This might sound a little crazy, but I’m going to say it anyway: The Arizona Diamondbacks could win the NL West in 2010.
I’m not saying they will win the division. But they could.
How can a team that finished 25 games out of first hope to compete?
First of all, Arizona’s offense wasn’t bad in 2009, and it’ll get better in 2010 even if the Diamondbacks don’t sign a single free agent slugger. Connor Jackson is primed to rejoin the team after a nasty bout of desert fever that cost him almost all of last season. He and his .370 OBP and above-average defense will slide back into 1B. Meanwhile, the Dbacks can hope from continued improvement from 2B Ryan Roberts, Miguel Montero and the still-very-young Justin Upton.
On the pitching front, Brandon Webb is set to return after missing all of 2009 with an injury. And the team just traded Max Scherzer for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. That trade wasn’t well received by a lot of experts, but while neither Jackson nor Kennedy has Scherzer’s high ceiling, both are better bets to stay healthy, and a lack of health is what’s plagued Arizona the past few seasons.
Add it all up and the Dbacks, who have an MVP candidate in 3B Mark Reynolds and two Cy Young candidates in Dan Haren and Webb, look poised to compete for the division title.
What do they need? An outfielder. Chris B. Young’s defense is passable and his walk rates are improving, but he simply doesn’t make enough contact and unless he rediscovers his 30-homer power, he’s not worth running out there.
Then there’s Eric Byrnes, who is a decent player when healthy but almost never healthy (but always overpaid!).
Counting on one of Young and Byrnes to come through in 2010 would be a gamble. Counting on both of them would be idiotic. The Dbacks need to sign an outfielder this offseason as insurance against Young’s continued power-suck and Byrnes continued fragility. Mike Cameron would be a big upgrade. Coco Crisp would suffice, too, and shouldn’t cost much.