The Arizona Diamondbacks have been all rumored all around the baseball world about potential trades of star players Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke, but they have a multitude of other issues to address this winter. A few of these questions were recently answered with the non-tendering of Chris Owings, Shelby Miller, and Brad Boxberger which saves a little over 13 million dollars. This is the start of Mike Hazen and the ownership shedding payroll, but don’t just expect the snakes to just start tanking in 2019.
Who is playing center field?
David Peralta and Steven Souza Jr are locks to start in the corner positions in the outfield, but there will be some competition in center field during Spring Training. Internally, the D-Backs only have Jarrod Dyson and Socrates Brito, and Brito doesn’t seem like a perfect fit in center as he only played 27 out of the 111 games in CF at Triple-A Reno.
Assuming no free agents are targeted including AJ Pollock, I can see center field being a platoon position with Dyson or Brito playing versus right-handed starting pitchers, and Ketel Marte learning how to play the outfield and playing against lefties.
Marte hits far better from the right side, and he has the speed to potentially man center field. Dyson will always be too much of an offensive liability to start every day, but he will need to give our thin outfield corps a day off a few times a week.
Ketel Marte Splits (Right side first, then left side)
This idea has been thrown around in the inner D-Backs fans circles after the signing of Eduardo Escobar, but the issue with moving Marte to CF is that Lamb will need to be able to hit left-handers. With this issue, Daniel Descalso or an everyday CF free agent might need to be signed.
Who is the closer?
Fans are going to be inclined to want a closer or more relievers from the free agent market, but this team has many options on the 40-man roster. I am sure the D-Backs will choose to bring in some relievers for spring camp just to build competition and to give themselves options, but they have guys like Jared Miller, Jake Barrett, Yoan Lopez, Jimmie Sherfy, and Silvino Bracho who all have a little major league experience. It is time for Archie Bradley to step up and be the closer for this team though.
Bradley is a fan favorite, but more importantly, he has the demeanor of a closer. He was invaluable in his “Andrew Miller” high-leverage role, but the biggest issue the last two seasons has been closing out games as they had 19 blown saves in 2017 and 27 in 2018. 27 was tied for 3rd most in the league with recently non-tendered Brad Boxberger having 8. Bradley also had 8 blown saves, but he was exhausted by the end of the season.
Yoshi Hirano can be another option as he had three saves with four blown, but he was arguably the most consistent reliever all year. He was also very good in high leverage situations last year while allowing hitters to only hit .134/.227/.237 in high leverage. This could make the argument that he could take Archie’s role from the last two years, but I like him more as just a set-up guy in the 8th because he doesn’t blow batters away with stuff (8.0 K/9).
Bradley’s ERAs climbed by the end of the season with a 6.17 in July, 3.75 in August, and 7.00 in September. He appeared in 76 games with 71.2 innings with seven of them going over 25 pitches. In 2017, he appeared in 63 games with 73 innings with 15 outings going more than 25 pitches. I think the more frequent appearances wore him down although he pitched more innings the year before. 76 appearances was good for fifth-most in the league too. I think giving him a solid and sure role will help with this fatigue problem by getting more days off in non-save opportunity games.
Who fills out the starting rotation?
As of right now, the Diamondbacks only have three legit big league starting pitchers in Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, and Zack Godley. Matt Koch and Matt Andriese would probably fill in the back end if the season started today, but that is not ideal. Taijuan Walker had Tommy John surgery near the end of April, so he will probably be back around Julyish.
I think there is a good shot that Clay Buchholz comes back to the snakes, but not much has been heard about on that front. He did a great job of eating innings and actually dominating teams. According to FanGraphs, just about every pitch type he had had a positive value other than his curveball. His fastball and changeup combination really impressed me as he really kept batters off balance. A one year deal for him is a must if you ask me.
The Diamondbacks have a lot of pitching prospects who are probably a year away from an ideal call-up, but Jon Duplantier, Taylor Clarke, Taylor Widener, and Alex Young all may be able to handle some starts at some point during the season. Duplantier and Widener dominated in Double-A and are at the top of prospect lists, but Young and Clarke both a bit of a wall in Triple-A Reno.
Taylor Clarke is now 25 years old, and he could very well find a spot in the rotation with a good spring training. He struggled at the end of the 2017 season in Triple-A and at the beginning of the 2018 Triple-A season. He bounced back in his final 10 starts with a 2.79 ERA as he lowered his walk and home run rate. The D-Backs are going to want to see Duplantier and Widener in Triple-A before they get called up, but don’t be surprised to see the two prized prospects if they have a hot start in Reno.
If Greinke is traded, the D-Backs will need to look a lot more into the trade or free agent market for another starter. Corbin is unfortunately gone after a stellar 2018 that put him out of our price range, and the strong rotation of the past two years might be really thin with the departures and injuries of Corbin, Shelby Miller, Taijuan Walker, and maybe Greinke.
Should they actually trade Goldy and Greinke?
The question that everyone is asking has a painful answer to it. The D-Backs are really in the middle of the road of contending and “retooling”. If it wasn’t for the September collapse, the rumors and discussions of Greinke and Goldy wouldn’t be nearly as relevant. The biggest problem is that the Dodgers are spenders, the Rockies are in win-now mode, and the Padres are going to be really good in two years. The Diamondbacks need to trade these two if they are serious about contending with the Padres, Dodgers, and Rockies over the next ten years.
Greinke’s contract is just too big for a small market team that already is financially hurt by Yasmany Tomas’ terrible contract. Greinke has been great the past two seasons especially, but he won’t help enough with the Dodgers and the Rockies still being a huge threat. It’s too bad we couldn’t have had the year we had in 2017 in 2018 instead, but that’s just how baseball works. Our window is closed now with Pollock and Corbin asking for big paydays and that leads us to the other guy.
Paul Goldschmidt is the heart and soul of this team with his leadership by example and with how great of a person he has been in this Phoenix community. Goldy is 31 years old and on the last deal of his contract. He doesn’t seem like a greedy player, but he will get and want the money he deserves as he should.
The Diamondbacks are slowly building a very interesting farm system, and next summers draft is going to be full of top picks with two first rounders (#16 and #26) and most likely two more after the end of the first round for compensation of losing Corbin and Pollock. Trading Goldschmidt can bring back a few prospects and maybe even a big leaguer that can help jump-start a “retooling” period with Peralta, Ahmed, Marte, Ray, Lamb, and Souza still on the roster.
The fans are going to be outraged when Goldy goes, but saving 80 million from Greinke’s contract and getting a good value for Goldschmidt will go a long way. Balancing the present and the future is the hardest thing to do as a GM and owner of a baseball team, but this shouldn’t be a tough decision because of our payroll.
My last thoughts on this are that I remember vividly what happened in St. Louis with Albert Pujols. The 2010 Cardinals barely missed the playoffs, and Pujols ended up leading the Cardinals to the NL Wildcard and World Series in 2011. Pujols left the team as a free agent and signed for a monster/disastrous contract in LA, but it left a very bad taste for Cardinals fan towards Pujols. Not to mention, they never got anything for him other than a compensatory draft pick.
In a press conference following the loss of Albert Pujols, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak talks about how they were stretching to give Pujols a new contract and that is what about what they could do, not about where the market was at. The market was at 250 million for 10 years, and it looks like the Cardinals made the right decision not to match it. The future Hall of Famer hasn’t had the same impact in Los Angeles, and he is sadly more a liability than an asset to the Angels with his health and age.
I don’t know if Arizona fans will be as shocked and hurt when Goldschmidt is most likely on a new team in 2020, but a big contract for an older first baseman just isn’t smart in the NL especially. If the front office thinks this team can win the World Series in 2019 with Greinke and Goldschmidt, they need to keep him both Greinke and Goldschmidt on the team. I am just not convinced we can after the past two seasons, and I would rather cash in now than to potentially be disappointed at the end of 2019.