Well, that happened. Approximately 1 minute after my computer battery died and I couldn't find my cord, news came through Twitter that the D-backs had acquired Shelby Miller. I had called this happening earlier in the day; my expectation was that the D-backs final offer had been made (I thought it would be Peralta and a prospect) and that the Braves were casting around for more. They had indicated they wanted a deal in place for Miller by the end of the day, and I was confident that they would either find something better or make the deal with the D-backs.
So, I was right as to the final result, and we acquired Miller. I was wrong as to the price. I tweeted shortly after learning of the cost that it would have been better to just deal Pollock; I stand by that, for two reasons. Yes, Pollock could continue being MVP caliber for the next few seasons, but we had a replacement in house that, I believe, can be all-star caliber. Instead, we traded that all-star caliber player, a pitching prospect, and last year's top draft pick. Sure, all were areas where we could afford to take a hit, but this was a bit much of one.
What this means is that the Diamondbacks have to do more. Acquiring Greinke made the team a contender, and acquiring Miller means that the team is, as the division currently stands, the favorite to win it. But that isn't enough. Giving up so much to acquire Miller means that the Diamondbacks have to do more, have to make themselves not just the favorite in the division, but the prohibitive favorite to win the pennant.
There are three obvious areas of improvement that could put them in that position. I think at least two of them have to be improved. The most obvious is second base, which was a black hole last year. Another bullpen piece, particularly a top closer, would be a good addition. And another corner outfielder would be good. I don't consider third base to be a significant area of need; between Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury, there should be enough in-house.
If less had been given to acquire Miller, keeping more prospects in house for the future, I'd have just let things slide and see if either Chris Owings would be able to handle the job full-time, or if Phil Gosselin or Brandon Drury could step in. But there's no time to wait. The D-backs have to be so positioned that they are the unquestioned favorite from the start of the year. Had Neil Walker not been dealt to the Mets already, I'd advocate trading for him; sure, it's only one year, but it is a clear improvement and it gives Owings, Drury, and Reinheimer time to see if one of them will be ready to take the position in 2017. Of the free agents, Daniel Murphy and Howie Kendrick are the best available, and neither one of them are particularly attractive. Both would likely be more than the Diamondbacks would like to pay, although with having already given up a draft pick to sign Greinke, the cost isn't quite as high. The team could also pursue Japanese free agent Nobuhiro Matsuda to play third base, but while that would free up Drury to play second full-time, it's unsure whether he would stick there at the MLB level, and this leaves Lamb without a position (it also makes the D-backs more right handed.)
That leaves a trade as the best option, and there isn't a lot on the market. We've been connected to the Rangers, and they do have middle infielders who they might be willing to trade. They have Rougned Odor penciled in as starter at second for now, and are hoping for Jurickson Profar to come back at shortstop. Profar's recurring shoulder problems, though, might mean they would be willing to sell him cheap, and second might be a better place for him to play. The Rangers also have Hanser Alberto, who projects to be better with the bat than Owings was last year and plays above-average defense. If the Rangers are confident Profar is healthy, they would likely be willing to part with ridiculously expensive Elvis Andrus. Andrus seems perennially overrated; he's never posted an OPS+ over 94, and his career mark of 83 is only 2 points better than 2014 Aaron Hill, plus he'd be learning a new position. 83 was also the OPS+ of Scooter Gennett last year, who was at one point optioned to AAA for lack of performance. If the Brewers were willing to move Gennett, he might be an attractive piece, as he's left handed, above-average with the bat (Career OPS+ of 102) and around average with the glove. He's also cost-controlled, as he won't even be entering arbitration until after next season, so I don't see that happening. Which brings us back to Brandon Phillips. He'll cost more than Hill, so unless Hill's contract can be moved to Cincinnati there's no chance of it.
What would I do? I'd talk to Milwaukee about Gennett and Texas about Alberto, but probably wind up hoping for a bounce-back year from Hill. Hill's approach at the plate towards the end of last year was much improved, resulting in a career-high walk rate. If he can keep that up, he can provide positive contribution at second base.
The Diamondbacks have a bullpen that should be able to compete, but bullpens are shaky things. Plus, they haven't done a good job allocating resources. Brad Ziegler is one of the best in the game at his best skill, which is inducing the double play. But using him as closer means that he isn't used in that area. He's still great as closer, but it would be nice to have someone else to plug in there, so Ziegler can return to the fireman role.
There aren't many potential or proven closers in the FA market. Tyler Clippard and Steve Cishek might be worth brief looks, Joe Nathan has experience in the role but is old and coming off injury, and Greg Holland and Neftali Feliz are coming off injury. If the D-backs bring in someone to fill the back of the bullpen, it will need to be via trade. And closers are volatile, so I'd much rather plan on using one out of Randall Delgado, RDLR, or Daniel Hudson in the role. The Brewers already dealt Francisco Rodriguez to the Tigers. As I write this, the Diamondbacks are reportedly working on a trade with the Rangers, likely for Keone Kela. That would be a decent move, as long as the cost to acquire Kela isn't high; he didn't work as closer much last year, but has the stuff to be a closer, and young, cheap, and under team control for a while. If he were to rack up 50 saves on a contending team, he'd turn into a valuable trade chip as well.
What would I do? Trading for Kela if the cost is low and letting him compete for the closer's job would be a good move. Otherwise, letting in-house options compete would be it.
Wait, you thought this was set? Reportedly, the Diamondbacks are now out on Leake. But I'm sure he'd love to be part of the rotation even more now, making that hometown discount likely just a bit higher. I don't think the D-backs sign another starter, or even trade for one, but Robbie Ray would almost certainly be the best fifth starter in the league, and a rotation of Greinke-Corbin-Miller-Leake-Ray might be the best in baseball. Want to be the prohibitive favorite? Pony up the money to sign Leake, or Cueto if you want to go crazy. Not going to happen, but this would certainly put the D-backs over the top. It would also enable the team to fill bullpen holes from within, by moving players like RDLR or Bradley or Chase Anderson to a bullpen role.
What would I do? If I were Stewart, I'd try to persuade Kendrick to pay for Leake. Likely not going to happen, though. But I still think that another starter would be a good thing. Maybe take a run at Cliff Lee and see if he has something left in the tank, particularly that now he wouldn't be a necessity?
Keeping AJ Pollock means that the outfield is still a strength of this team. But it's gotten weaker than it was last year, when it (along with first base, of course) was the strength of the team. I'm not kidding. The Diamondbacks outfield led the Major Leagues in WAA last year, by an astounding 4.9 WAA. Had it not been for Tomas and Trumbo manning right field for most of the year, the difference would have been even higher. Now Ender Inciarte and his 3.5 WAA is in Atlanta (and since he'll likely be in center field there, where his bat plays better, he could get to 5 WAA.) David Peralta helped the Diamondbacks have the best left field in the majors last year, and Pollock is a bona fide star in center. The team seems intent on giving Yasmany Tomas every chance to earn a regular outfield spot. But if they want to be the prohibitive favorite, they need to improve that right field spot (or move Peralta to right and stick someone else in left.)
There are two free agents that would do the trick, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton. And both of them are far too pricey, of course. Both would come with great storylines. Heyward was traded for Shelby Miller, and I'm pretty sure Upton has some sort of history in the desert, right? Alex Gordon would fit the model for the Diamondbacks even more, but he's still expensive, although not in the Heyward-Upton league. If Gordon is available in the 5/$75 range, I think he's worth the deal. Plus, signing Gordon would hurt the Giants further (as they are currently the frontrunners for Gordon.)
What would I do? Assuming Kendrick wouldn't let me sign Leake, I'd try to get him to let me sign Gordon. That would keep the Diamondbacks outfield the best in baseball.
What I Expect
I don't think the Diamondbacks are done. I expect that there will be one more trade and one more signing. I'm going to hold out hope for a signing of either Leake or Gordon, and a trade for a bullpen piece, but who knows? If Leake isn't signed, I'd expect the team to make a play for Cliff Lee or a similar veteran on a one year deal, and a trade for a bullpen piece is almost certain at this point. But we'll have to wait and see. I was correct on calling the trade for Miller, but I never could have guess the signing of Greinke, so who knows what will happen? The important thing is for the Diamondbacks to stay aggressive and take the league by storm.