It has been hot and dry here in California, and the unseasonal warm weather reminds me that Spring Training is finally within our sight. The long, dull offseason has seen the Dodgers stay pretty status quo. They signed veteran pitcher Dan Haren to slot in nicely in the rotation as a fourth or fifth arm. That spot opened up to replace Ricky Nolasco who took his overvalued price tag to Minnesota this winter. The Dodgers also let go some of their key bench guys who covered the holes while the first two months of last season were riddled with injuries.
The Dodgers signed Alexander Guerrero, who is yet to step foot in the U.S. and is still waiting on his Visa (UPDATE: Guerrero has his Visa and arrived in Florida!) The bullpen was stocked this winter. Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, J.P. Howell, and second time Dodger Jamey Wright were all signed. No big trades this offseason, and the Dodgers have yet to announce any big contracts to either Clayton Kershaw or Hanley Ramirez. They did extend Don Mattingly with a three-year deal which ensures the skipper will be playing against former Dodger Kirk Gibson in the division for at least three more seasons.
The Dodgers will travel to Australia at the end of March to open the MLB season against their biggest current divisional foes, the Arizona Diamondbacks. What have the D-backs been up to this offseason? Will they be contenders, or will the division remain weak? The D-backs and Kirk Gibson sure fired up the feud, but the real winner is the one in the box score.
The D-backs certainly will not have the same caliber rotation as the Dodgers in 2014, but they do have some young pitchers who are coming into their own and will challenge Dodger hitters next year. Trevor Cahill struggled with ineffectiveness and injury last season, but Cahill is absolutely capable of coming back and producing another solid season like his 2009-2012 seasons had been. Wade Miley was successful during his second full season in the Majors, and it wouldn’t be too premature to say that he should be on track to have a good season with the Snakes as well. Patrick Corbin is another young left-hander who will also most likely be tormenting the Dodgers for many years. He went 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA in 32 starts for Arizona last season. The D-backs also have Brandon McCarthy next season who is due to make $10.25 million.
Will any of the NL West teams pose a threat to the reigning division champs?
Like the Dodgers, the Snakes’ offense struggled due to injuries. Miguel Montero, who caught 116 games only hit .230 last year yet his career average sits at .267 and he had hit around .280 the past two seasons in 2011 and 2012. He hit as many as 18 homeruns and 86 RBIs in 2011. Aaron Hill‘s hand injury caused him to be able to play in only 87 games last season. He still hit .291, but his homerun count dropped from 26 in 2012 to 11 last year. There’s no reason to believe that the Silver Slugger won’t bounce back and have a strong 2014.
Paul Goldschmidt. They do still have him, and he will continue to totally dominate the Dodgers. It will be hard for Goldy to top his 2013 campaign when he hit .302/.401/.551 with 36 homeruns and 125 RBIs. The first baseman has cemented himself as one of the best hitters in the league, and he will continue to be a divisional foe for the Dodgers for years to come. In his career against the Dodgers, Goldschmidt is hitting .344 with 9 homeruns and 32 RBIs in 163 at-bats.
The D-backs bullpen has improved this offseason if not for the sole reason of getting rid of Heath Bell. This past December 3rd, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay made a three-team trade. The D- backs shipped Bell and cash off to Tampa Bay in return for minor leaguers Justin Choate and Todd Glaesmann. The D-backs also sent Cincinnati David Holmberg while the Reds sent Ryan Hanigan to the Rays.
The D-backs also picked up right-hander Addison Reed from the White Sox in exchange for Matt Davidson. Reed seems like a good pick up for the Snakes whose bullpen was awful last season. Bell had 15 saves, and the others like Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz barely helped out if only to bail out Bell. Reed, a young and upcoming reliever, could help to rebuild this bewildered bullpen.
The D-backs biggest splash came on December 10th of last year which lit up the internet as one of the biggest trades of this offseason. The Arizona D-backs traded away Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs to the Angels in exchange for outfielder Mark Trumbo and a player to be named later or cash considerations.
Mark Trumbo in the outfield at Chase Field should be fun. Photo: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
traded away foolishly. I’m still confused over the Upton deal, but the Trumbo transaction really had me quite shocked. Trumbo, who will celebrate his 28th birthday this Thursday, will no doubt add a double dose of power coupled with Goldy in the lineup. Trumbo will have to play left field, but the D-backs didn’t go out and get him for his glove. Trumbo will drive in the runs that the D-backs crave, but he’ll also strike out a bunch.
Willie Bloomquist is gone, Heath Bell gone, Adam Eaton gone, and Tyler Skaggs went bye bye. Just like the Dodgers, the D-backs have shed some of their snakeskin this winter. The D-backs will rely on their power duo in the lineup, a young up and coming pitching staff, and a Bell-less bullpen in order to break the .500 mark in 2014. While the D-backs may cash in more runs next season, they still will not be a threat to the Dodgers in the division.
The D-backs quickly became the Dodgers #1 enemy last season after the brawling and the pool debauchery. Ian Kennedy, the instigator is gone, but the snakebite still stings for not only the players but also the fans. The Dodgers will meet up with the D-backs down under, and let’s hope we will be watching a baseball game and not a rugby match when these two clubs fight it out. The Dodgers will have no problem once again proving who is supreme on the diamond. Trumbo will not win the division for the Snakes.