Over the last 3 seasons, the Diamondbacks farm system has been slowly depleted. From ill-advised trades, prospect dumps for salary relief, and a unnaturally high graduation rate of prospects, the system lacks impact talent for the future. While the major league club still has some of those impact talents from a few seasons ago, the team lacks a lot of long-term assets, which I define as players with team control past the 2018 season. The only core players that fit in the post-2018 window are Zack Greinke, Paul Goldschmidt, Brandon Drury, Jake Lamb, Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed, and David Peralta. Lamb and Peralta are under control through 2020, Drury and Greinke through 2021.
After the 2018 season, the team could be looking at finding long-term solutions in CF, 2B, 1B, and catcher. The system itself doesn’t have the prospects to replace those players, so the urgency is now in order to get that pipeline going. Fortunately, the Diamondbacks awful 2016 season does have some silver linings. Having a top-10 pick in the draft allows for the team to spend on a free agent who declined qualifying offer, although the team is so far behind the level they need to be to compete for the playoffs that it’s not necessary. In addition, the penalties imposed for the Yoan Lopez signing two offseasons ago are now lifted with the bonus cap of $300k now gone. That could mean the Diamondbacks could be aggressive players in the international market next July.
While the players acquired in the MLB Draft and the international signing period aren’t likely to contribute to the team in the 2017-18 window, the team does need to prepare for the post-Goldschmidt era (2019 and beyond) in Arizona. The team as is probably has the talent to win 75-80 games, but as we saw last season that having the wrong manager can cause a team to lose more games than expected. Getting the right manager will have a similar type effect, where the team over-performs their talent level in the standings. If the Diamondbacks continue to scuffle, the front might be accelerating plans for a rebuild. The 2016-17 season should mostly be about addition by subtraction and trying to create more payroll flexibility for the future. If that means putting Zack Greinke, Yasmany Tomas, Jean Segura, AJ Pollock, and Paul Goldschmidt on the trading block, so be it.
If the team does find itself somehow in contention at July, they should take a look back towards the type of moves they made in the 2011 season. At the deadline, the Diamondbacks picked up one of the game’s most underrated relievers in Brad Ziegler. Ziegler was a key element towards the Dbacks postseason run as it gave the team a 3rd shutdown reliever to work with JJ Putz, who was having a resurgent season, and a rising bullpen ace in David Hernandez. The move was doubly good as the team gave up two C prospects with high ceilings but incredibly low floors. In August, the team was looking to acquire a backup SS after losing Stephen Drew for the season and to offload a struggling 2B in need of a change in scenery. The Diamondbacks picked up John McDonald and Aaron Hill, who put up a strong run for the team from 2011-2013. What made those two particular moves successful is the team didn’t trade from the top talent in the farm (Skaggs, Corbin, Goldschmidt, Pollock) to make those moves.
The Diamondbacks could also be an attractive place for a struggling hitter with a good track record in the past to fatten up his numbers at Chase Field and net the Diamondbacks a longer term asset, especially in the outfield. While the team is full of young players that deserve playing time, there are also a couple of sell-high type players that have to be considered to move. Segura is one of those players, coming off of a season where everything just clicked from start to finish, but has a longer track record of inconsistency. With two years of team control, Segura is a very attractive trade target for a contending team with a desperate need at the 2B position. Another possible candidate to get moved this offseason is Yasmany Tomas, who’s 31 HR season and projectable 35-40 HR power could bring interest in AL clubs looking for a 1B/DH type. With a high salary, the Diamondbacks are going to have to eat some of the money to facilitate such a trade and there might not be that many suitors in the first place.
The team has many different avenues to add impact talent to the farm in 2017. With a top 10 pick plus no more spending restrictions in the international signings department starting in July, the team can add young talent to the lower levels of the farm. If the team struggles mightily in 2017, they could look to trade to term short-term (team control expires after 2018) assets into longer-term assets. This will be the first difficult task for GM Mike Hazen, Assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye, and the rest of the front office. How successful they are in this task could determine the future of the organization for the next 5 years.