The NL West is arguably baseball’s weirdest division this season, as the Dodgers are 14.5 games ahead of the Giants and Diamondbacks for first place, and yet non-Dodgers every team in the division has remained within reaching distance of a wild-card berth until the past week, when the Padres and Rockies really began to slump. It’s also the division where teams’ trade deadline strategies might be the hardest to predict, as the Dodgers are just as likely to stand pat as they are to make substantive upgrades, while each of the four other teams could either buy, sell, or do a little bit of both — though none of them are likely to splurge in order to add major-league talent. Here’s a look at each team’s needs and the trade assets that they possess heading towards the deadline:
Arizona Diamondbacks (52-51), T-second place
Needs: Make no mistake — the Diamonbacks have enough talent and are in good enough position to get hot down the stretch and earn an NL Wild Card spot, currently sitting at a game over .500 with a +67 run differential that ranks third in the National League. However, GM Mike Hazen rather blatantly indicated that he doesn’t have much faith in this team to actually make a meaningful playoff run, making it likely that he’ll try to continue the teardown that he began by trading Paul Goldschmidt, the best hitter in franchise history, back in December. Starters Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray are the two biggest names who will likely be on the trade block as the deadline approaches. The Diamondbacks’ farm system is still lacking: they have a modest three prospects on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list, and all of them — shortstop Jazz Chisolm (57), pitcher Jon Duplantier (58), and outfielder Alek Thomas (100) — rank within the back half of the list. Their assets aren’t strong enough to suddenly turn the system into a really good one with a few deadline deals, but the moves could definitely help add some young talent to the organization. Unfortunately, especially with a potential Greinke deal, it seems as if the D-Backs are more concerned with shedding salary than actually putting themselves in the best position to make the team the best it can be.
Assets: There are going to be concerns about Greinke’s age (35) and the fact that he’s owed $70 million over the next two seasons, but he’s remained dominant well into his 30s, so what’s the harm in assuming that he’ll remain good for the rest of this season and beyond? After all, he has a 2.93 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP over 21 starts this year — a performance that’s rather amazing for a guy who’s pitching in a hitter’s paradise during an era where the ball flies out of the ballpark rather easily even at the pitcher’s parks. Teams may feign concern about Greinke’s age or salary in order to preserve their leverage, but the fact of the matter is that he’s still one of the league’s best starters and would make every team better, so interested teams should be offering to pay up as such.
Ray, the 27-year-old lefty, is the more budget-friendly trade candidate, earning $6.05 million this year and eligible for arbitration for one more season before he hits free agency in the winter of 2020. He’s not necessarily a dominant, front-of-the-rotation force on a contending team, but he still has the potential to improve and has been very solid over each of the last three seasons and four of the past five. He’s posted a 3.95 ERA and 1.31 WHIP this season and should be able to patch up any contending rotation that might be leaking gas right now.
If he’s truly in sell mode, there’s no reason Hazen shouldn’t also be taking calls on relievers Greg Holland (a free agent after this season), Yoshihisa Hirano (a 34-year-old who is under club control through 2023), and Andrew Chafin (29, under control through 2020), all of whom could serve as potential next-best options for contenders that don’t end up acquiring premium relievers like Shane Greene, Ken Giles, or Will Smith. Backstop Alex Avila, who is a free agent after this season and has an .847 OPS over a small sample size of 112 plate appearances, could be a guy who some contenders (namely the Astros) see as an upgrade at the backup catcher spot. While he obviously didn’t garner much interest during spring training, outfielder Adam Jones is having a solid season (.268/.318/.433 with 13 homers) and could bring some veteran leadership to a contending club down the stretch. He seems like a guy who would have been likely to be moved in August under the old deadline rules, but with July 31 now being the hard trade deadline, it seems more likely than not that he’ll stick in Arizona through the end of the season.
Colorado Rockies (47-55), fifth place
Needs: The Rockies are in an odd spot, as they’re a team that is very much built to win now but has endured a miserable 2019 season, feeling the effect of the juiced ball in a major way as starters Kyle Freeland and German Márquez — after having stellar 2018 campaigns — have struggled big-time this year, with Freeland even getting optioned to Triple-A for a spell. At this point, they’re probably best-served to sell if the opportunity presents itself and try to add some young talent to a system that is decent but has fallen off a bit after churning out a steady stream of impact rookies over the past few years. If they still want to cautiously buy and try to battle their way back into a wild-card spot, they’d be well-served to upgrade at second base, a position at which they’ve posted a collective .238/.300/.337 slash line this season. Former third overall pick Brendan Rodgers is likely still Colorado’s second baseman of the future, but he’s out for the season and has yet to prove himself in the majors (and as the Dodgers have proven while winning the division for each of the past six years and counting, you can never have too much depth).
Assets: MLB.com’s Jon Morosi suggested that Colorado “would listen to offers for” 33-year-old outfielder Charlie Blackmon, though the talented hitter almost certainly provides more value to the Rockies than they’d receive for him in return, as there will be concerns about his defense around the league and he’s still owed at least $42.6 million over the next two seasons. With that said, if the Rockies get a great offer for Blackmon, who is having a banner offensive season while hitting .319/.363/.594 with 21 homers, they might as well get maximum value for him while they can. Backup catcher Chris Iannetta, who is having a below-average offensive season but is a solid veteran who brings a strong clubhouse presence, might be a guy who a contender looks at as a backup catcher for the stretch run, especially since he can become a free agent after this season. Two guys who experienced significant success in 2018 but were DFA’d after miserable 2019 campaigns in Colorado, utility man Mark Reynolds and reliever Seunghwan Oh, might be tradeable if the Rockies are willing to eat some salary and accept future considerations or anonymous lottery-ticket prospects.
Los Angeles Dodgers (67-37), first place
Needs: Just like last season — when they failed to adequately address the issue at the deadline — he Dodgers’ greatest need, without question, is in the bullpen. The return of Julio Urías has added some much-needed depth to the ‘pen, but with Ross Stripling in the rotation, one could make an argument that Los Angeles’ only consistently reliable relievers have been Kenley Jansen and Pedro Báez. The addition of a guy like Shane Greene or Ken Giles would go an extremely long way in solidifying the Dodgers as a World Series favorite. 24-year-old Will Smith, who is currently in Triple-A, may be the best catcher in the organization right now and could be the guy that they hand the reins to down the stretch, but it’s fair to say they could upgrade over their current major-league tandem of Austin Barnes and Russell Martin. But unless they’re able to swing a deal for one of the Mariners’ catchers — Omar Narváez or Tom Murphy — there may not be any good external options who are actually available on the trade market.
Assets: The Dodgers have dealt from their minor-league depth quite a bit in recent years, and yet they still have a very highly-regarded system that features four players ranked among MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects. In particular, if they’re looking to make a real splash, they could deal one of their two star catching prospects (Smith or Keibert Ruiz), as the 29-year-old Barnes is solid enough to occupy at least a backup role for the next few years, while both prospects are already at Triple-A and are good enough to command everyday playing time. Though we’ve kind of normalized it at this stage because it’s just the way the Dodgers do things, they do have an extraordinary amount of major-league position-player depth from which to deal as well, though they’ve rarely elected to do so and probably won’t this year, either. With Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock, and Alex Verdugo seemingly locked in as the team’s top three outfielders going forward, they could feel more comfortable in dealing Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor (currently injured), or Kyle Garlick (currently in Triple-A) if they so desired. While infielders Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Kiké Hernandez, and David Freese almost certainly aren’t going anywhere, it’d be easier to see guys like Matt Beaty and Edwin Ríos — who have no real path to everyday playing time in LA — being moved if the Dodgers are able to get an impact performer in return.
San Diego Padres (48-53), fourth place
Needs: This is weird to say about a last-place team with a losing record, but it’s hard to say that the Padres have any real needs that could be adequately addressed at the trade deadline. Their farm system is loaded at every position, and while more young depth is never a bad thing, the motivation for them to sell is frankly rather low at this point since they have such a surplus of prospects. They’re essentially a good starting pitcher or three away from competing, and while their best bet at this point at this point may simply be waiting for guys like Cal Quantrill, Joey Lucchesi, MacKenzie Gore, and Adrian Morejon (among other candidates) to grow into those roles, there’s also the possibility of them ponying up for an already-proven veteran starter — but the offseason would seem to be a better time for them to do that than right now, when they’re tied for last place and almost certainly aren’t going to get back into playoff contention this year. If for some reason they decide to sell closer Kirby Yates at maximum value, the greatest area for them to add would probably be along the infield, as they could use some more depth despite Eric Hosmer, Luis Urías, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Manny Machado being locked in as their starting infield for years to come.
Assets: Yates is the Padres’ greatest potential asset, as he’s posted absolutely ridiculous numbers this season: a 1.05 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP, 70 strikeouts, and just nine walks in 43 innings while leading the majors with 31 saves. While one would think dealing arguably the best closer in baseball wouldn’t be the smartest move when the Padres are already so close to contention and deep as an organization, they have to consider a few factors: 1) closers are generally volatile, 2) he’s 32 years old and theoretically should be headed for his decline stage rather soon, and 3) he doesn’t have much of a history of even being a serviceable major-leaguer and didn’t spend a full season in the big leagues until last year. (Our Andersen Pickard broke down this predicament in detail last week.) Yates could potentially bring back a huge return, especially considering that he’s under control for another year after this, so the Padres have to at least see what kinds of offers come their way.
Though it’s not absolutely necessary by any stretch of the imagination, the Padres may also opt to deal from their surplus of young outfielders, as they have six big-league-caliber outfielders age 27 or younger on their 40-man roster — Franchy Cordero, Manuel Margot, Josh Naylor, Edward Olivares, Hunter Renfroe, and Franmil Reyes — plus 28-year-olds Travis Jankowski and Wil Myers. He’s guaranteed $68.5 million over the next three seasons, has posted an unimpressive .214/.313/.391 slash line this year, and doesn’t really have a position, but it might be in Myers’ best interest for the Padres to move him if the opportunity presents itself. Even if the Padres were to eat some salary — which they’d almost certainly have to do in order to move him at all — it’s unlikely that they’d be able to get much of a return for the 28-year-old with as much as his value has dipped this year.
37-year-old second baseman Ian Kinsler doesn’t have much left in the tank and probably doesn’t have much of a role going forward in San Diego with Urías now back in the majors, so the Padres may look to move him to a contender so he can try to win his second straight World Series. Kinsler is more of a veteran mentor/clubhouse presence than anything at this pooint, but he does have eight homers. Like Adam Jones, he’s a guy that probably could have been moved in August under the old waiver trade rules but likely won’t be an attractive option to good teams if they have to keep him on their 25-man roster for a whole month before rosters expand.
San Francisco Giants (52-51), T-second place
Needs: Up until the last couple weeks, when they suddenly morphed into the National League’s most dangerous team, it looked as if the Giants were prepared to sell at the deadline. While they still may do that in some form, looking to add to a farm system that now has four prospects in Baseball America’s top 100 but still lacks upper-level depth, It feels safe to say that they won’t engage in a full-scale firesale now that they’re over .500 and within three games of an NL Wild Card spot. Interestingly, though the Giants were one of the NL’s worst teams for most of the first half, they really don’t have many obvious needs at the major-league level, though they could obviously stand to upgrade at second base over Joe Panik, who has a disappointing .235/.309/.317 slash line this season. Beyond a possible infield addition, their greatest priority in any trades they might make will presumably be adding controllable young talent, especially at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, since they’ve already done a pretty good job of procuring gifted young players at the lower levels of the system. Unless they’re able to acquire an ace-type starter — and it’s extremely unlikely that any team would trade a prospect who has already shown himself to be that type of pitcher, considering how few of them there are in the majors these days — the Giants’ focus will likely be on position players if they add to their prospect depth, as they’ve already given starts to five rookies or second-year pitchers at the major-league level this year and are stacked with young arms in the lower levels of the minors.
Assets: Madison Bumgarner may be the biggest name on the trade market this summer, and he certainly still has value — he’s perhaps the greatest postseason pitcher of all time, and while his 3.66 ERA might not look all that spectacular on the surface, it’s actually alright compared to other pitchers this year and ranks 16th among those of qualified NL starters this year. With that said, the Giants’ most valuable trade chip is actually probably closer Will Smith, who before a rough road trip to Milwaukee and Colorado had converted a perfect 23 of 23 save opportunities to begin the season and still boasts a fantastic 0.88 WHIP and .179 opponent batting average with 65 strikeouts and just 11 walks over 44.1 innings. Simply put, the free-agent-to-be is one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball, and the Giants should bring back an impressive haul if they ultimately decide to move him.
Setup men Sam Dyson (2.57 ERA, 0.92 WHIP in 49 innings) and Tony Watson (2.85 ERA, 1.10 WHIP in 41 innings) are both controllable in 2020 but were considered likely to be moved before the Giants’ surprising run began. Though Dyson will receive a raise from the $5 million he’s making this season in his final year of arbitration, and Watson could make up to $7.5 million next year on a player option when factoring in incentives, they’ve both been elite this year and obviously could make a difference down the stretch and in October. They could still be moved if the Giants opt to do some selective selling or need-for-need dealing, and to a lesser extent, guys like Trevor Gott (3.77 ERA, 0.98 WHIP in 43 innings) and Reyes Moronta (2.74 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 46 innings) are susceptible to being moved in that type of deal, too.
If the Giants were interested in emptying the cupboard for mid-level prospects — which seems extremely unlikely now that they’re on the cusp of playoff contention — Pablo Sandoval, Kevin Pillar, Stephen Vogt, and Drew Pomeranz are veterans who might be of interest to some teams if the cost was minimal. Despite being designated for assignment over the weekend, lefty reliever Derek Holland — who has held left-handers to a .182/.276/.195 slash line this year held opponents scoreless in nine of his last 11 outings despite an ugly 5.90 ERA — should bring back some sort of return in a trade if the Giants are willing to pay off some or all of the remainder of his $7 million salary for this season and $500,000 buyout for next year.