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2016 Winter Meetings Coverage: MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement Completed and Diamondbacks Primer

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Previewing the Winter Meetings: Needs, Best Trade Chips, and Untouchable Players

Mike Hazen will have a big opportunity to start executing his blueprint for the team.
Mike Hazen will have a big opportunity to start executing his blueprint for the team.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Winter Meetings starts on Sunday December 4th and for the last week there was a minute concern that there wouldn't be a collective bargaining agreement. There were reports that teams would skip the event if the CBA wasn't in place. Fortunately, that won't be an issue as Major League Baseball and the Player's Association struck a 11th hour deal. The current CBA was set to expire at midnight.

The details of the new CBA will come out and that will be covered in a different article. Next we focus on the Winter Meetings and what the Diamondbacks need to do.

Diamondbacks Needs:

  • Corner OF
  • Bullpen
  • Rotation Depth

The biggest needs for the team are outfield, especially in the corners, and relief pitching. I'm also of the belief that the Diamondbacks could use improvements all across the board. I'm open for help in the rotation, catcher, and shortstop as well, depending on how much money. In addition the team should look to try to shed as much of Yasmany Tomás' contract due to the poor performance relative to the amount of dollars given. Zack Greinke presents a similar problem only due to the low payroll of $100M, although the contract itself is less of an issue because his drop off in performance is more related to the issue of catching than stuff or command.

Best Trade Assets:

  • INF Chris Owings: The Diamondbacks still have a middle infield logjam with Jean Segura going out and Ketel Marte coming in. Of the logjam, Owings has the highest floor of being a viable starter at SS or 2B, but also has the shortest amount of team control left. Owings has 3 seasons left and is going through the arbitration process. While he has a high floor, he has a very limited ceiling because he has a slightly above average bat complemented by a slightly below average glove. Owings won't fetch as much in a deal as Jean Segura with only one season above 1.5 WAR (2014). If Owings can continue to improve his bat, he would be a very hot commodity at the deadline. If the team wants to put Drury's bat at 2B, the team will have to trade either Ahmed or Owings.
  • SS Nick Ahmed: I admit I play favorites with Nick Ahmed over Chris Owings, even when logic itself proves me wrong. Personally I prefer Ahmed at SS over Owings because he has a higher ceiling (with a much lower floor) because Ahmed's glove is almost worth 2 WAR by itself. Ahmed is coming off of hip surgery that really bothered him in June-July. If Ahmed is healthy, he's a better option than Owings when considering the total package. The key figure for Nick Ahmed to get to 2 WAR is a 70 wRC+ or OPS+ as a borderline Gold Glove candidate already. Ahmed is under control through 2020, so there's no reason to dump him off too early either.
  • LHP Patrick Corbin: I'm not sure where Corbin fits long term, is he better suited as a reliever or as a starter? In 2016, Corbin was awful as a starter in possibly every metric and was one of the hardest hit pitchers in baseball. When the team moved him to the bullpen, he was dominant in that role. Corbin only comes with two years of control and is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Corbin's 2017 salary is projected to be $4.2M, which is reasonable for a starter with 4 years of control, but might be too expensive as a non-closer reliever with that much service time. Personally I prefer moving him to the bullpen and use him in an Andrew Miller type capacity. The biggest issue will be convincing Corbin that he could be a late inning reliever instead of a starter.
  • CF AJ Pollock: Pollock is coming off a 2nd campaign in 3 years where he's missed a ton of time in the season. Also given the fact the team lacks a reliable option behind him, Pollock is not the #1 trade chip. Since 2014, Pollock has accumulated 10.2 fWAR in 244 games (1006 PA), or approximately 6.0 WAR per season, which is the pace of an elite CF. The good news for Pollock is the major injuries have been to the hand and elbow, and not his legs. Pollock will be 29 on Opening Day and is still in the prime of his career. I have Pollock projected for 7-8 WAR the next two seasons. If Pollock is healthy in the first half, he may be the hottest name at the deadline if the Diamondbacks are well behind the playoff race. While some people consider him as untouchable right now, I think he can be had in the right deal. It would have to include a MLB-ready CF prospect and a top SP prospect just to get at the table.
Untouchable Players:
  • 1B Paul Goldschmidt: The issue isn't the team wouldn't get a monumental return, but would be able to get back the surplus value that he produces relative to his contract. Goldschmidt is scheduled to earn just under $34.5M over the next three years and I have him projected for 12.5 WAR over that time span, which calculates as a surplus value of $65M. I wouldn't also be surprised if the team is working on an extension for Goldschmidt, although I prefer at most a 5-year extension that would cover him through 2023 (Age 35) at the latest.
  • 3B Jake Lamb: Lamb gives the team a strong left-handed complement to pair up with Goldschmidt in the middle of the order. Lamb had a bad year defensively, but given his previous track record it's more of a hiccup than a bad omen. Lamb suffered a horrific 2nd half slump that coincided with a bruised thumb. Lamb strikes out a lot, but also led the team in XBH and walks a decent amount (~10%). Pair the big bat with projected above average defense at 3B, Lamb is a safe bet for 3+ WAR.
  • INF Brandon Drury: Even though Drury isn't going to play 3B, the team could be looking at him at either 2B or LF long term. I think they will try 2B first to move him to a position closer to his natural position. Drury isn't going to be a break-even defender and will cost the team runs in terms of range, but has the floor of 100 wRC+ with a projected ceiling of 125 wRC+, which would make him a 2.5 WAR player. Drury is an inferior defender to Marte and Owings, but his floor as a hitter beats Owings and Marte's likely projections.
  • LHP Robbie Ray: Ray will be in his final pre-arb season and depending on what WAR metric you use is either terrible (0.7 bWAR), solid (3.0 fWAR), or elite (5.2 WARP). I think all three metrics can be used to describe where he is, what type of pitcher he projects, and his total upside. Ray has very solid peripherals in terms of strikeouts vs. walks (3.07 K/BB), but yielded a hard hit rate of 36.0%, and poor sequencing of events messing up his ERA. Ray is far from a finished product, but I believe his true talent level is closest to his fWAR. Ray is a breakout candidate for 2017 because of his ability to generate strikeouts. In terms of creating success, they should let Ray pitch to his strengths (elevated 95+ MPH fastball, backfoot sliders) instead of forcing him to pitch to contact. That will lead to longer nights for the bullpen, but I'll take 5 innings of 1 or 2 runs allowed then the extra runs allowed in the 6th or 7th inning as he's facing the order a 3rd time.
  • RHP Taijuan Walker: They just traded for him last week, this one needs no further explanation.
Mike Hazen's first significant move was one where they dealt a proven, yet short-term asset for younger assets with more upside and control. The team is looking for something to change their fortunes as the team has suffered 90-loss seasons 4 times in the last 8 seasons and have only made the postseason once in that span. With a limited payroll, Hazen has to be creative to generate value and that means taking risks such as the last trade. With the current roster as is, I have the team projected for 76 wins and each marginal win is harder to get, especially once you cross the 81-win threshold. I wouldn't mind seeing similar moves in the Winter Meetings, especially if the team is getting premium talent in return for their All-Star caliber players with short-term control such as Pollock or Goldschmidt.