Nolan Arenado

How Giants compare to NL West division rivals after quiet offseason

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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. 

A's Matt Chapman discusses where he ranks among elite third baseman

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A's Matt Chapman discusses where he ranks among elite third baseman

OAKLAND -- When it comes to deciding who the best third baseman is in baseball, it could make for an interesting debate.

But we can all agree the defensive edge goes to Matt Chapman, right? Right?! Well, maybe. He has some tough competition. 

I asked him between himself, Rockies' third baseman Nolan Arenado and Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, who would rank at the top. 

"Another one that just got thrown into our division, too, Anthony Rendon, but I've never seen him play -- I would probably say Nolan's probably got the edge right now," Chapman told NBC Sports California. "And then Bregman, because I've never finished in the top three of MVP like those guys have and I've never hit 40 home runs like they have."

"I might have the edge on defense a little bit, but Nolan's a combo of both."

Chapman admitted Bregman has the better bat.

Bregman's numbers have improved over the years and he posted a .296/.423/.592 line with 41 home runs in 2019. 

"I might have defense over [Bregman], but Nolan has both of us combined it seems like," Chapman said. 

Arenado's resume is filled with five All-Star selections, seven Gold Glove Awards, three Platinum and four Silver Sluggers. He too, hit 41 home runs last season which tends to be a type of norm for him over his career. 

So Arenado, Chapman's former teammate at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif., wins in his eyes. 

At least for now. 

"I can hopefully give him a run for his money one day," Chapman said. 

The new defensive stats certainly help Chapman's case. The OAA, or Outs Above Average, stat has been introduced to the world of baseball for stat nerds to salivate over.

Chapman ranks sixth in the metric, in all of baseball -- and you can learn more about that measurement, here. It's something the two-time Platinum Glove winner is curious about. 

"It's cool to have that, but I think Defensive Runs Saved is number one," Chapman said.

He joked he only cares about a defensive stat where he's at the top.

"Maybe because I'm not first in that category, so I don't think it's worth, you know anything," Chapman laughed. "You know, if I'm not the best, then it's stupid."

[RELATED: Fiers looks toward future, past Astros scandal]

"I'm joking about that, but sadly, almost being truthful about that," Chapman said. "I need to know more about how they get that because I feel like I play so deep -- I don't dive on as many balls. I might have to play more routinely and it doesn't look like it's an above-average play just because it doesn't fit that criteria so I have to hear more about it, so defensive runs for me is a good checkpoint."

The A's led the league in DEF (Defensive Runs Above Average) last season with 42.9 and were 10th in DRS. Chapman alone ranked seventh in the league in DRS with 18.

Where A's Matt Chapman ranks in new Statcast metric for infielders

Where A's Matt Chapman ranks in new Statcast metric for infielders

Matt Chapman is an elite defensive player. That has been known ever since he made his MLB debut for the A's in June 2017, and well before that. 

Chapman, 26, won a Gold Glove in each of the last two seasons. He also was awarded the AL Rawlings Platinum Glove in 2018 and 2019, and was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year after both of those seasons.

If you watch an A's game, it's easy to see what an elite third baseman the former first-round pick is. But a new Statcast defensive metric for infielders truly shows his greatness. There still is one third baseman ahead of him, though. 

Outs Above Average has been limited to outfielders the last two seasons. Not anymore. The metric now can be used for infielders as well. What exactly is OAA, though? MLB.com's Mike Petriello explained with this deep dive, however, there are four simple components to creating it.

1. How far the fielder has to go to reach the ball
2. How much time he has to get there
3. How far he then is from the base the runner is going to
4. On force plays, how fast the batter is, on average

The play doesn't always require a throw, though. Kind of like this ridiculous Chapman catch against the San Francisco Giants. 

So, where does Chapman rank among infielders for OAA? Last season, he finished sixth in all of baseball, behind the following: Cubs shortstop Javier Baez (19 OAA), Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (17 OAA), Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (16 OAA), D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed (16 OAA) and Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (15 OAA). 

For good measure, A's first baseman Matt Olson led his position with 12 OAA -- good for eighth in the major leagues.

Chapman is elite at coming in on the ball towards home plate. He was worth 8 OAA on those plays, while Arenado wasn't worth any OAA on such plays. 

He also was worth 4 OAA on plays where he had to move to his left, 1 OAA on plays to his right and 1 OAA on plays where he had to move back or the ball was behind him. He's how Arenado scored: 12 OAA on plays to his left, 4 OAA on plays to his right and 1 OAA on plays he moved back. 

[RELATED: Why Chapman, Olson are A's best prospects from the 2010s]

The A's star third baseman quickly has turned into of the best all-around players in the game. OAA is a great way to show where he thrives the most defensively, and it will be interesting to see if he can take his game to the next level at certain areas in 2020. 

One thing's for sure. Chapman has a lot more gold, and platinum, in his future.