Diamondbacks shaking up the NL West
I don't know how many other teams would have spent $206 million on Zack Greinke. OK, actually, I do: That would be none. But whatever. He makes the Diamondbacks dramatically better -- and his exit makes the Los Angeles Dodgers dramatically worse.
I also don't know how many other teams would have given up the No. 1 pick in the country in 2015 (Dansby Swanson), a first-round pick from 2013 (Aaron Blair) and an outfielder as talented and energizing as Ender Inciarte for Shelby Miller. But whatever. Shelby Miller is as good a No. 2 starter as you'll find in the NL West (for now, anyway).
One more thing about that trade. As one NL executive cracked Tuesday night: "Now, when the Dodgers go out and get Jose Fernandez, this means they're going to have to give up a ton."
We should remind ourselves it's only the second week of December. The Dodgers aren't done. The San Francisco Giants aren't done. Opening Day is nearly 17 weeks away.
But the Arizona Diamondbacks are now the talk of baseball. How long has it been since we've said that? Since Luis Gonzalez blooped that single heard 'round the desert off Mariano Rivera 14 years ago? It seems like it sometimes.
"That's now a damn good team," an NL West scout said Tuesday as the rest of the sport was trying to digest the Diamondbacks' dramatic deal for Miller. "That's a very tough lineup to work your way through. They play the game the right way. And I like their rotation a lot. I'm a big Patrick Corbin fan, and if he's not all the way back, he's pretty close. I thought Rubby De La Rosa pitched very well the second half last year. So there's a lot to like."
If you noticed, he just ran through his lot-to-like list and never even mentioned the name: Paul Goldschmidt. In truth, there's even more to like.
Granted, there's also a lot to not like. What the Diamondbacks had to convince themselves to do to reel in Greinke and Miller was way, way over the top in both money and prospects. When they look up in a few years and Greinke is making $34 million at 37 years old, Swanson is an All-Star and Miller is long gone, they might look back at this week and ask, "What the heck were we thinking?" But give them credit for at least being decisive about what they were and what they want to be. If you're going to go for it, then you can't kinda, sorta, halfway go for it. You've got to cannonball in all the way, with waves splashing in all directions.
As one AL scout put it Tuesday: "Once you sign Greinke, you can't be done. You've got to make moves like this [Shelby Miller extravaganza]."
Exactly. And what makes Arizona's blockbusters even more impactful is the question that goes with them: What has the rest of the division done to keep pace?
The Giants signed Jeff Samardzija. That's fine, but they also handed him a five-year, $90 million deal that hasn't exactly been the most hailed contract of the winter. Frankly, every baseball man I surveyed Tuesday night said he'd rather have Shelby Miller. The Giants still plan to add a starter and an impact bat, and 2016 is an even year, so maybe they have many champagne bottles in their future. But right now? They have lots of work to do.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, agreed to sign the soon-to-be 35-year-old Hisashi Iwakuma (for half the years and $110 million less than they offered Greinke, by the way). But that Aroldis Chapman trade they thought they'd made isn't looking like a stroke of genius all of a sudden. Although we're using the polite term "on hold" to describe that trade, how long can the Dodgers afford to put their offseason on hold while they wait for the powers-that-be to resolve this mess? It could take months.
An exec of one team who spoke with the Dodgers on Tuesday reported: "This Chapman thing has them all [messed] up. They don't know which way to turn. They need to totally regroup."
While they're regrouping, they should consider this:
"If I was handicapping the division right now," the same scout quoted earlier said, "I'd say the Dodgers would finish third."
Really? Yes, really. But have we mentioned in the past few paragraphs that it's still the second week of December? The Dodgers will be heard from. They have money in the Guggenheim Partners money market account. They have brainpower. They have tremendous urgency to win. They have all sorts of potentially shrewd moves up their sleeves. But the overriding question I heard repeatedly Tuesday was, "Don't they have to trade for Jose Fernandez now?"
"They have to get him," one of the execs quoted earlier said. "They've had a tough week and a tough winter and, really, a tough couple of months, going all the way back to the trading deadline. But if they go get Fernandez, it erases it all. They've gotta do it."
Not really. If you know how the Dodgers think, of course, you undoubtedly know they don't agree. This is a team run by people who believe you don't have to do anything, especially if it means doing something crazy over the long term to one-up a rival that just did two somethings that were kind of crazy in the short term.
If the Dodgers do trade for the 23-year-old ace of the Marlins -- and they're clearly thinking about it -- it will be because they've calculated every plus/minus formula on their hard drive and concluded there are too many pluses not to. It would be zero percent because the Arizona Diamondbacks just had a splashy, buzz-worthy week in December.
But the baseball world can't wait to see what the rest of the NL West does. And that is because that team in the desert just rocked the house and rattled the chandeliers at the winter meetings.
Their thank you note, from America's ever appreciative media, is in the mail.