It’s not clear exactly where payroll will be for the 2017 Diamondbacks, but it doesn’t seem likely that there will be much room for any kind of splash on the free-agent front. Not that you’d probably want to anyway. MLB Trade Rumors calls the market for starting pitchers “historically bleak”, and with the leading names being Jeremy Hellickson, Ivan Nova, and Rich Hill, that seems an entirely fair assessment.
If anyone new is going to arrive, it’s would have to be as a trade, but it’s not clear what chips the team would have available there. The farm system seems largely bereft of position players who would be capable of moving the needle much in terms of a trade. That doesn’t matter too much at the major-league level, since we’re just about set there for the next couple of years, but will make it harder to improve other areas through a trade. As for prospects, there’s a reason Baseball America’s projected 2019 rotation for Arizona is largely indistinguishable from last year, listing five of the top six D-backs by 2016 starts. [with Archie Bradley as closer, interestingly]
However, there are no shortage of internal candidates, and there are grounds for believing in at least some kind of rebound. Fielding Independent ERA (FIP) is generally regarded as a better predictor of “true pitching talent” going forward than ERA, and Arizona’s starting FIP was 0.69 runs better than their ERA, at 4.50. That was the biggest gap in the majors by quite some way. So while our rotation ranked 29th by ERA, they were nine spots better by FIP. I strongly think a significant reason for the gap was our shoddy outfield defense, and full seasons from “actual” outfielders like A.J. Pollock and David Peralta should help, compared to, say, having 79 starts from Brandon Drury.
But who “should” be in the rotation? We used 10 different starting pitchers last year, all of whom will currently be available for 2017, and you can perhaps throw Tyler Wagner in the mix as well, if his mysterious injury clears itself up. Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray seem like the only true locks for spots; after that...? Hence the survey below, which asks you to rank the 11 potential names in order. You can either click the buttons to arrange them from their original random order, or drag and drop the players to create your list. Feel free to discuss in the comments the reasons for your selections as well.