What next for the Diamondbacks?

Next gone? - Christian Petersen

Well, that was more interesting than the usual Tuesday between the end of the off-season and the winter meetings, wasn't it? Now, breathe...

The dust settles on the Diamondbacks trade of Heath Bell, and it seems that most Diamondback fans (along with the local Golden Corrals) are breathing a sigh of relief as our former closer heads for pastures Floridian once again. Even if he does bounce back, he'll at least be doing it in the American League East - I don't know about you, but that's usually a division I find pretty easy to ignore. :) Will he bounce back? Beyond the Box Score dug into the peripherals and they think that he could well improve somewhat, though acknowledge his diminishing stuff. But they doubt he'll bounce back to the tune of $6 million.

Speaking of which, the Diamondbacks have themselves a bunch of extra available cash, with which to fund other moves. It's no secret what Kevin Towers wants: someone who can improve our rotation, and a corner outfielder with pop, to provide protection for Goldschmidt in the line-up [and to jump in before anyone mentions it, remember that Justin Upton will earn $14.25 million with the Braves this season]. And, since he's probably going to go down the trade route rather than free-agency, those could come from just about any of the other 29 teams in baseball. About all we can do is look at the team's areas of strength and/or depth, and figure out what we have to deal from.

Pitching

The departure of Holmberg does weaken the team somewhat, but considering that seven of the top 10 prospects in John's year-end review were pitchers, it still has to be considered an area of strength. That's especially so, considering our 2014 rotation likely contains Patrick Corbin (age on Opening Day: 24, under team control through 2018), Wade Miley (27, 2018) and Randall Delgado (24, 2019). Add Archie Bradley - who, by all accounts, is as close to untouchable as Kevin Towers is prone to pronounce - and we appear just about set up, and nicely cost-controlled, at least for the next four seasons.

This year, the team also has Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill, who will fill out the rotation this year, unless the team deems Bradley ready for the show, which would leave one of the 2013 rotation surplus to requirements. McCarthy, being a free-agent at the end of this season, and also earning $10.25 million, would bring the lowest return, but would also free up another hefty slice of salary for other needs. Cahill is potentially under our (or anyone else's) control through 2016, but becomes increasingly pricey: he gets $7.7 million next season, $12 million in 2015, and there's a $13 million team option, with a $300K buyout, for 2016.

On the prospect front, the leading name is Tyler Skaggs. His numbers in the majors haven't been impressive - over 13 starts, he has a 5.43 ERA, but it is certainly worth bearing in mind he only turned 22 in July.: only a couple of other players his age (Jose Fernandez and Jordan Lyles) have had as many starts in the majors over the past two seasons. I'd not be averse simply to plugging Skaggs in to the rotation, and there you go: basically, forget about our starting pitching until the World Cup after next. But for a GM whose job appears heavily dependent on this year's performance, immediate improvement in the offense may be considered more useful.

Middle infield

What? No Willie Bloomquist? It'll be strange not having that dead horse to whack around next season, for the first time since 2010. But even without him, the team is still well-supplied with potential major-league contributors. We have regular starters last season, Aaron Hill and Didi Gregorius, with Cliff "late inning defensive replacement" Pennington also available, and Chris Owings did little in his September call-up to disavow the notion that he's ready for the big leagues. There definitely seems room to shift one of those, but which one?

The rumblings appear to indicate Gregorius is the most likely to go, in part because his skill-set is too similar to Cliff Pennington's. Both are defense-first players who struggle against left-handed pitching, making them poor platoon candidates. Owings, being right-handed, would be a better fit with Pennington, who's basically a left-hander (just because you can switch-hit, doesn't mean you should...). But I still harbor fantasies that the Yankees, having given up on Robinson "quarter billion" Cano, will consider the $35 million owed to Hill for the next three years a relative bargain. Though literally as I write that, I find out they're close to signing Kelly Johnson. Oh, well...

Outfield

I'll get into this in detail over the next couple of days, but a big issue here is the uncertainty over Cody Ross, and when, or indeed if, he'll be able to come back from the hip injury which ended his season. If we don't have him, then our outfield no longer has any real depth, with just Pollock, Eaton and Parra if we keep Martin Prado at third (described by Steve Gilbert today as "likely"). I appreciated what we were able to do last season, with basically four everyday outfielders, rotating in and out. That helped keep everyone fresh and also allowed us to keep the platoon edge. Dealing from here may be more likely late, once we have a better idea of Ross's progress.

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