The Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager, Mike Hazen, has a very tough task this offseason trying to improve the roster to compete for the World Series with minimal cap flexibility and a limited farm system. There are a few major areas the Diamondbacks need to address: corner outfield, bullpen, and catcher. The D-Backs are fortunate to be set in the infield and have depth in the rotation. For the Diamondbacks to compete with their powerful divisional rival with unlimited cap space, the L.A. Dodgers, the D-Backs must get creative to address these needs.
Corner Outfield: The question of the offseason will be whether or not the Diamondbacks will re-sign J.D. Martinez. He was a huge fan favorite and extremely successful during his short stint in the desert. Despite his numbers with the D-Backs, they should not attempt to match what Martinez is asking for (7 years, 200+ million) or even come close to it. Martinez is a 32 year old power hitter who doesn’t hit for high average, and he out produced his career numbers during his time with the Diamondbacks. Martinez will undoubtedly decline as a hitter. He also is a subpar defender right now which will only get worse towards the end of a long term deal. He will most likely only be capable to produce at DH towards the end of the contract. But more importantly, the D-Backs just can’t afford to pay Martinez especially with Zack Greinke’s contract still on the books.
The next question is how to address the outfield without Martinez. Right now, the outfield stands with Yasmany Tomas in left, A.J. Pollock in center, and David Peralta in right. Without any further additions, the D-Backs will be banking on a healthy, more productive season from Tomas. While he has shown brief signs of life offensively, he has been a liability defensively and disappointing at the plate. This offseason offers a few intriguing free agent options to shore up the outfield. Carlos Gomez could potentially be an effective option as he accrued a 1.8 WAR last year with a .802 OPS while playing solid defense in center field. With a move to left, he could be even more effective as a defender. Another interesting option would be Carlos Gonzalez. It seems like he’s been in the league forever, yet he is only 32. With his platoon splits against lefties, the D-Backs would be able to platoon Gonzalez and Tomas in left. Another potential option is Jarrod Dyson. He is one of the best defensive outfielders and base stealing threats in baseball. He would come cheap due to his limited abilities at the plate. Dyson would be a solid fourth outfielder who could provide speed and late game defense for Tomas.
Bullpen: The bullpen will most likely be the most important task of the offseason. For the Diamondbacks to compete with the best teams in baseball, they must be able to dominate late in games. It will also be a very difficult task with limited money and prospects while looking to fill a prominent role in the late innings. The D-backs have the option to use Archie Bradley as the closer or have him pitch multiple innings in high leverage situations like they did last year. They also have the option to bring back Fernando Rodney who was very effective at times, but he also can be inconsistent. Inconsistency is something they can’t afford come playoff time. Potential free agents include: Mike Minor, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Tommy Hunter, Juan Nicasio, Anthony Swarzak, Bud Norris, and Jesse Chavez. Each one of the guys could be potential cheap bullpen depth pieces that could outperform their offseason price tag with a few of them having potential in a setup/closer role.
Catcher: At catcher last year, the D-Backs sacrificed offense for pitch framing and defense by using a trio of Chris Iannetta, Jeff Mathis, and Chris Herrman. This offseason, Iannetta is a free agent and would be a good piece to bring back after having the strongest offensive year of the group.
A very intriguing free agent catcher would be Jonathan Lucroy. In past years he was one of the best catchers in baseball, and now he could be a buy-low candidate after struggling the past two years. To finish out the season, Lucroy hit .317 with the Rockies last year. He was also regarded as a very good pitch framer during his time with Milwaukee, but recently he hasn’t done as well, yet pitch framing can be a very volatile stat that may not paint the full picture. Based on his league worst pitch framing in 2016, I don’t think Mike Hazen will take a shot on him.
They could also choose to save money and stick with Mathis and Herrmann behind the plate, but I find that unlikely after both of them struggled to hit over .200.
Ideal Offseason: The most controversial thing I will propose is trading Zack Greinke. Although he produced an amazing year for the Diamondbacks this past year, the best option is to trade him while his value is still high enough for someone to take on his contract and also give prospects in return. He also could end up being more and more hittable as his velocity drops with age. The D-Backs simply aren’t a large enough market team to be paying a pitcher who almost certainly won’t be able to produce to the extent of his contract. This idea has nothing to do with his struggles this past postseason, but it is because the D-Backs payroll becomes so much more flexible without his $30 million a year. The Snakes are also fortunate enough to have depth in the rotation that would ease the loss of Greinke with Ray, Walker, Godley, Banda, Corbin, and Miller.
The D-Backs also have three potential shortstops in Ketel Marte, Chris Owings, and Nick Ahmed. Because of the depth, there has been trade speculation, yet the best route would be to hold onto all three going into the season. Ketel Marte showed potential to be a future stud at shortstop. Nick Ahmed is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball and showed improvements at the plate last year when he was healthy. Chris Owings can play multiple positions and improved at the plate after having time to full year to recover from his labrum injury. Because the potential all three provide, the best option is to give each of them an opportunity to show what they can do when healthy.
One starting pitcher who I think could easily outperform his salary is Tyler Chatwood. After being with the Rockies his whole career, I think he could put up better numbers with the D-Backs as a solid back end of the rotation guy not having to pitch at Coors Field. I’m also extremely excited for the return of Shelby Miller. He has received a lot of hate from D-Backs fans because of the terrible trade he was involved in. But if he can overcome his injury woes, he’ll be a very effective middle of the rotation arm.
In the outfield, I think Carlos Gomez is the best option by bringing a solid bat for the bottom half of the lineup while also playing strong defense in left. If the D-Backs find his price tag is too high, Jarrod Dyson would be a solid, cheap fourth outfielder.
The bullpen is the trickiest of all this offseason. One guy I’d love to bring in as a middle reliever is Jesse Chavez. This past year he switched from starting to the bullpen and produced a 5.84 ERA, yet his secondary numbers show he has great potential. According to FanGraphs, among this free agent class, he is 2nd in strikeout percentage at 32% while still being 5th in walk percentage. Because of his ERA, he would come extremely cheap while still having a chance to be a strong bullpen piece.
Another guy I really like is Tommy Hunter. He is one of the hardest throwers available and after using his cutter and sinker more he produced a 2.61 ERA last year.
Mike Minor is also a strong option. After moving to the bullpen, he has shown legitimate closer potential which could be huge for a D-Backs bullpen that desperately needs consistent, dominant arms.
One last guy I’m a big fan of is Bryan Shaw. He has been one of the most consistent bullpen arms in baseball throughout his career and would be a relatively cheap innings eater.
Lastly, I think the D-backs should bring back Iannetta on a cheap two-year deal to shore up the catcher position.
Conclusion: This offseason is crucial as the Diamondbacks look to close the gap on the Dodgers and stay ahead of the Rockies. By addressing the bullpen, catcher position, and corner outfield spot, the D-Backs will have a shot to be legitimate post season contenders. Whatever it takes to beat the dominant force in the West, the Los Angeles Dodgers.