Jurickson Profar

How Giants compare to NL West division rivals after quiet offseason


How Giants compare to NL West division rivals after quiet offseason

The last big piece came off the board early Monday morning, when Nicholas Castellanos signed a four-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds. 

Castellanos had been a target for the Giants, who now seem likely to head to Scottsdale with Kevin Gausman as their biggest free-agent acquisition of the offseason. That's not unexpected -- it's what happens when you're taking a step back, as the Giants are. 

But Farhan Zaidi has also repeatedly said that he intends to be competitive as late into the season as possible, and the Giants certainly would like to get Gabe Kapler's tenure off to a solid start after the way his hire was received locally. They have plenty of ground to make up to reach that goal, with Madison Bumgarner, Kevin Pillar and other key contributors now gone from a roster that finished 29 games behind the Dodgers and eight behind the Diamondbacks. 

The Giants won't win the NL West this year. Even they would tell you that. But how close can they stay? Where might they actually finish? Here's a rundown of what the other four teams in the West did this offseason and how they're looking as we approach that magical day when pitchers and catchers finally report ... 

The overwhelming favorite: Los Angeles Dodgers

Winners of the division for seven consecutive seasons, there's no reason to think they won't make it eight. The Dodgers lost Hyun-jin Ryu to the Blue Jays and Rich Hill to the Twins, but they keep churning out young talent, a sustainable model the Giants are trying to follow. In Julio Urias, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, they have more than enough young depth to fill out the rotation, and they added a couple of guys who seemed to make more sense for a team like the Giants -- Alex Wood and Jimmy Nelson. Neither is far removed from All-Star caliber pitching and if the Dodgers hit on one of those veterans their rotation again will be a strength. 

Blake Treinen was another reclamation project who made sense for the Giants, but the Dodgers gave the former A's closer $10 million to see if he can find his 2018 form. If he does, the Dodgers may finally solve their biggest problem. 

There was a strong run at Gerrit Cole and a brief flirtation with Anthony Rendon, and the Dodgers reportedly still are sniffing around about a Mookie Betts trade, but ultimately they seem to be betting that they can make their big move in July, and why wouldn't they? The lineup was already a powerhouse and top prospects Gavin Lux and Will Smith are set for a full season. This team should be easily headed for a playoff spot by the trade deadline, allowing Andrew Friedman to take another crack at adding the type of impact talent that can help the Dodgers end a drought that might have ended three years ago if the Astros had played it fair. 

The new rival: Arizona Diamondbacks

For once, the Dodgers won't be the NL West opponent that brings the most intrigue to Oracle Park.

Every time the Diamondbacks visit, they'll bring Bumgarner with them, and there's a good chance the Giants will have to face their longtime ace four or five in 2020. 

There are plenty of reasons Bumgarner chose the desert, and a desire to play competitive baseball is high on the list. The Diamondbacks very quietly won 85 games last year and will count on Bumgarner to lead a young rotation. They'll also lean on Stephen Vogt, who turned a strong season as Buster Posey's backup into a $3 million deal with Arizona. Vogt is as good a clubhouse guy as there is in the game today, and he'll join Bumgarner in taking direct aim at the Dodgers. 

Giving Bumgarner $85 million was the big splash, but the Diamondbacks also signed Kole Calhoun to a two-year deal, adding an outfielder who had 33 homers last season. Hector Rondon, a former closer with the Cubs and Astros, was added to the bullpen, and on Monday morning the Diamondbacks were finalizing a deal for Pirates center fielder Starling Marte, per multiple reports. 

Adam Jones, who had some nice moments for them early last year, is in Japan now, but that's about the only noteworthy loss for a team that traded Paul Goldschmidt last offseason and Zack Greinke in July. 

To add to it, Arizona has acquired outfielder Starling Marte via trade with Pittsburgh to bolster that outfield and give the other Marte, Ketel, a chance to have a permanent position in the infield. 

The end of the rebuild: San Diego Padres

Rival players and officials have been waiting a couple of years for the Padres to finally become what A.J. Preller has envisioned, and they have continued to be aggressive in a bid to end a lengthy rebuild. It was no surprise when The Athletic reported they were after Betts; they're in on plenty of big names these days, but this was a quieter offseason after a couple of previous splashes that brought Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado to town. 

The Padres really could have used hometown kid Stephen Strasburg, but he stayed with the reigning champs. Their big free agency splash ended up being Drew Pomeranz, who sneakily had one of the greatest bouncebacks of 2019. The lefty signed a $1.5 million deal with the Giants, pitched his way out of the rotation, started throwing 97 mph, dominated for two months in Milwaukee, and signed a four-year, $34 million deal to return to San Diego. The new repertoire looked real and sustainable once Pomeranz switched to relieving, but that's still a risky contract to give a bullpen piece. 

The Padres will count on a young rotation -- led by Chris Paddack and potentially top prospect Mackenzie Gore -- but they still could use more consistency here (it'll be interesting to see if Bumgarner opens up about his options; he would have been a great fit for the Padres). Veteran righty Zach Davies is in and lefty Eric Lauer is now a Brewer. 

The lineup will have a much different look. Tommy Pham, an on-base machine, came over from the Rays in a deal that cost the Padres Hunter Renfroe and prospect Xavier Edwards. Young outfielder Trent Grisham was added in a trade with the Brewers, who got second base prospect Luis Urias. The Padres filled that hole by acquiring Jurickson Profar from the A's. 

A Betts deal seems unlikely and the Padres still could use pitching, but they're hopeful this is the year if finally comes together. A healthy Fernando Tatis Jr. would go a long way towards guaranteeing it does. He turned 21 earlier this month, and it wouldn't at all be a surprise to see him standing as one of the top five players in the National League by the end of the summer.  

[RELATED: Could young Giants starters end up in bullpen?]

The mess: Colorado Rockies

How do you screw things up with Nolan Arenado so badly that he's texting beat writers and expressing his frustration with management? That was the highlight of the offseason for the Rockies, who whiffed badly in previous attempts to spend -- Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, etc. -- and basically sat out the last three months (seriously, MLB's official page shows five transactions for the Rockies in December and January and four of them were for players being moved off the active roster). 

The Rockies went 71-91 last year (finishing six games behind the Giants), haven't signed a player to a guaranteed Major League deal this offseason and have a bloated payroll. It's hard to see how this ends with anything but an Arenado trade and a full rebuild. 

Why A's fans will love Buddy Reed, prospect acquired in Padres trade


Why A's fans will love Buddy Reed, prospect acquired in Padres trade

The A's traded second baseman Jurickson Profar to the San Diego Padres earlier in December, which brought catcher Austin Allen and a player to be named later to Oakland.

That player to be named later would ultimately be Buddy Reed -- and there is plenty to get excited about with the talented center fielder.

As far as his numbers go, the 24-year-old slashed .228/.310/.388 with a career-high 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 121 games last season for the Padres' Double-A affiliate. He also ranked seventh in the Texas League with 23 stolen bases. 

MLB Pipeline's Jonathan Mayo complimented Reed, saying he's an all-around excellent athlete.

"He has tremendous tools, he just needs to refine them," Mayo told NBC Sports California. "He's one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball and there's no doubt he could play center in the big leagues right now and be a Gold Glove-caliber defender."

His 2018 season was one for the books as he received just about every minor-league award you could imagine, including being selected to the Futures Game. That's where he really shined, and not just on the field.

"He also is a plus, plus, plus personality," Mayo added.

The A's No. 22 ranked prospect was mic'd up during the Future's Game and, well:

Mayo said fans are going to love him. 

[RELATED: Profar trade gives A's infield situation more clarity]

He will also be reunited with top prospect A.J. Puk -- the two were teammates at the University of Florida. 

Reed will be a non-rostered invitee to spring training, but it's safe to say he's the perfect fit for Oakland's organization. 

Why catcher Austin Allen should be able to make A's roster in 2020

Why catcher Austin Allen should be able to make A's roster in 2020

When the A's traded utility man Jurickson Profar to the San Diego Padres on Dec. 2, they quietly acquired a player who fits multiple needs on their big league roster. 

Austin Allen easily could serve as Oakland's backup catcher in 2020, and he brings a powerful left-handed bat off the bench. The former Padres prospect has a clear path to the A's roster, especially if rosters expand to 26 players next year. 

Allen, who turns 26 years old on Jan. 16, made his major league debut for the Padres. He struggled in 34 games, batting just .215 with a .559 OPS, but his numbers in Triple-A tell a different story. 

The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder crushed the ball over 67 games for the El Paso Chihuahuas. Allen hit .330 with 21 home runs and had an eye-opening 1.042 OPS. Sure, he took advantage of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but those certainly are numbers worth taking a chance on if you're the A's. 

This wasn't a fluke for Allen, too. The powerful left-hander hit .290 with 22 homers and an .857 OPS the year before in Double-A. He has hit 75 long balls over five minor league seasons. 

Allen's ability to hammer right-handed pitching is what makes him such a viable option for the A's. He hit .356 with 15 homers and a 1.106 OPS off right-handers in Triple-A last season.

Yeah, that plays. 

The A's only catcher on the big league roster right now is the right-handed hitting Sean Murphy, who made his MLB debut last season. But he hit .229 off right-handers compared to .278 against lefties. 

[RELATED: Source: Free agent Sogard interested in reunion with A's]

Murphy should be the A's primary starter behind the dish, and has the potential to be a future Gold Glove catcher. Having Allen as an option off the bench doesn't hurt, though. 

The A's as a whole are right-handed heavy throughout the lineup. Whether it's as a spot starter for Murphy or a powerful bat off the bench, Allen should be able to find his way onto the roster next season.