This is the last of a six-part series — the AL East, AL Central, AL West, NL East, and NL Central pieces have been published — in which I’m highlighting each team’s most notable free agents and how it could fill the resulting void on the roster. A player’s rank on our recently released Top 50 Free Agents list, along with Kiley McDaniel’s contract estimates from that exercise, are listed where relevant. In some cases, the team already has a capable replacement ready to step in. In others, it’s clear the team will either attempt to re-sign their player or look to the trade or free agent markets for help. The remaining cases are somewhere in between, with in-house candidates who might be the answer, but aren’t such obvious everyday players to keep the team from shopping around for better options.
Here’s a look at the National League West.
Arizona Diamondbacks | Depth Chart | Payroll
Wilmer Flores, INF
Flores could still fit on the Diamondbacks’ roster in 2020, but in what capacity depends on how the team plans on using Ketel Marte, who made 89 starts in center field and 45 starts at second base last season.
If Marte moves to the outfield full-time, Flores would have more value to the team as a semi-regular at second base while filling in occasionally at either corner infield spot. There are several other middle infield options, however, including Domingo Leyba, Josh Rojas, Ildemaro Vargas, and Andy Young, which could be why the team declined Flores’ $6 million club option despite his career-high 120 wRC+ in 285 plate appearances.
Jarrod Dyson, OF
The need for a part-time center fielder increases if the Diamondbacks continue to move Marte back and forth between the infield and outfield. There are a few options on the free agent market who are younger than Dyson, including Billy Hamilton and Leonys Martin. Neither player, however, is a clear upgrade over Dyson, who tied for third in the National League with 30 stolen bases in his age-35 season. Tim Locastro, who had a 91 wRC+ and 17 stolen bases in 250 plate appearances last season, is currently in line for the job.
Alex Avila, C
Carson Kelly led the team in starts behind the plate in 2019 and figures to take on an even bigger share of the load in his second full season. Top prospect Daulton Varsho, who slashed .301/.378/.520 with 18 homers in Double-A, could also reach the majors in 2020, but he’s more than likely to spend another full season in the minors. Caleb Joseph is line to be the backup, although there are several options, including the left-handed hitting Avila, who could better complement the 25-year-old Kelly.
Total WAR: 3.6
Colorado Rockies | Depth Chart | Payroll
Total WAR: 0.0
Los Angeles Dodgers | Depth Chart | Payroll
Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 13
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 2 years, $32M
Rich Hill, SP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 37
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 1 year, $8M
In 2020, Julio Urías is expected to step into the rotation for a full season, while young pitchers Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are also deserving of a chance to win spots. Ross Stripling and Kenta Maeda are capable starting pitchers who can also work out of the bullpen.
While that currently puts the competition at five pitchers for three spots behind Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, there is certainly room to bring back one of their free agent starters. The Dodgers could also be one of the frontrunners for free agent ace Gerrit Cole, who is from Southern California and attended UCLA. After a disappointing end to the 2019 season and with more payroll flexibility than they’ve had in recent years, the Dodgers’ pursuit of a free agent starter would make sense.
Total WAR: 6.9
San Diego Padres | Depth Chart | Payroll
Craig Stammen, RP
There weren’t enough Craig Stammens for the 2019 Padres to sustain their early-season success for very long. More often than not during the first two months of the season, San Diego’s winning formula had the starting pitcher and offense handing over a slim lead to a shaky middle relief crew in about the sixth inning and then, if the lead was still intact, relying on Stammen and Kirby Yates to lock down the final six or seven outs.
After a win on May 24, which put the Padres three games over .500, the 35-year-old Stammen had pitched in 24 of 51 games while posting a 2.67 ERA and 3.92 FIP with 12 holds, two saves, and four wins. He was easily one of the team’s most valuable players. Over his next 11 appearances, however, he allowed 12 earned runs and 21 hits over 12 innings, including a game when the Nationals hit four consecutive homers against him.
While Stammen recovered to pitch effectively for the remainder of the season, it’s clear that the team’s lack of reliable late-inning options took its toll on him and was a big reason why things went off the rails late in the season. Any one of several in-house late-inning options could emerge in 2020, including Andres Muñoz, whose fastball averaged over 100 miles per hour in 22 big league appearances, along with lefties Matt Strahm and José Castillo. Regardless, adding a veteran setup man would go a long way to solidifying the bullpen.
Total WAR: 0.4
San Francisco Giants | Depth Chart | Payroll
Madison Bumgarner, SP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 8
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 4 year, $64M
The legend of Madison Bumgarner will live on in San Francisco, even though it could be very slightly diminished if, as expected, he’s in a different uniform on Opening Day 2020. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija remain, but the Giants will be playing with fire if they let their current group of in-house candidates, including Shaun Anderson, Tyler Beede, Logan Webb, and Tyler Anderson, compete for more than two spots. Even if Bumgarner stayed put, their search for starting pitching likely wouldn’t end there.
Will Smith, RP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 16
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 3 year, $36M
With his value soaring after stellar back-to-back seasons in San Francisco, Smith inked a three-year, $40 million contract with the Braves. The 30-year-old will get to team up once again with former Giants’ bullpen-mate Mark Melancon, whose trade to Atlanta in July helped clear the way for some younger pitchers to audition for bullpen jobs in 2020. Jandel Gustave and Tyler Rogers helped themselves the most, while Shaun Anderson and Sam Coonrod both flashed the ability to succeed in late-inning roles.
Lefty Tony Watson exercised his player option to return in 2020, but it’s likely the Giants will look to add at least one more veteran to help out in the late innings.
Stephen Vogt, C/OF
Buster Posey hasn’t started more than 96 games since 2016 and top prospect Joey Bart isn’t likely to take over as the full-time catcher until 2021, meaning that whoever is Posey’s backup in 2020 could still play an important role. It’s not clear whether the Giants are willing to give Aramis Garcia, the team’s other catcher on the 40-man roster, a chance to start at least 35% of the games behind the plate.
Vogt, healthy again after missing the 2018 season, made 49 starts at catcher and another five in the outfield. His versatility, along with the new 26-man roster and Posey’s ability to play first base, would allow the Giants to carry three catchers. Regarded as a popular and integral clubhouse leader, the 35-year-old should have some interest on the free agent market.
Total WAR: 5.3