First up, the NL West
The din of complaining about the highest payroll in the league has dissipated quite a bit since that honor no longer belongs to the New York Yankees. But I am perplexed as to why the denouncements have lessened that much as the Dodgers opening day 25 man payroll in 2015 was a whopping $271.6M, topping the MLB record of $228.1M of the Yankees back in 2013. That is almost a 20% increase.
The Dodgers lead the West most of the season, finishing 8 games ahead of their bitter rivals, the San Francisco Giants. They did not succeed in the playoffs, losing the Division Series to the New York Mets, three games to two. Now they must fill a few holes on the roster to try and defend their division title.
Key Free Agents: SP Zack Greinke, 2B Howie Kendrick, SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B/SS Chase Utley
2B, with both Kendrick and Utley gone, they need a replacement
SP, even though they recently resigned Brett Anderson, Grienke, if he leaves, is a gaping hole behind Kershaw. They do have a few young arms in the wings, but are mostly unproven
3B: Justin Turner had a great year, but will be 31 and really hadn't shown much before 2014. He could fall off a cliff.
Outlook: The Dodgers will try hard to deal one of their superfluous outfielders as they have Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, AND Scott Van Slyke on the roster. Too bad none of them could play 2B.
Potential Tribe involvement: Before Jose Ramirez got hurt, he would have been a great fit. A huge deal could involve Kipnis, a starter and others for someone like Pederson and others, but that is rather doubtful.
San Francisco Giants
Next year will be an even year, so the Giants should be back in the playoffs as they won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
The Giants stayed in the race until late August when a seven game losing streak ended any real hope of competing with the Dodgers.
Key Free Agents: OF Marlon Byrd, OF Alejandro De Aza, SP Mike Leake, SP Tim Lincecum, SP Ryan Vogelsong
CF, Angel Pagan had a rough 2015 and will be 24 next season.
SP, with Tim Husdon retiring and both Leake, Lincecum and Vogelsong leaving the rotation is now just Madison Bumgarner, Chris Heston, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain.
Outlook: Last year's payroll was around $173M. Right now they are projected to be at $145M with no additions. I bet they spring for a high ticket starter.
Potential Tribe involvement: Could the Giants prefer Trevor Bauer to flesh out the rotation? Quite a few LGT'ers like Nori Aoki as a trade partner, but that means the Giants would need to replace two OF spots, although Jarrett Parker might take a spot after his hot September.
The young Diamondbacks actually had a decent 2015 all things considered. They finished just 4 games under 0.500 after a lot of curious deals by general manager Dave Stewart last winter. Stewart did do a decent job at the trade deadline however.
Key Free Agents: RP David Hernandez, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Moves: Picked up Chris Herrmann from the Minnesota Twins for minor leaguer Daniel Palka and dealt SP Jeremy Hellickson to the Philadelphia Philles. Also signed SP Kyle Drabek
2B, Chris Owings and Aaron Hill were pretty ugly last year.
SS, Nick Ahmed is only 26, but also struggled mightily in 2015.
SP, with Hellickson gone, that opens a spot, but it could be filled internally.
Outlook: The Diamondbacks might be one of the few teams that will spend less than the Tribe in 2016. They have only committed around $61M for next season and I don't think they'll be in the market for a high ticket item.
Potential Tribe involvement: Unless it is a minor transaction, I don't see a real fit here, even though their middle infield is a mess.
General manager A.J. Preller was the most active guy last winter. All that movement did not translate well at all however. I expect he will be just be active again this winter, but not to quite the extent as last year.
Key Free Agents: SS Clint Barmes, SP Josh Johnson, RP Shawn Kellye, SP Ian Kennedy, SP Brandon Morrow, SP Bud Norris, LF Justin Upton
SS, Between Alexi Amarista and Barmes, this was an ugly 2015.
OF, With Upton gone, this is a huge hole to replace
SP, the current rotation projects to be James Shields, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner.
RP, the dealing of both Benoit and Kimbrel opens a lot of bullpen innings.
Outlook: I will be curious to see if Preller can break his transaction record from last winter. He is Frank Lane reincarnated.
Potential Tribe involvement: Cody Allen would be a great fit here, but unless there are some high end prospects the front office likes, I don't see a fit either as there isn't much major league ready talent that is available.
The Rockies finished 24 games back of the Dodgers, failing to crack the 70 win mark.
Key Free Agents: SP Kyle Kendrick, 1B Justin Morneau
SS, Troy Tulowitski was dealt at the trade deadline and Jose Reyes and his $22M contract will not be the answer.
OF, Carlos Gonzalez is great and Charlie Blackmon is fine, but LF was played by Corey Dickerson late last season after Brandon Barnes was benched.
SP, all cellar dwellers need starting pitching as Jorge De Losa and his 4.19 was the ace last season.
RP, the whole bullpen was a disaster, and closer John Axford was released last month.
Outlook: I have no forecast here.
Potential Tribe involvement: No clue.