The San Francisco Giants are looking down from Mount NL West, surveying the territory from 1st place with 27 wins in their first 42 games this season.
Because those loud footsteps the Giants are hearing suggest there might be a whole new series of concerns about the remaining 121 games left on the 2014 schedule.
The Colorado Rockies are an offensive juggernaut, crushing runs at an average of 5.54 per game. Even with their great start, San Francisco is averaging just 4.26 runs per game (the MLB average is 4.25 runs per game).
In about ten days the Rockies will get regular right fielder Michael Cuddyer back from the disabled list, which means the Rockies’ offense is about to get even nastier.
In the meantime Colorado’s bullpen has moved up to 7th best ERA in the National League and Jorge de la Rosa, their #1 starter, will be back in action on May 16th after time off for back tightness.
Bottom line is the Rockies may be one trade away from making a big push. That trade could be for either a starting pitcher or a bullpen guy. Or both.
The Rockies’ farm system is rated among the top 10 in baseball and they have the kind of minor league players other teams want, when and if the Rocks want to pull the trigger. Think starter Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago Cubs.
The San Diego Padres recently activated slugging outfielder Carlos Quentin, and while he can’t single-handedly jumpstart the Padres offense Quentin’s bat could spark a team desperate for run scoring.
Meanwhile the Padres’ pitching staff is second in the Majors with a 2.98 ERA, and their bullpen is #1 in all of baseball with a 2.09 ERA. Always an attention getter.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a very different set of issues.
At the start of the 2014 season, the word from Dodger-land was that having four starting outfielders on the 25 man roster wasn’t going to be a problem. Because there would be injuries, time-outs, and various other situations that would give all four starting outfielders plenty of playing time.
Except that now Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, and Carl Crawford are all healthy and eager to play every day. It seems starting outfielders tend to get grumpy when they’re not routinely penciled into the line-up. Add to that mix, minor league star Joc Pederson is tearing it up in Triple A Albuquerque and is pretty much ready for prime time in LA.
Oddly, the Dodgers have the same situation in their infield. Dee Gordon was a second base fill-in out of Spring Training, but his .357 OBP, .318 AVG, and MLB leading 25 steals now makes it impossible to move him.
Why move him? Because the Dodgers paid Cuban shortstop Alex Guerrero $28 million for four years to play second base for them, and he is also absolutely killing it in Triple A Albuquerque. Guerrero has a .950 OPS with 11 XBH and a .326 BA.
Alex Guerrero is a power hitting run-producer whose bat needs to land in Chavez Ravine sooner than later.
Speculation is that the Dodgers were originally looking to add pieces to their minor league system with a trade of Andre Ethier and/or one of their starting infielders. But the Dodger relief corps has shown recent signs of wear and Los Angeles may use their extra Major League chits to shore up the bullpen.
And what about the San Francisco Giants?
First place is a nice place to be in mid-May, but when your team is one-dimensional to start with and you lose a major offensive piece like first baseman Brandon Belt for six-plus weeks with a broken thumb you might consider some serious changes.
So far the Giants front office has responded to Belt’s injury by sticking a series of their under-performing bench players at first base: back-up catcher Hector Sanchez (.254 AVG/.688 OPS), Joaquin Arias (.150 AVG/.340 OPS), Brandon Hicks (.198 AVG /.770 OPS).
Or using left fielder Michael Morse at first base, leaving left field in the hands of outfield back-up Gregor Blanco (.136 AVG/.474 OPS).
Unlike the Rockies or San Diego, the Giants have almost no quality minor league players they could use in potential trades to upgrade the Major League team. That’s why we’re seeing the Giants’ front office move a series of checkers around a big league chess board.
At some point, San Francisco Giants management may want to join the chess games being played all around them.