Front Office Conference Call Agendas: National League by Kevin Goldstein May 5, 2021 Building off of yesterday’s American League conference call agendas, let’s move on to the National League and see what’s on the docket for the teams of the senior circuit. Arizona Diamondbacks We’re over .500 and we’re banged up. This team is better than people on the outside thought. That said, I don’t think we’ll be exceptionally busy in terms of buying this summer. We’re not catching the Padres or Dodgers, and let’s not forget about the Giants. Let’s stick to the plan and just keep getting better long-term. The rotation has been up-and-down, and Corbin Martin is probably the only minor league piece with a chance to contribute in that area. Let’s get some ideas going as to how we get through 162 games with depth issues in that department. Let’s have some initial talks about draft strategy, as we’re picking sixth. It feels like there is a four-player tier at the top of the draft, so let’s see if there’s a tier-two player we like at six, or if we should be more creative and spread the wealth a bit. The offense overall has been good, but our infield is not hitting. There aren’t any immediate moves to make, but it sure would be nice to see Seth Beer get off to a nice start to gauge whether he can get some at-bats up here as a Christian Walker replacement. We love having the presence of Eduardo Escobar and Asdrúbal Cabrera, but there should be a market for both this July, and we should be listening. Let’s focus on arms in those discussions. The same goes for David Peralta, even though he’s been our second best hitter and is signed for next year as well. That extra year, which is a cheap one at that ($7.5 million), should help generate some interest. Atlanta Braves This is not a happy meeting. The rest of the division handed us a big April gift by playing at or below .500 for the month, and all we did was join them with a disappointing start of our own. We know the season has started, but while players set deadlines on extension talks, it’s not like it’s an actual rule or anything. When is the last time we checked in with the Excel folks re: Freddie Freeman? Any thoughts from the data and video folks on what’s going on with Dansby Swanson and Marcell Ozuna? We’ll get Travis d’Arnaud back in the second half of the season, but if we’re going to win the division, having an inexperienced catching duo in William Contreras and Alex Jackson is worrying. Let’s get in front of this and make some early calls on veteran catchers we like in terms of their game management. We’re in a weird position as we have the worst ERA in the league, yet we’re pretty comfortable with the group we have once we get healthy. Drew Smyly is the big concern, but the stuff is only down a tick from last year, so let’s stick with it for now. It sure feels like we will still be adding in July, but our areas of focus are still a bit TBD. Chicago Cubs Right now, we’re in a holding pattern, even though teams are already calling us about all of our impending free agents. Yes, we are under .500 and sitting towards the bottom of the divisional standings, but the Central is wide open and we’re in no position to make a buy/sell decision. What we learned from the Yu Darvish trade is that while the PR hit is big (and his talents are certainly missed), it doesn’t really have legs, so let’s not have that enter our thinking. We want Anthony Rizzo back, and we’re sure he wants to come back, so let’s make sure we are staying in touch with Marc Pollack, Rizzo’s agent, regarding this. We can’t ignore that he’s declining, and we need to be realistic, but he’s still good and means an immeasurable amount to the clubhouse. Our outfield has been absolutely miserable at the plate. Should we talk about getting Jake Marisnick and Nico Hoerner (once off the IL) into the mix more? The rotation of command-over-stuff guys had not been commanding it all that well and is therefore getting hammered, but what can we do about it? A hot start in the minors from Brailyn Marquez would be a nice development, but one guy isn’t going to solve all of our problems and he’s the only real possible help this year amongst our upper level starters. If we flip into buying mode, this has to be the area we concentrate on. Cincinnati Reds We’re in the thick of things and there is no great team in our division. It doesn’t take much to see the bullpen is the problem. As much as we’d like Tejay Antone to get a chance to start right now, he’s one of the few arms giving us any comfort out of the ‘pen. Nick Senzel is now almost 26 years old and has nearly a full season of big league plate appearances. It might be approaching time to admit he’s not going to be an everyday player for us. Can we get our evaluation group to do a deep dive on Luis Castillo? He was supposed to be one of our best starters and instead he’s one of our worst. His spin rates and shapes are fine, but his velo has taken a sizable dip. Is it mechanical? Something else? Are we positive he’s 100% healthy? Tucker Barnhart has been really good, but Tyler Stephenson has been even better and looks ready to step in as our star-level catcher of the future. There might be a creative trade to be had here. Should we call the Braves? Colorado Rockies Like, do we report to the football guy now? Wait, is the football guy coming to this meeting? We’d much rather deal with Bill Schmidt, who we know has decades of baseball experience and institutional knowledge. Oh he’s the interim? Well, that’s something. We’re not going to be asked to be clubbies again this year, right? Can we get that in writing? Dick Monfort knows that we have to trade Trevor Story and Jon Gray, doesn’t he? Should someone tell him that? Do we have to run any baseball move, no matter how small, through our owner now? We pick eighth in the draft and Schmidt was running our drafts before, so at least we should be full speed ahead in that regard. Los Angeles Dodgers We hit a rough spot and we’ve been hit very hard with injuries. Fine, we’re not going to win 120 games. We still have the best team in baseball; we can ride out the health issues and we’re showing why depth is so important. Even with that said, do we want to find a fifth starter we can depend on now that Dustin May is out for the season? With all of that out of the way, we’re still the Dodgers and we will still be able to use prospects and money to do something flashy at the deadline. We feel good that we are going to the playoffs and will look to add players who can help us win in October. Can we go around the room here and see where people are on Gavin Lux? Yes, it’s only 70 or so plate appearances but we’re on our third straight year of him not exactly hitting the ground running and we need to either find an answer for him or an external replacement who gives us another threatening bat in the lineup. We would feel comfortable playing Chris Taylor there every day, but he provides so much value to us with his positional flexibility and we’d hate to lose that. The overall message here is just to stay the course. No, we’re not running away with the division, but it was silly to think that would be the case this early in the season anyway. Miami Marlins Making the playoffs last year was a pleasant surprise, but we know we are still a rebuilding squad — the standings are telling us that this year — so we will continue to behave like one. We should feel good, great even, about our core of young pitching. We also should not feel good about how we are going to score runs both now and in the future. It’s not going to make things very fun for us during the second half of the year, but four of our usual starting eight position players are free agents at the end of the year, and we need to capitalize on that. Jesús Aguilar is off to a great start, but most contenders are comfy at first base. Let’s be aggressive with that one and get in touch with the Red Sox and Brewers. Miguel Rojas might not be the best player of the four, but when it comes to his market, he might generate the most interest in terms of number of teams. He’s a good defensive player who makes a lot of contact and has a good makeup reputation. Starling Marte and Corey Dickerson should both be attractive bat rentals. None of the four is going to generate a huge return, so let’s try to stay away from big prospect names and maybe try to sneak through some high upside types from the complexes both stateside and in the Dominican. Let’s get the spring training and DR sites of contenders flooded with scouts. Milwaukee Brewers Let’s start this thing early in the morning because just going through our injury situation alone is probably going to take us through lunch. With that said, let’s appreciate the fact that while we have a laundry list of things that have gone wrong, we still have one of the best records in the league. We’re in a good place overall. We just don’t have the resources for a big move in the summer, but with a roster that features some real strong suits and some real holes, there are a lot of ways to add small improvements to this team. We should feel good about our pitching, but let’s see if there’s a cost-effective way to find some depth and improve our stability for that last spot in the rotation. Who knows, maybe Eric Lauer has actually figured something out now that’s he’s throwing strikes again. We also should be looking at some middle relief candidates to upgrade from Drew Rasmussen and Eric Yardley. And we should be tracking Aaron Ashby’s progress in the minors and consider him as a potential second-half ‘pen add. Our corner infield situation is less than ideal, so let’s try to find a depth piece for the left side and be in the market for a cheap, impending free agent bopper to handle first base. New York Mets The good news is that just like us, everyone else in the division is struggling so far this year so we’re right in the thick of things. We should feel good about the roster going forward and don’t need any huge upgrades. We need all hands on deck to help fix Francisco Lindor. We just committed $341 million and people are freaking out. The exit velocities seem fine and the swing decisions are better than ever, so it feels like something mechanical. Let’s work with the new hitting administration and break down some high speed and figure out why he’s stopped pulling the ball and is hitting everything into the ground. We don’t need a playoff starter as much as we need someone who provides something better than Joey Lucchesi and the back end of the rotation. If we need to get creative in July, maybe we should do so with Dominic Smith. He’s either in the wrong league, or at the very least on the wrong team, as Pete Alonso isn’t going anywhere. It feels like backup catcher should be a relative easy upgrade. Let’s see if anything is out there now in terms of upcoming opt outs, and identify some trade targets for July. Let’s get a quick update on the draft, as we’re picking 10th. Is there anybody we need to bear down on more than we already have? Are there any favorites among the realistic possibilities to be there? Any chance that a bigger names falls our way due to bonus demands? Philadelphia Phillies We’re not a great team, but the way it’s looking, it’s not going to take a great team to win this division. Let’s push the envelope a bit. How does our bullpen still stink after we replaced nearly everyone? Ok, we’re over-reacting here a bit as Héctor Neris and Sam Coonrod have been pretty damn good. After that? Blech. I know we brought a lot of new arms in this year, but we might have to bring in even more this summer. Let’s start a target identification project in that regard. Bryce Harper has been fantastic and the rest of the outfield as been a disaster offensively. We probably need to ride Andrew McCutchen out, but we’re 500 plate appearances into Roman Quinn showing us he isn’t the answer, so let’s stop asking him the question. We need to find a center fielder. Let’s hope Spencer Howard can help this year in either a starting or bullpen role. He might be a better pitching add than anyone currently attached to an acquisition cost. Vince Velasquez has frustrated us for six years now, but still has data that appeals to analytic-driven teams. We should at least be open to discussions on him, even through we’re not selling overall. Pittsburgh Pirates The number one priority for this entire organization is the first pick in the upcoming draft. Despite what’s out there, we don’t see any current player as an absolute lock for the pick with two months to go. We need to be at every Vanderbilt weekend and have someone at every Jordan Lawlar game in the DFW area. We need to decide whether Marcelo Mayer belongs in the discussion as well. Yes, we are as frustrated about Mitch Keller as you are. No, we don’t have any concrete answers either. Are you aware that he’s actually throwing harder than ever? Unfortunately, it’s not looking like we’re going to be able to turn Gregory Polanco into much. Maybe we could snag a prospect if we pick up the money and the $3 million buyout? Chris Stratton still spins the hell out of the ball. His next two years of arbitration aren’t exactly the best use of our limited funds, so let’s actively market him to some data-driven clubs as a controllable bullpen piece. St. Louis Cardinals It’s the NL Central folks; let’s try to be the best of the kinda good teams and win this thing. We’re right in it and neither of our big bats in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have really gotten going yet. I don’t know if we need to worry about our starting lineup too much, as our bet on the young outfielders looks like it might pay off. The real worry is what has been a very weak bench, but there should be some pieces out there to help us in that regard come July. The pitching staff has been solid all around. We could maybe use a ‘pen piece or two, especially with Jordan Hicks hurt again, but we shouldn’t expect any big splashes at the deadline. We also have a number of Triple-A arms we should be able to lean on should the need arise. Bottom line: We’re pretty much going to dance with those that brought us. San Diego Padres Fernando Tatis Jr. got off to a slow start and has struggled defensively, we’ve been hit by some injuries, and we’re still neck-and-neck with the Dodgers. We really have nothing to complain about. Let’s talk about our catching. We know it’s a cliché, but it feels like championship teams have good catchers, at least in terms of experience and game management. Let’s get aggressive on this one. We have an incredible system to work with and will have plenty of attractive offers to make. Our playoff rotation is going to be fantastic, but wouldn’t we feel more comfortable with another starting depth piece that helps ensure that we get into the playoffs? We’ve definitely had some frustrations with MacKenzie Gore since the beginning of 2020, and those continue. It’s why we’re going with a bullpen game this week instead of giving him a look. I know we’ve worked hard on this, but we need to get some insight into what’s going on with him mechanically that’s creating the command and control issues. San Francisco Giants This was the plan, my friends, and it’s all coming together. We found pitchers with interesting data and maximize their arsenal, while building a flexible lineup loaded with platoons. We’re right there with the Dodgers and Padres and while it’s not time to shove all of our chips in, this doesn’t feel like some kind of fluke. That said, we are still in the NL West and we need to be ready to turn on a dime if we fall behind. If we are buying, we have to address the outfield, where absolutely nobody is hitting. The system is not a good one, especially at the upper levels, so improvements will have to be of the external variety. If we are selling, we have one of the best pitching targets out there in Kevin Gausman, and Brandon Crawford should have a market, even if he’s not doing much with the bat. Let’s just remain in preparation mode and see how May plays out. Washington Nationals We’re .500, and we’re in first place. That combination leaves us on the fence as to which direction we’ll take come July. We just have to wait this one out and think about it after May. Our offense is very weird — it’s a high-contact/low walk early action group — but it’s working so far. Obviously, if we go into sell mode, we have the number one trade target in the game in Max Scherzer. Even as a rental, we’d need to turn him into a premium prospect in order to re-invigorate a sleepy farm system. Brad Hand should also find a market. We don’t have an internal answer, but it’s starting to look more and more like Victor Robles is more of a fourth outfielder than an everyday player. Anyone disagree? Can we figure out what the hell is going on with Josh Bell? There’s nothing overly glaring in the underlying data other than him getting eaten alive by offspeed pitches.