Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
Just when we though the Diamondbacks off-season couldn't get any more...ah, "interesting," we sign an outfielder, EXACERBATING an already crowded picture there. :) What now?
Currently, it means the Diamondbacks would have Justin Upton, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, Adam Eaton and new arrival Cody Ross, all competing for spots next season. The one thing which seems certain is that this won't be the end of the moves, simply from the point of view of cash. I haven't heard a breakdown of how the Ross deal works out per season, but reports are that it's $26 million over three years. Assuming it's in the $8-9 million per year range, added on to what we already had for the 2013 D-backs payroll, we're likely looking at a new total of over $95 million. That's $15-20 million up on last year, without any immediate matching increase in revenue.
There's also the problem of playing time. Eaton and Parra would be relatively cheap, but the trio of Upton, Kubel and Ross raise issues with center-field. While Ross does have experience there - indeed, he has played more in center than at any other spot in the outfield over his career (the split by starts being 80/272/221 from left to right) - almost all that came when he was with Florida. Since his move to the Giants in 2010, he has only seventeen starts in CF, just two with the Red Sox last year. And it wasn't exactly because far superior options were available: SF and Boston used Andres Torres and Jacoby Ellsbury respectively, who both had severely underwhelming seasons.
The more logical solution would be to have Eaton or Parra playing center, which then leaves you with two slots for three players. all of whom are certainly not being paid like bench guys. Ross is a right-handed bat (who throws lefty; which is the way I play, so I'm down with that!), and that would provide some options given Eaton, Kubel and Parra are all left-handed hitters. So could we see something against left-handed pitchers like Ross/Eaton/Upton, with Kubel/Parra/Upton against righties? That would make sense - Ross's career OPS is over two hundred points of OPS better against LHP - but it seems a very expensive solution.
It would appear more likely that this is a first step, with a trade going down to reduce the logjam in the outfield and, I suspect, reduce salary. The latter points to Upton and Kubel being the targets. You can argue that the arrival of Ross points to either Justin or Jason being more likely to go: the former, in that Ross provides a right-handed replacement; the latter would gives a more balanced outfield set-up, with two of each hand. Salary-wise, both are similar, and moving either would free up enough money to (more or less) pay for Ross's contract in 2013. That likely isn't too much of a consideration.
Going by their public statements, the team does seem to have backed off the concept of trading Upton, with Kevin Towers commenting, after the Didi Gregorius trade, "With all the areas we've addressed, I would say it's highly unlikely that we move Justin." Of course, public statements by front-office staff are not necessary to be taken as gospel: remember Derrick Hall telling us in November, "Teams are assuming after the bumpy start that Trevor [Bauer] had that we may be looking to move him, and we are not. We are not shopping him." And, of course, Towers was speaking before we brought another experienced outfielder aboard.
Possible candidates as trade destinations are not dissimilar, though the team would demand a lot more for Upton, due to his higher ceiling, younger age and lengthier contract. If it's Kubel, a move to an American League team, where the DH could help mask his lack of outfield range, would perhaps make sense. The Rangers are definitely in need of outfield help, but a source told Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan that Texas were "not pursuing" Kubel. Passan added, "Things could change, of course, but interest not presently there." The Mariners are another possibility, especially if they fail to get Raul Ibanez, who does profile as similar to Kubel.
Also getting mentioned are Tampa, but the departure of James Shields seems to make them less likely as a trade partner, because they probably don't want to lose any more pitching, and there doesn't seem too much else on offer from the Rays. TolkeinBard floated the Orioles as a possibility in the original thread comments, and Danny Knobler suggests the White Sox, saying they "have talked about Kubel. Also had talks about Upton earlier in winter, when Diamondbacks asked about Alexei Ramirez." That seems less likely now, post-Gregorius, with Ramirez getting pricier ($26.5 million over the next three years) and having had an unimpressive 2012.
Equally as important a question, however, is what would the Diamondbacks be looking to get back? Right now, they seem to be fairly well set at most positions for the 2013 season, and with Matt Davidson and Gregorius waiting in the wings, the left side of our infield does at least have more options for the long term. All the bullpen slots are filled, and the rotation doesn't appear in need of shoring up either. Now, while we know how Kevin Towers loves him some depth, that would seem to be what we're getting, either now or in the shape of prospects to help Arizona down the road.
The other odd thing is the timing. If you're looking to trade an outfielder, it doesn't appear to make much sense to sign a free agent first, because that appears to give the other side an advantage. They know the Diamondbacks now "need" to trade a player, when previously, if we had to start the season with our existing outfield, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I note that the club has yet to officially confirm the deal, which has happened quite quickly previously may indicate this was an actual leak. For instance, our first story on rumors of the Gregorius trade went up at 4pm: the official Tweet of the deal came less than three hours later. We're well past that now.
We'll see what crops up, but I've a feeling this won't be the last move made by the team, perhaps even the last move of the day.