The aptly nicknamed Hot Stove League kicked off in San Diego at the Winter Meetings with Scott Boras inking consecutive record-breaking contracts for his aces Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole.
Since then, more trades and other signings have changed a few names on the backs of every team’s uniforms, but it’s the extended offseason that may make it hard to recollect which player is with what team for 2020.
With the 60-game abbreviated season requiring teams to play strictly within their region, Colorado will play the National League West for 40 games and the American League West for 20 interleague games.
The west will be won in the west and against nine other teams that have the same belief that they can win in the sprint that is the 2020 MLB Season.
vs Rockies: @COL, August 10-12; @ARI, August 24-27; @ARI, September 25-27
Additions: OF Starling Marté, OF Kole Calhoun, OF Jon Jay, C Stephen Vogt, LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Héctor Rondón, RHP Junior Guerra
Subtractions: RHP Matt Andriese
The DBacks made two of the biggest moves in the division this offseason with the signing of Bumgarner and the trade acquisition Marté. With LHP Robbie Ray entering his free agent year and looking excellent in summer camp, Arizona is poised to have one of the best duos in the game at the top of its rotation.
If the Ketel Marte from 2019 shows up this season, 1B Christian Walker continues to show growth at the plate, and the bullpen pitches to its potential, the Snakes could end up surprising the Dodgers for the NL West pennant.
Additions: OF Matt Kemp, IF/OF Chris Owings, RHP José Mujica, RHP Tyler Kinley, RHP Daniel Bard
Subtractions: 1B Yonder Alonso, 1B Roberto Ramos, RHP Chad Bettis, RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Rico Garcia, RHP Tim Melville, LHP Jake McGee, LHP Tyler Anderson
Opted Out: OF Ian Desmond
The absence of Desmond, Shaw and McGee will give the youngsters on the roster an opportunity to shine in 2020. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story will need to ensure a slump-free season in order for the Rockies to contend for their third playoff appearance in four years.
Starters Jon Gray and German Márquez will need to take further steps forward as will Ryan McMahon and either left-handed hitting outfielder Raimel Tapia or Sam Hilliard. Kyle Freeland, Wade Davis and Daniel Murphy must revert back to the 2018 version of themself for all to go right in the win column for this club.
Los Angeles Dodgers
vs Rockies: @LAD, August 21-23; @LAD, September 4-6; @COL September 17-20
Additions: OF Mookie Betts, RHP Brusdar Graterol, RHP Jimmy Nelson, LHP Alex Wood, RHP Blake Treinen
Subtractions: RHP Kenta Maeda, LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, OF Alex Verdugo
Opt outs: LHP David Price
The Dodgers’ stacked roster has taken a hit since the baseball world came to a screeching halt in March with Price choosing to sit out, RHP Kenley Jansen reporting to camp late after testing positive for COVID-19 and RHP Jimmy Nelson requiring lower back surgery.
Even with the absence of Ryu and Maeda in the starting rotation, L.A. should have little issue winning the West for the eighth year in a row so long as the randomness of the small sample-size that is the 60-game season doesn’t prevent the inevitable for a lineup rife with great hitters.
San Diego Padres
vs Rockies: @COL, August 1-3; @COL, August 28-31; @SD, September 7-9
Additions: OF Tommy Pham, OF Trent Grisham, IF Jurickson Profar, RHP Emilio Pagán, RHP Zach Davies, RHP Pierce Johnson, LHP Drew Pomeranz, LHP Tim Hill
Subtractions: IF/OF Jorge Mateo, OF Hunter Renfroe, OF Manuel Margot, OF Francy Cordero, C Austin Allen, SS Luis Urias, LHP Eric Lauer
GM A.J. Preller has quickly become the NL’s version of Jerry Dipoto, trading any and every one of his young players for those more coveted in other organizations. Following some down seasons with Andy Green at the helm, the Padres hired Jayce Tingler in hopes of turning their tanking ways into more triumphant ones.
A flurry of trades, the signing of Pomeranz and the addition of the DH – perfect for the defensively challenged Wil Myers and Josh Naylor – has sured up the roster for what could be a push for their first postseason since 2006. In six weeks, we’ll know if all those buzzworthy prospects can amount to something tangible.
San Francisco Giants
vs Rockies: @COL, August 3-6; @COL, September 1-2; @SF, September 21-24
Additions: OF Hunter Pence, OF Billy Hamilton, IF Wilmer Flores, RHP Kevin Gausman, LHP Drew Smyly, LHP Tyler Anderson
Subtractions: LHP Madison Bumgarner, LHP Will Smith
Opt outs: C Buster Posey
Though the Giants have not been a serious contender since 2016, they haven’t exactly acted like it. Starting with three trades at the July 31 deadline last year and the loss of Bumgarner and Smith to free agency, they’ve begun to embrace the rebuilding model. Better late than never, especially with bloated contracts to veterans Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, and Johnny Cueto making up $70M of the 2021 payroll.
In a shortened season, a team like San Francisco can ruin the postseason plans of any divisional rival who hopes to win a large majority of the 10 games against the former juggernaut. Otherwise, there’s not too much to get excited about other than Littleton, CO submariner Tyler Rogers who could join his twin brother Taylor among the ranks of closers.
Originally, the NL West was lined up to play teams in the AL Central. As it were, it will not be until 2023 that the Rockies will get a chance to play the likes of the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins.
vs Rockies: @HOU, August 17-18; @COL, August 19-20
Additions: C Martin Maldonado, C Dustin Garneau
Subtractions: RHP Gerrit Cole
Opt outs: RHP Joe Smith
The biggest loss of the 2020 season will be the 81 dates in which Astros are forced to face the reality of their actions on the road at ballparks all around the nation. While the organization may have been punished with the loss of draft picks and a $5M fine, the players on the field who made the choice to cheat have yet to receive any penalty for their actions.
The absence of Gerrit Cole could loom large on the Houston pitching staff that is led by two starters age-36 or higher (Justin Verlander and Zack Grienke) with a group of high-upside youngsters that still have a lot to prove.
It’s also time for Alex Bregman to put up or shut up.
Los Angeles Angels
vs Rockies: @COL, September 11-13
Additions: 3B Anthony Rendon, C Jason Castro, RHP Julio Teheran, RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Matt Andriese
Subtractions: 3B Zack Cozart
The starting pitching still might be a question mark for the franchise ravaged by the sudden passing of Tyler Skaggs last year at the age of 27, but the addition of Rendon should dramatically boost of the offense. We might even see OF Mike Trout put it into another gear, if that’s even possible.
vs Rockies: @OAK, July 28-29; @COL, September 15-16
Additions: OF Tony Kemp, C Austin Allen, LHP Jake Diekman, LHP T.J. McFarland
Subtractions: IF Jurickson Profar
Since one can never count out the A’s, don’t assume the lack of improvements equates to a mediocre season in the Bay Area. The roster is still quite young and the likes of 1B Matt Olson and 3B Matt Chapman can carry even more weight on their back as strong group of veteran relievers looks to keep Oakland in every game.
vs Rockies: @SEA, August 7-9
Additions: IF Patrick Wisdom, RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Carl Edwards Jr., RHP Yoshihisa Hirano, LHP Nick Margevicius
Subtractions: C Omar Narváez
It was a mild offseason for former Rockies’ reliever and current M’s GM Dipoto; trading away every veteran with any value will do that to a 40-man roster.
With an expected starting lineup featuring only one player age-30 or higher (long-time Mariners’ third baseman Kyle Seager), Seattle will look to steal bases at an unprecedented clip with Shed Long, Mallex Smith and Dee Gordon clustered together in the lineup at times.
The rotation is no push over and will be led by Rocky Mountain High School’s Marco Gonzales who signed a four-year, $30M extension in February.
vs Rockies: @TEX, July 24-26; @COL, August 14-16
Additions: C Robinson Chirinos, IF Todd Frazier, RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Kyle Gibson, RHP Jordan Lyles, RHP Edinson Vólquez, LHP Joely Rodríguez
Subtractions: OF Nomar Mazaro, OF Delino DeShields Jr., RHP Emmanuel Clase
If anyone is going to surprise in this division, it’s the Rangers. With the addition of three starting pitchers, including the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Kluber, Texas has an opportunity to christen the newly-constructed Globe Life Field in style.