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2016 Winter Meetings Wrap-Up: What we learned

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Looking at some of the moves made at the Winter Meetings and how the lessons learned from them could impact the Diamondbacks’ decision making process moving into the 2017 season.

The Diamondbacks had a pretty uneventful Winter Meetings, which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It appears the team is taking a wait and see approach and figuring out what to do next. The biggest move so far is signing free agent reliever Fernando Rodney to a 1-year deal with a minimum value of $2.75M and a maximum value of $5M.

The market for Yasmany Tomás has not developed yet: Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, the big FA sluggers did not sign yet and are in no hurry to do so. Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Mike Napoli, Jose Bautista, and Chris Carter are still free agents and have plenty of potential suitors. Carter is probably the closest comp to Tomás, so what he signs for could be a key indicator on how much teams will pay. It’s looking more likely that Tomás will be on the team come Opening Day and he’s going to have to build value over the course of the first half of the season. For what it’s worth, Tomás has 30 HR/65 XBH ability but negative fielding and baserunning cripple whatever value his bat gives. Moving him to a full time DH role would only improve his value by 5 runs or roughly half a win. Baltimore seems to be the ideal suitor for a potential trade with its small ballpark (122 Park Factor for HR, 115 overall in 2016) and the possibility of losing Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez in free agency.

“Proven” closers and other relievers are expensive, Dbacks priced out of relief market?: Four of the top five closers were available this offseason. Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon were free agents while the Royals were shopping Wade Davis. Chapman signed for 5/$86M with full no trade for 3 years and opt out after 2019, Jansen unsigned but reports of $80M+ offers over 5 years, and Melancon signing for 4/$62M with an opt out after 2018. Jansen is reportedly signing tomorrow, choosing between the Marlins and the Dodgers, most likely the Marlins, who lost their best player in a boating accident. The next next tier of free agents could cost north of $8M, which is probably more than the team can afford. As Shoewizard pointed out all week, the team will likely be scraping the bottom of the barrel to add veteran relievers to the back-end of the bullpen. Jake Barrett and Enrique Burgos could not lock down the closer job last year, which is why the team spent $2.75M (incentives push the deal to a max of $5M) to sign soon to be 40-year-old reliever Fernando Rodney. The team could add another veteran to the back-end, but it looks like a Brad Ziegler or Daniel Hudson return is unlikely. The team will have to look internally for their closer of the future. Jake Barrett and Jimmie Sherfy are the two guys to watch for.

Sale and Eaton deals should give Hazen a reason to at least shop Goldschmidt and Pollock’s value: When I say shop, I don’t necessarily mean trade unless you’re getting a can’t refuse offer. There’s nothing wrong in trying to do your due diligence out how much other teams value your best players. Paul Goldschmidt should fetch a similar return to what the White Sox got for Chris Sale, maybe a little bit more since he’s a position player. The White Sox got the top prospect in baseball in Yoan Moncada, a big time pitching prospect in Michael Kopech, as well as a couple B level prospects in Victor Diaz and Luis Alexander Basabe. You have to at least think about it. Now, I don’t think it will happen either. In the case of Pollock, the Diamondbacks are in no good position to deal him unless they’re tanking 2017. With a wait and see approach, that’s not likely. Pollock would not get as much as Eaton, but when healthy is a superior player with only 2 years of control as opposed to Eaton’s 5. Pollock is a guy who can rebuild value over the first half of 2017. If he’s an All-Star and has strong numbers while the team is out of contention, they should move him for pieces that will help the team beyond 2018.

If necessary, fill relief holes with converted starters: At the end of the day, the team has 8 viable starting candidates and only 5 open spots. Patrick Corbin, Anthony Banda, and Braden Shipley really don’t have a need to pitch in the minor leagues (less so with Banda, who only spent two months in AAA although he pitched well). As for starting depth, if the team suffers the inevitable injury to at least one of their starting five, the team can stretch out those three over a 3-4 start course. Corbin pitched well in the final six weeks as a reliever and Shipley’s path to the rotation is blocked right now. Both pitchers would experience a velocity increase, throwing mid 90s with the fastball and a sharp breaking pitch. Corbin is another guy who could be traded at the deadline, (with the Yankees getting a monster haul for Andrew Miller in July, it’s possible) if he rebounds as either a starter or reliever. I have Jake Barrett and Randall Delgado as the only locks for the bullpen, although my projected 8 are Barrett, Delgado, Corbin, Shipley, Rodney, Andrew Chafin, Steve Hathaway, and Sherfy. That could change if Hazen adds a reliever.

Front office values pitch framing and game-planning: The Diamondbacks added veteran Jeff Mathis, whose reputation as a strong pitch framer and game caller got him signed to a 2/$4M deal. Manager Torey Lovullo also commented that Mathis will start roughly 60 games behind the plate and Hazen also commenting on the team looking for a 3rd catcher to split the remaining 100 games with Chris Herrmann. Mathis isn’t going to hit much better than 50 wRC+, but his value will be in the improvement of pitchers, who struggled with Welington Castillo behind the plate. Teh Diamondbacks non-tendered Castillo instead of paying him $6M because pitchers struggled to a 5.04 ERA with him at the plate and Shoewizard alleging from his inside sources that Castillo was lazy when it came to game planning.

Another big move they made is adding Dan Haren, who pitched for the Diamondbacks in 2008-2010, to the front office under the title “Pitching Strategist”, which is a fancy way of saying assistant pitching coach without the uniform. Haren’s job is to take the findings from the Analytics Department and incorporate it into the game plan. Haren had always been a cerebral pitcher, even in his days in Arizona when he was throwing 93-95 MPH with a nasty cutter and splitter. In his later days, Haren was able to pitch well with diminished stuff, which he jokes about with his @ithrow88 Twitter handle. If Haren is allowed to tweet most of the glorious stuff he usually does, it could be an addition to the weekly Twitter segment. Even if Haren doesn’t have a on-field responsibility, his role to the team is almost, if not equally, important as pitching coach Mike Butcher’s who is basically on probation for 2017.

Additions left to be done: Hazen is looking for more relief help, an upgrade in outfield defense, an extra catcher, and a left-handed bat. With the team near it’s $100M payroll, Hazen is going to have to be creative in trades to shed payroll to make these moves. It looks like Hazen is trying to build up a semi-respectable team and see where it goes in the season before making his ultimate decision to rebuild vs. retool, unless he’s not allowed to rebuild by ownership. Payroll constraints are currently the biggest obstacle to the Diamondbacks attempt to sustain success.