Just as in every other major sport, the MLB season didn’t end when Shane Victorino grounded out to second base. Sure, the confetti fell and the Yankees were crowned champions, but the general managers, agents, and owners all started their engines.
In fact, November is when a totally separate season began: the MLB offseason.
Compared to the NFL and NBA, I think the MLB offseason is the most interesting, with the free agency, arbitration, Rule V draft, and all of those complicated institutions providing so many opportunities to make a team better.
In light of that, I think that it IS possible to be crowned the division winner of the MLB offseason just as teams are in the regular season. The following is an assessment of the National League West in terms of their offseason standings.
San Francisco added: Mark DeRosa (LF), Juan Uribe (UT), Aubrey Huff (1B)
San Francisco lost: Bengie Molina (C), Randy Winn (RF), Brad Penny (SP), Randy Johnson (SP), Merkin Valdez (RP), Justin Miller (RP), Bobby Howry (RP), Rich Aurilia (1B)
For the Giants, their surprise 88-74 season was, to them at least, disappointing. They were within reach of the playoffs for the last month of the season, and they boasted one of the best young hitters (Pablo Sandoval) and some of the brightest young pitchers (Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez) in the whole league.
Going into 2010, they dumped some of their more free-swinging salary (Bengie Molina) and embraced versatility (Uribe) and youth (Posey) while balancing it with experience (DeRosa) and power (Huff).
Although the whole loss-to-addition ratio looks a little scary, the biggest improvement for the Giants is that they have INTERNAL replacements for the first time in a long time.
Molina looks like he'll be replaced by Buster Posey, Randy Winn by Nate Schierholtz, and Brad Penny/Randy Johnson with Madison Bumgarner. The bullpen spots, although a big part of their 2009 success, should be replaced as well.
Waldis Joaquin is almost exactly the same, pitch-wise, as Merkin Valdez, but seven years younger. Alex Hinshaw, Dan Runzler, Osiris Matos, and Steve Johnson (acquired from Baltimore via the Rule V Draft) will all compete for bullpen spots this year.
The Giants were not that far away from a division title this year. Add a couple runs in a couple games and they're right back in the hunt.
Their pitching was unmatched in the NL West and the improvements they've made, although slight, have put them far enough ahead to make them my favorite to win the west.
Around the rest of the West, the only big news is coming out of Arizona. The Diamondbacks made some noise early when they jumped in the Curtis Granderson trade, coming away with some great young pitching in Edwin Jackson (Tigers) and Ian Kennedy (Yankees).
They also nabbed Kelly Johnson to play second base. More recently, they bested the Giants and landed Adam LaRoche, who turned down a more expensive deal from San Francisco to play in the more hitter-friendly Chase Field.
But they lost Yusmeiro Petit and Doug Slaten to waiver claims. Doug Davis looks unlikely to re-sign in Arizona. They also declined their club option on Chad Tracy, and recently cut ties with Eric Byrnes.
The Dodgers biggest news has been that the McCourt divorce is severely affecting their business as usual. They finally traded Juan Pierre's contract away, to the White Sox. They also signed INF Jamey Carroll from the Indians, as well as some minor league deals with pitchers Josh Towers, Luis Ayala, and Russ Ortiz.
But the Bums lost a lot of their team from 2009, including Ronnie Belliard AND Orlando Hudson, both of whom are still free agents. They also lost two-thirds of their starting rotation, with Randy Wolf signing in Milwaukee and Jon Garland looking for employment as well.
The Padres are doing what teams that just changed ownership usually do: renovating. They traded Kevin Kouzmanoff to the A's, re-receiving Giant Killer Scott Hairston in return.
Henry Blanco signed with the Mets. Brian Giles remains unsigned. Edgar Gonzales fled to Japan. Adrian Gonzales has his bags packed and ready to go.
The Rockies have done even less. Garrett Atkins has gone to Baltimore. Jason Marquis took his playoff streak to Washington. Jose Contreras, Alan Embree, and Jason Giambi are all still free agents. Colorado signed Miguel Olivo, but has been otherwise silent.
In the area of addressing needs, and fixing what plagued them in the 2009 season, the San Francisco Giants have come out on top.
They plugged leaks without any other ones springing up, and in a division that is going to be decided by a few games, like it was last year, the Giants definitely go into 2010 with the edge.