jake Diekman, but they only displaced pitchers we weren’t using in our games anyhow.
The only real playing time loser for the Diamondbacks is Daniel Descalso, which before this season wouldn’t even be that noteworthy anyhow. But Descalso had a nice run earlier, keyed by a spike in his slugging. But that’s crashed to a halt, as he’s gone more than two weeks without an extra base hit, accompanied by a dramatic drop in playing time.