Welcome to the Wild, Wild West, which has undergone quite the transformation in the last six weeks or so. If you recall, all five National League West teams were at or above .500 in mid-May. While we knew that wouldn’t last long — and it didn’t — what has happened in the division since has been a little surprising.
As expected, the Los Angeles Dodgers sit atop the West. Also, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies hold down fourth and fifth place. Meanwhile, the San Diego Padres, with a new manager and strong starting pitching, are not showing signs of wavering despite injuries, while the San Francisco Giants — last year’s surprising best team in MLB with 107 wins — haven’t found the secret to repeat 2021’s success.
Now, as we cross off the final days of June on the MLB calendar, it is time for all these teams to decide what role they are going to play as the Aug. 2 trade deadline approaches. There are two categories of teams: contenders and pretenders. But the West might also have a team that falls somewhere in between.
Here is a look at each team and their expected philosophy as we get ready for July:
NL West Standings
Who to deal: Right-handed starting pitcher Zach Davies, left-handed starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, right-handed starting pitcher Merrill Kelly, right-handed reliever Ian Kennedy, right-handed reliever Mark Melancon, infielder-outfielder Josh Rojas, outfielder David Peralta.
Overview: The D’backs are in a precarious position as a seller. They have a young core of hitters and a handful of veteran pitchers. Depending on how deep they go as trade partners, the rest of the season could be painful for D’backs fans.
Davies, Kennedy, and Melancon figure to be easy decisions to move for Arizona, which has Baseball America’s No. 10 farm system in terms of talent with more hitters leading the way and a few pitchers who could be close to earning an MLB roster spot. Davies has posted a 3.94 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and isn’t a big swing-and-miss guy, but could provide a good alternative to contenders who might miss out on Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo, probably the biggest trade chip on the market.
MLB-ready pitching should be a target for the D’backs, who could be in a position to be a minor player in free agency this offseason.
Injuries: Shortstop Nick Ahmed (right shoulder soreness) is out for the season after having surgery. He should be ready for spring training. Right-handed starter Humberto Castellanos (right elbow strain) has resumed throwing. Right-handed reliever J.B. Bukauskas (teres major) recently threw a live batting practice.
What to strengthen: Bullpen, starting pitcher, utility player.
Overview: What do you get for a team that already has everything? Depends on the injury situation. The Dodgers suffered a major blow to their late-inning bullpen when right-hander Daniel Hudson went down with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament that requires season-ending surgery.
Finding a top-notch replacement for Hudson, plus another arm or two for depth will be needed for L.A. to be comfortable with its roster for another postseason run. The starting rotation might also need solidifying, as left-hander Andrew Heaney is back on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation. How big will the Dodgers go there? Right-hander Walker Buehler (right forearm strain) probably won’t be back until mid-September and L.A. could add at the top of the rotation from Baseball America’s No. 8 system in terms of talent.
As for position players, finding someone who can bounce between positions is key. Think of someone such as Cincinnati’s Donovan Solano, who could spell Max Muncy at second and be a key off the bench.
Injuries: Heaney hasn’t resumed throwing since his last start on June 19. Right fielder Mookie Betts (right rib fracture) has yet to resume baseball activities, meaning he will be out longer than expected. Left-handed reliever Caleb Ferguson (left forearm tendinitis) and outfielder Edwin Rio (right hamstring tear) don’t have timetables for recovery. Right-hander Dustin May (Tommy John surgery) recently threw a bullpen and his next step is four live batting practice sessions before a rehab assignment. Outfielder Kevin Pillar (left shoulder fracture) is out for the season.
Status: Contender (with an asterisk).
What to strengthen: It’s complicated.
Overview: Last year’s historic run to 107 wins might have put unrealistic expectations on the Giants for 2022 as the rebuild process continues. Also, the front office’s decision to stick with veteran core players this past offseason could be a big reason for a step back, possibly putting the Giants — losers of six of their last eight — into seller mode instead of acquiring players to make a run at a playoff spot.
Catcher Joey Bart was recently sent back to the minors, looking to regain his batting stroke after slashing .156/.296/.300 with four homers and seven RBIs in 36 games, leaving journeyman Curt Casali to the starting role. But Bart isn’t alone in why the Giants are underperforming while remaining within striking distance in the West and of a playoff position. First baseman Brandon Belt has missed significant time and now shortstop Brandon Crawford (left knee inflammation) is hurt.
In addition, outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. (left knee inflammation), who earned the nickname “Late Night LaMonte” for coming through in the clutch last year, is on the injured list for a second time, although he could return this week. The rotation hasn’t found its groove. Left-hander Alex Wood (5.05 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 14 starts), right-hander Alex Cobb (5.48 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 10 starts), and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (9.95 ERA, 2.05 WHIP, five starts) are the key culprits there.
Depending on where the team sits near the end of July, the Giants could raise the white flag to acquire prospects and shed veterans, moves could put the team on a better path for this offseason.
Injuries: Crawford is only expected to miss about the minimum 10 days in just his third stint on the IL in his 12-year career. Wade is expected to be reevaluated and could be back soon if things go well. Outfielder Luis González (lower-back strain) is on a similar timetable as Crawford and could be back at the end of next week. Left-handed reliever José Álvarez (lower-back tightness) was scheduled to throw bullpens over the weekend. Right-handed starter Jakob Junis (left hamstring strain) isn’t expected to return until late July. Left-hander Matthew Boyd (left flexor tendon surgery) had a setback in mid-June and might not be back until late August or early September at the earliest.
What to strengthen: Outfield, bullpen.
Overview: With star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. still sidelined following surgery in spring training to repair a fractured left wrist and star third baseman Manny Machado recently missing time (but no IL stint) due to a sprained left ankle, the Padres have stayed in the thick of the division race. That doesn’t mean a little extra support isn’t needed.
Notably, the Padres need more offense out of all of the outfield spots: left fielder Jurickson Profar is slashing .248/.347/.410 with eight homers and 38 RBIs entering Monday, center fielder Trent Grisham is .191/.289/.326 with six homers and 27 RBIs and right fielder Wil Myers (currently on the IL) is at .234/.276/.306 with one homer and 19 RBIs. The outfield market is usually ripe, as long as there is a clubhouse fit and multiple moves could be made here.
Snagging Taylor Rogers from the Minnesota Twins (for Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagán) to be the closer the day before Opening Day was a terrific move, but the bullpen still needs help to bridge the gap from the starters. Right-handers Luis Garcia, Nabil Crismatt, and Craig Stammen are workhorses, with a late-inning left-hander probably a bigger priority. Help could be on the way in July with the return from injury of key relievers. The Padres entered Monday with the ninth-best bullpen ERA in MLB at 3.41.
Machado will potentially be available to pinch-hit in the two-game road series that begins tonight against the Diamondbacks, with a key four-gamer against the Dodgers this weekend. Tatis still has not been cleared to resume swinging but has been able to do all other baseball activities. Once cleared, the dynamic presence will need a rehab assignment before rejoining the lineup, potentially right after the All-Star break.
San Diego does have key prospects to move in Baseball America’s 21st-ranked system, including shortstop C.J. Abrams, outfielder Robert Hassell III, and catcher Luis Campusano. Also, don’t be surprised if major leaguers such as Myers or Profar are swapped.
Injuries: Right-handed reliever Steven Wilson (left hamstring tendinitis) is hoping to spend a minimal amount of time on the 15-day IL. Left-handed reliever Adrian Morejon (left shoulder inflammation) returned from Tommy John surgery only to be sidelined by shoulder issues after three appearances. A July return is expected. Myers has been running but is not yet swinging and a mid-July return is likely. Right-handed reliever Robert Suarez (right knee surgery) is expected to resume throwing in early July. Right-handed reliever Pierce Johnson (right elbow tendinitis) is still throwing off flat ground and could be back in July. Left-handed reliever Drew Pomeranz (flexor tendon surgery) is still on the slow path in his comeback, with him also possibly returning in July. Right-handed reliever Austin Adams (right forearm strain) is expected back sometime in the second half. Outfielder Matt Beaty (left shoulder impingement) is also aiming for a return sometime after the All-Star break after his rehab assignment was shut down in mid-June.
Who to deal: Left fielder Kris Bryant, first baseman C.J. Cron, right fielder Charlie Blackmon, right-handed starter Germán Márquez, right-handed starter Chad Kuhl, and right-handed reliever Daniel Bard.
Overview: Aside from the young bats and probably left-handed starter Kyle Freeland, no one should be untouchable on this roster. The Rockies have not gone full rebuild and likely won’t, but punting on the last two months of this season to bolster Baseball America’s 24th-ranked system would be prudent.
Trading Bryant would certainly be controversial, especially after selling him as the player to build around after dealing third baseman Nolan Arenado and letting Trevor Story go in free agency after failing to find a new team for him last year. But Bryant, who has battled injuries this season and just came off the IL on Monday after missing a month with a lower-back strain, would likely bring a decent haul of prospects back. Marquez (5.58 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) has struggled this season but has the stuff that a contender would pursue.
The Rockies have been a mess from a front-office and ownership perspective, but there is enough talent hanging around that if the right moves are made the rest of this season, they could be set up for a restructuring (not full-tilt rebuild) this offseason. The lockout may have prevented that from happening this past offseason.
Injuries: Infielder Sean Bourchard (oblique strain) went on the 10-day IL Monday after not playing over the weekend against the Minnesota Twins. Right-hander Tyler Kinley (right flexor tendon tear) is scheduled to have surgery and is hoping to avoid a Tommy John procedure. His season is probably over.
Note: Injury updates from MLB.com.
Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)