The Arizona Diamondbacks, run by my hero, Josh Byrnes, completed two trades today that improved their NL West winning team, making them the early favorites in the NL for the World Series. The first trade netted the DBacks starting right-handed pitcher Dan Haren and right-handed relief prospect Connor Robertson from the Athletics for a collection of 6 prospects of various repute. The second trade, completed with the Astros, garnered for the DBacks relievers Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez and infielder Chris Burke for last year's closer Jose Valverde.
In the Oakland deal, the DBacks acquired an ace-caliber pitcher in Haren, an All-Star last year. He joins the absolutely stellar Brandon Webb to form one of the best 1-2 punches in the majors...in addition Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez for very good back of the rotation starters especially in the National League. If Randy Johnson returns as expected and performs to a level even 75% of his prime the DBacks have a great looking rotation. In return, the A's received an assortment of prospects. No names jump out as great, however they all have decent to good potential, and knowing Billy Beane's track record, at least one will end up being useful, even if they end up being traded for someone else.
In the Astros deal, the Astros replaced their closer in addition to cutting $1.5 million in salary at the position, added bullpen depth, and acquired a good utility player to bolster their depth. While Valverde is certainly a good pitcher, Qualls is of comparable quality. Gutierrez adds another arm to the bullpen mix. And Burke is a versatile fielder who can run...does that remind you of any other player who recently changed National League Teams? Perchance Kaz Matsui? Matsui is a slightly better version of Burke, which is not a bad thing except that the Astros recently signed a decent at best player to a 3 year, $16.5 million contract...terrible. Astros general manager Ed Wade is a moron. He signed a copy of a player he already had to a absurd contract. He traded away closer Brad Lidge, who was inconsistent yes, but still one of the best relievers in the NL over the last 5 years for an average 3b prospect (later traded to the Orioles for the aging Miguel Tejada, now a noted steroid user) and a 4th outfielder, Michael Bourn. And then he tried to cover that up by trading away three players for a good pitcher (although one of players he traded was essentially the same with a smaller salary) who collected a lot of saves (an overrated stat that relies as much on opportunity as skill).
Anyway, point of this article, the Diamondbacks are my early pick for NL champs.