Okay now that Yu Darvish is signed, sealed, and delivered to the Chicago Cubs, who is the next domino to fall? 21 of the top 50 are still unsigned, and 6 of the top ten. Interestingly, 5 of those 6 are represented by Scott Boras (JDM, Hosmer, Arrieta, Moustakas, and Holland). Is it collusion, or is it anti Scott Boras?
So what does that mean for the Dodgers? The Nationals are still strong. The Cubs are arguably as good as last year, but I am not so sure. The Cardinals need a big year from Ozuna and a bounceback year from Wainright and Wacha to be a contender. Yadi is another year older. Kelly should be a more than adequate backup C, but one never knows until a prospect can actually show what they can do. Tommy Pham, who I like a lot, needs to have as good a year as he had last year, and he is moving to CF. Busch CF, may take something out of his offense. The Cards could be good or not.
The Brewers will be improved, but they are going to sorely miss Jimmy Nelson. Will Thames play like he did in April or more like May, June, and August? Braun is another year older. Cain and Yelich make their offense better, but enough to offset a declining Braun and a May/June/August Thames? Stephen Vogt as their catcher leaves a little to be desired. I do not know if Lucroy would want to go back, but he is running out of options. Any team that is relying on Yovani Gallardo as a potential starter is in serious trouble. I do not see the Brewers as a real threat to the Cubs or Cardinals.
Other than the Nationals, there is no NL East team that is anywhere close to contending. That leaves the NL West. The DBacks will be in contention. They have the offense, and with Greinke, Ray, and Godley, they have a good 1-3. Walker and Corbin are an okay 4-5; Walker more so than Corbin. With Bradley in the pen, they are still formidable. Pollock, Lamb, Drury, Peralta will need good years to make up for loss of JDM, and if they can get anything out of Tomas that will be gravy. I am not sure if Avila is an upgrade over Iannetta. The DBack pitchers were pretty good with Iannetta back of the dish.
The Rockies lost too much and there is too much reliance on a very young rotation that did not finish 2017 very well. Mark Reynolds carried them in the beginning of the year, and CarGo at the end of the year. Both are now gone. Davis, McGee, and Shaw make their bullpen pretty good, but they may get warn out unless the starters can go deep.
The Dodgers lost four months of Brandon Morrow and two months of Yu Darvish. Their starting rotation of Kershaw/Wood/Hill/Maeda/Ryu is as good as any starting 5 in MLB and arguably the best. But their playoff rotation is questionable without a solid RHSP. As I previously stated, in my opinion the Dodgers were never really a potential long term home for Darvish. They did not need him to get to the playoffs for 2017, and I do not believe he is needed to win the division in 2018. I also do not believe Buehler is ready to be a playoff starting pitcher, nor is Stripling or Stewart. Just like 2016 and 2017, they are going to look into picking up a starting pitcher at the trading deadline, this year a RHSP. FAZ has generally gone after rentals at the deadline. I know everyone is talking about the great group of free agents next year, but the best of the RHSP are Garrett Richards, Ervin Santana, Matt Harvey, Cole Hamels, followed by the likes of Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, James Shields, Josh Tomlin, and Wily Peralta. Not a great group. Of the better selections, Richards and Santana figure to be very much in the thick of a pennant or Wild Card race and therefore do not figure to be moved. Of the rest, only Matt Harvey figures to have anything close to TOR potential.
IMO, in the AL, the Yankees, Boston, Indians, Astros, Angels, and Twins will still be in contention in July. Maybe the Blue Jays and Mariners, but I think they are long shots. That would leave the O’s, Rays, ChiSox, Tigers, Royals, Rangers, and A’s as teams that should be preparing for 2019 by July 2018. Chris Archer (Rays), Jake Odorizzi (Rays), Michael Fulmer (Tigers), Kendall Graveman (A’s), Hamels (Rangers), and Shields (ChiSox) could be targeted. Of that group, only Michael Fulmer excites me, but the Tigers will not trade him. Hamels could be this year’s version of Verlander who may have two months left in him, especially if the Rangers follow through with their 6 man rotation. Graveman and Manaea are the two A’s who will not be going anywhere. That would leave Archer and Odorizzi as potential rotation pieces. Neither are needed to get to the playoffs, but will they be good enough for the playoffs? I am not so sure they are.
In the NL, I believe that the Dodgers, DBacks, Cubs, Cards, and Nats are solid contenders. The Brewers could be. I do not believe the Giants are nearly close enough to contend. That would leave the Reds, Pirates, Mets, Braves, Phillies, Marlins for teams outside the NL West that figure to be sellers at the trade deadline. The Marlins have Dan Straily, the Pirates have Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, and Chad Kuhl. The Reds have Anthony DeSclafani. The Phillies have Aaron Nola, and the Braves have Julio Teheran. I like the potential of DeSclafani, Taillon, and Nola, but I do not believe any of those will be available. The Bucs will want to move Nova, the Phils will want to move Velasquez, and the Reds will want to move Homer Bailey. The team that has the most potential RHSP that may become available is the NY Mets. Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Zach Wheeler are all pitchers that could be TOR. Syndergaard is not going anywhere. Maybe just maybe Jacob deGrom might be available for the right price. Matt Harvey will certainly be available. Wheeler is just not established enough to consider for the playoffs.
I would hope that the Dodgers will make a serious run at Jacob deGrom. And while I am not fond of Matt Harvey, IF he is healthy, I think maybe pitching for a WS ring in his walk year just might humble him enough to be a non-controversial clubhouse guy. I also think that Cole Hamels will get consideration, especially if the Rangers agree to pick up his buyout. Remember most wanted Darvish over Verlander last year. Most thought Verlander was done and too expensive. Verlander got the ring, not Darvish.
The Dodgers also have questions that may change their deadline plans. Will Kershaw’s back stay strong all year? Will Corey’s elbow be an issue, or his back? Can CT3, Austin Barnes, and Cody Bellinger duplicate 2017? Will JT hold up all year, or is he going to need more rest. Can Logan Forsythe play at the level the Dodgers thought they were getting…the one that played in April? Whatever is wrong with Puig, will it affect his season? Can Kemp actually play nice with others? How deep can Wood, Hill, Maeda, and Ryu pitch in 2018? Who will be the 8th inning guy? Who is going to be on the bench for the Dodgers…Kike’, Grandal, ?, ?, ? Joc figures to be one, but Toles and Verdugo may have something to say. Utley could be (or Peter or Muncy). Trayce Thompson or Rob Segedin? An 8th relief pitcher?
Spring Training starts this week with pitchers and catchers first workout on Wednesday. First full squad workout on February 19. First ST game on February 23. Be on the lookout for that surprise RHSP who will come available in July. I think this is the year, the Dodgers SHOULD go all in, and go all the way.