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Surveying the post-deadline Diamondbacks landscape

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What do yesterday's deals mean for the Arizona Diamondbacks, both in the short and long term?

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Overview

Personally, I think the most satisfactory thing about the two trades yesterday, is that there's no way to spin them as "Win now" transactions. We dealt away, not just two regulars, but two of our most everyday players - only Paul Goldschmidt has started more games this year than Gerardo Parra or Martin Prado - in exchange for prospects who are unlikely to help us before 2016. It's all but an open acknowledgement that the roster, as constructed by Kevin Towers, wasn't championship quality. While you can debate the level required, it does appear some degree of rebuilding will be needed in order for the team to compete again.

Roster: short-term

While many fans wanted to see the beginning of the Jake Lamb era at third-base, that seems unlikely to happen before next spring. The main reason for this, is to do with the 40-man roster and the Rule 5 draft in December. Lamb has not been in the system for long enough to need protecting, but if he was brought up now, he would need to be added to the 40-man roster, thereby taking a slot away from another prospect, and leaving them exposed to being selected by another team. Once on the 40-man, a player more or less has to stick there, so it's not as if we can add Lamb for the rest of the year, then drop him in November.

It looks like third-base the rest of the way will be manned by Jordan Pacheco, with Andy Marte as a back-up for now, with help on its way in the form of the rehabbing Cliff Pennington. Meanwhile, David Peralta would appear to be the right-fielder for now, with Roger Kieschnick the backup, but probably not likely to see significant playing time. A.J. Pollock is also on the rehab trail, and his return will likely push Kieschnick out, Pollock taking over from Ender Inciarte as our normal occupant of center. With Inciarte and Peralta both being lefties, they can act as a platoon with Mark Trumbo and Cody Ross as needed.

Roster: long-term

It appears that the rise of Lamb and fellow third-base prospect Brandon Drury are a significant part of what gave management the confidence to deal Prado. It wouldn't seem likely the team will be looking to replace Prado on the free-agent or trade market this winter, and I imagine Lamb will be given every opportunity to make the spot his own in spring training next year. Pacheco or Pennington can be used as a backup. The former will be cheaper, and is a right-handed bat, so would platoon better with the left-handed hitting Lamb - Pennington is a switch-hitter, but has been higher numbers from the left.

It will be interesting to see how the outfield ends up being constructed for next season. I might be inclined to continue running with five outfielders, retaining both LHBs Inciarte and Peralta, considering that Trumbo and Ross are both much better hitting against right-handed pitching than left-handers. However, I'm not certain how far down the platoon road the team will be willing to go, especially considering Trumbo and Ross will be far and away the most expensive members of the outfield - quite likely the only ones earning more than league minimum in 2015. Maybe we can just trade Ross back to the Giants and be done with it.

Financial implications

Yesterday's moves certainly save the Diamondbacks a good chunk of change, particularly next year. Prado would have been due $11 million, and Parra, as a third-year arbitration player, would probably be due, even after a down season like this year, something get up toward the $7 million range. With their replacements earning minimum, that would initially appear to free up $17 million or so, which could be put towards the team's most obvious need: a genuine frontline starter. For, even if Patrick Corbin returns fully healthy and effective next year [a far from certain assumption, shall we say], we still seem to need another rotation arm.

However, it's also quite possible that the payroll ceiling may also be lowered next year. With attendance on pace to be around a franchise low, just above two million, it's easy to see that income at the gate will be significantly lower than expected, and that could impact the money available in 2015. Belts may have to be tightened for that year, until we reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, in the shape of a new television contract kicking in for 2016. Even if payroll is kept at the same level, it may be necessary to backload any free-agent contract, because $17 million won't get you Max Scherzer or Jon Lester.

Conclusions

I liked Nick Piecoro's summary regarding where the Diamondbacks now stand: "They're not a better team today than they were when the month began, but they might be better positioned to eventually become one." Running a franchise isn't just about making the right decisions, it's also about being able to fix the inevitable mistakes, because no GM is perfect (even ones portrayed by Brad Pitt in the movie version). Big-budget teams can shrug and swallow unwanted contracts; smaller ones, like Arizona, need to be more creative. This week certainly doesn't put the D-backs into contention for 2015. But it's a start, and without these moves, their chances were effectively zero.