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Diamondbacks are transforming the NL West

As the Dodgers and Padres fall back, and the Giants work to stay competitive, Arizona is making a bid to be the new boss of the NL West.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

What occurred to me yesterday, as my mind boggled over the return of young players the Braves were able to extract from the Diamondbacks for Shelby Miller, is how different the National League West is going to look in 2016. For years we have marveled at the Dodgers' lack of financial restraint, and seen how it has helped them win their division for three straight seasons. Last year, we saw the Padres ramp up their spending in a failed bid to compete. And we've seen the Giants ebb and flow as they've alternated World Championships with failing to make the playoffs entirely.

Our two constants have been the bumbling Rockies and these Diamondbacks, who haven't cracked .500 in four years, and who have looked utterly adrift. Now, GM Dave Stewart has imbued them with direction (we can argue about whether that's a good direction or not) and they seem poised to challenge the Dodgers for NL West supremacy. They have a strong core of Greinke, Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Patrick Corbin, and Miller. While they don't seem to value prospects who have yet to reach the Major Leagues nearly enough, they have intriguing young talents like Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb who will be part of their everyday lineup. Peter O'Brien and Socrates Brito (odds on favorite for the best name in Major League Baseball in 2017) will be ready in the next year. They even still have 22 year old Archie Bradley hanging around, assuming he ever puts it all together.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are taking steps backwards after just a 90 win season. They couldn't or wouldn't match their division rivals to retain Greinke, opting to downgrade to Hisashi Iwakuma. Rather than putting in a bid on Ben Zobrist, or trying to retain Howie Kendrick, they're going to let Chase Utley, Jose Peraza, and Kike Hernandez fight over second base. The outfield still is in flux and has question marks. All world prospect Corey Seager will come in with high marks, but there's no guarantee that he won't need time to adjust at shortstop. And all of that is before we even start to talk about the Aroldis Chapman debacle.

The Padres have all but admitted that last year was a mistake, dealing Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit for prospects, dealing Jedd Gyorko for Jon Jay, getting rid of the perpetually disappointing Yonder Alonso for the perpetually injured Drew Pomeranz. They're also rumored to be shopping Matt Kemp and James Shields. The Padres are looking to start all over again.

And the Giants? The Giants are hoping Jeff Samardzija's one good season is more indicative of his direction than last year's disaster. They're hoping to latch on to one of the available corner outfielders as well. While it would be foolish to count the Giants out (2016 is an even numbered year, after all), they still have major questions in their starting rotation that might not be totally assuaged by re-signing Mike Leake. If the team's health suffers like it did in 2015, there simply is not enough depth to paper over any holes that emerge.

So, yes, the Diamondbacks look like they will be resurgent in 2016 and that we may have a total realignment in the NL West to contend with. That said, they paid a heavy price to do it. Miller is a pretty decent number two starter with three more years of team control left. Ender Inciarte, on the other hand, is going to be 25, was worth in excess of three wins last year with his league average offense and outstanding defense, and is under team control through 2021. Aaron Blair was a top 100 prospect last year and reached Triple A. And Dansby Swanson, last year's number one overall amateur pick, had success in his first season of pro ball and figures to be one of the top 100 prospects in baseball this year. He's a potentially dynamic shortstop. In five years, this deal may look awfully silly for the Diamondbacks. But, then, if they make the postseason and have a deep run a couple of times in the next three years, nobody is going to give a damn about that. And rightfully so.