The National League is full of elite teams this season, with the Nationals, Giants, Cubs and maybe even Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals and Pirates able to hold their own vs any AL foe. Of course, having a division lead and sharing the league’s best record like the Nats, Giants and Cubs gives an added advantage this time of year.
Still, certain teams are sitting better than others despite what their records say and in the NL West both contenders are in dire need of reinforcement at the trade deadline if they plan to compete come October. Here’s a look at the Dodgers and Giants, and why they will have to be active at the August 1st trade deadline this season:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers – Los Angeles is currently 4.5 games behind the struggling San Francisco Giants and leading the wildcard race in the NL, so the playoffs are very much up for grabs. Offensively, the team is fine and boasts the second best bullpen ERA and excellent peripherals despite 14 blown saves.
Still, the Dodgers may have lost the most valuable asset in baseball in Clayton Kershaw, who not only might miss the season, but adds to the already colossal list of starting pitcher injuries, leaving the Dodgers extremely thin in the front and back of the rotation. Bud Norris is not going to be a playoff savior and Julio Urias is on an innings count, which means Los Angeles is down to: Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Kenta Maeda as reliable playoff starters and the former two have their own history of injury problems.
The Dodgers currently have four starting pitchers on the DL and none of them may return by the end of the season. Checking in on Rich Hill or Sonny Gray in Oakland, or looking for more bandaids in Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda or Jeremy Hellickson, along with Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi may be the best bet, but the Dodgers have the farm system to make any deal happen should they have a seller.
2. San Francisco Giants – Everyone expects San Francisco to win a World Series this season since they have done it every even numbered year since 2010 and the Giants have a record, good for tops in the NL West and a three way tie for the best in the league, worthy of consideration. San Francisco was red hot in June and will benefit from its arch rivals losing its best pitcher, but the Giants have their own work cut out for them if they are going to win another title.
The Giants’ offense is banged up but has ultimately been a strength this year, good for fifth in the NL in runs. With Matt Duffy, Joe Panik and Hunter Pence all injured but not expected to be out for the season, any short-term issues the team has scoring should not be a worry come playoff time. So what’s the major problem?
Pitching. In the rotation and the bullpen, unlike in year’s past.
Yes, Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto make for a dangerous, October, 1-2 punch. But the Giants boast a terrible ERA from three through five witnessing meltdown performances alternating between: Jake Peavy, Matt Cain and Jeff Samardzija. While one of them still has time to straighten it out, the Giants could use a back end, reliable starter and an elite setup man. This is another team who could benefit from knocking on the Yankees’ door (and reportedly have already) as well as checking in with the Rays, Phillies, Angels and Reds.