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More questions than answers for Arizona after the winter meetings

We come back from San Diego without our 2014 Opening Day starter, regular catcher or shortstop with most innings. But we have starting pitchers! LOTS of starting pitchers...

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Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
All the starting pitchers!

In fact, it looks as if, what shortstops were to Kevin Towers, starting pitchers are to Dave Stewart, considering Arizona appears to be going with a 13-man rotation in the coming season. This isn't even an exaggeration. After the Wade Miley trade, de la Rosa and Webster (above) coming back from Boston, the following will be the starting pitchers on the 40-man roster for Arizona, with at least one start in the major leagues.

  • Chase Anderson
  • Bronson Arroyo
  • Trevor Cahill
  • Andrew Chafin
  • Josh Collmenter
  • Patrick Corbin
  • Rubby De La Rosa
  • Randall Delgado
  • Jeremy Hellickson
  • Daniel Hudson
  • Vidal Nuno
  • Robbie Ray
  • Allen Webster

Now, admittedly, Arroyo and Corbin won't be ready to return from their Tommy John procedures by the start of the season, while Daniel Hudson's future is still unclear, and may be in the bullpen. But against that, you have those not on the 40-man roster who may figure into the team's plans for 2015 - most obviously, Archie Bradley, but also Aaron Blair and Braden Shipley. So there still appear to be 13 viable names for our Opening Day rotation there, and few if any obvious choices for the top five. This becomes particularly clear, if you ask who will get the ball against the Giants on April 6. Collmenter? Hellickson? [Gulp] And Cahill is the one with most major-league experience...

The team may be finished here. Rumblings suggest that they may be more inclined to look for the top-of-rotation guy out of next year's free-agent class, when Arizona should also have significantly more money, due to a new local television rights deal, and fewer obligations. [Cahill, Cody Ross and Arroyo are due a total of $31 million for the 2015 season, but all then have team option years for 2016]. The 2015 season can then be used as an "audition" of sorts, with the various contenders being tried out, to see which ones can take a step forward in terms of ability. We don't need them all to do so - but if a couple of the #4/5 guys can become #3's, that will help.

Where's Yasmany?

The official word on Yasmany Tomas is that they're going to try him at the hot corner. Manager Chip Hale said, "We're going to have him compete at third base. So if he can handle third base, he would be our (guy). That's our first wish and then the outfield situation sort of falls in after that." In some ways, that makes sense. It helps unclog the outfield, though we still probably have one too many players for the 25-man roster (presuming Mark Trumbo, A.J. Pollock, Ender Inciarte, David Peralta and Cody Ross are all healthy), a little depth is no bad thing, as we discovered this season.

But, the obvious problem is, this blocks Jake Lamb, which goes against the long-term youth movement Stewart is apparently running. However, we've already seen the new front office may occasionally... Well, let's just say, be economical with the truth. For instance, Stewart said on December 5, with regard to trading Miguel Montero, "Right now, I'm not motivated to do anything." Four days later, Miggy had become a Cub, with two very long-term prospects apparently all the "motivation" needed. I've no problem with this approach, but after four years where Kevin Towers' mouth often appear to operate without a filter, we may need to examine front-office statements more carefully.

So, I've a feeling Tomás at third may be a red-herring, designed to reduce the apparent need to deal away players. With six outfielders if we include Yasmany, it would be more of a buyer's market, sine there is then a stronger imperative for the Diamondbacks to clear space. By floating the "Tomás at third" balloon, and also making loud, public proclamations about not trading Trumbo [though other reports apparently have us looking to do exactly that], it helps create the appearance of a team that doesn't have to do anything. My money is still on Trumbo being dealt, and Tomás starting on Opening Day in left-field, but we'll see.

Remaining business

Top of the agenda - and the outfield surplus may be used to this end - is likely getting a replacement for Miguel Montero. There isn't too much on the free-agent market, unless you like the look of Geovanny Soto, and I don't think many people outside of Mrs. Soto do. Beyond him, it's a long, steep descent to the likes of David Ross and Nick Hundley, who are undeniably more in the backup catcher slot, than anyone you'd want to run out there 100 times or more in a season. While we want someone better than that, the team doesn't appear to want someone long-term, believing Peter O'Brien can stick at catcher.

So we might concentrate on the pool who will be free agents at the end of 2015. Per MLBTR (discounting George Kottaras, who was outrighted by the Blue Jays in October, so I think shouldn't be on the list), that's these seven players - their ages, teams and 2015 salaries (contracted or projected) are in brackets.

  • Alex Avila (29, Tigers, $5.4m)
  • Chris Iannetta (33, Angels, $5.25m)
  • John Jaso (32, Athletics, $3.3m)
  • Jose Molina (41, Rays, $2.75m)
  • Dioner Navarro (32, Blue Jays, $5m)
  • Brayan Pena (34, Reds, $1.4m)
  • Matt Wieters (30, Orioles, $7.9m)

The names of Avila and Navarro have already been mentioned by Stewart as of interest for possible trades. That's actually a bit naughty, because staff are not supposed to discuss publicly players who are under contract to other teams. It's called tampering, and is not necessarily a paper tiger. In 1979, Ray Kroc, then owner of the Padres, was slapped with a $100,000 fine for saying little more than,"Sure, that would be nice," when asked if he would be interested in potential free agents Graig Nettles and Joe Morgan. I'm sure someone from the commissioner's office has had a quiet word with Stewart about his new role.

Other than that, I tend to think that, unless there's some startling move in the offing - shifting Aaron Hill, say - then the players we have at the moment are going to provide the great bulk of the 25-man roster come April. We still seem to lack an obvious backup for Paul Goldschmidt at first, ideally left-handed, but that seems fairly trivial. It may end up being quiet the rest of the winter.