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Surveying the Arizona Diamondbacks landscape, post GM Winter Meetings

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The meetings finished, with the Rule 5 draft this morning. Let’s look at the roster situation for Arizona.

If you were paying attention, you’ll have noticed my odd presence here over the last week or so, with no articles, fewer comments, and the latter tending to appear at odd times like 4am. That’s because, I was away in Scotland (where the photo above was taken) attending what I will call a “landmark” birthday for my mother - a gentleman never reveals a lady’s age! - so was off-grid and seven hours ahead of Phoenix. Thanks to the forces of James, Makakilo, Michael and Preston for their sterling work covering the winter meeting in my absence, and keeping the hot stove burning! Even if it wasn’t quite as earth-shattering as last year, in the wake of the Zack Greinke signing, there’s been a number of changes worth discussing.

When I went away, Welington Castillo and Rubby De La Rosa were still Diamondbacks, while Jeff Mathis and Fernando Rodney weren’t. So I missed quite a bit of excitement, of one kind or another. Since we’ve already covered in detail the only thing of significance to happen today at the meetings [that Rule 5 draft], I figured I might as well talk more generally about where the team sits and what they still need to do. I know Michael wrote something up earlier today, but I’ve carefully not looked at that. If there’s any repetition, it’s because we independently came to the same conclusion.

2016 Opening Day Roster and payroll

To be clear, we’re almost certainly not done yet. But if the season started tomorrow, here’s my best guess at the likely roster for the Diamondbacks.

Starting line-up

  • C. Chris Herrmann
  • 1B. Paul Goldschmidt
  • 2B. Brandon Drury
  • SS. Chris Owings
  • 3B. Jake Lamb
  • LF. David Peralta
  • CF. A.J. Pollock
  • RF. Yasmany Tomas

Bench

  • Ketel Marte
  • Jeff Mathis
  • Jeremy Hazelbaker
  • Phil Gosselin
  • Nick Ahmed

Starting rotation

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Robbie Ray
  3. Taijuan Walker
  4. Shelby Miller
  5. Patrick Corbin

Bullpen

  • Fernando Rodney
  • Jake Barrett
  • Tyler Jones
  • Randall Delgado
  • Andrew Chafin
  • Enrique Burgos
  • Zack Godley

The departures of Castillo and De La Rosa freed up about $9 million. Signing Mathis and Rodney cost $2 million and $2.75 million respectively; the latter can add up to another $2.25 million in incentives. Updating our previous work, that has the D-backs sitting at about $83 million, not including those incentives or the $10m of Greinke’s salary which has been deferred. This would seem to leave the team with a bit more cash to spend - though the precise amount, is almost as much a question of accounting as anything.

Questions to be answered

Catching. It’s fair to say that the replacement of Castillo by Mathis marks a sea change in the attitude of the Diamondbacks’ front-office, which now values defense far higher. For here are the offensive numbers of those two over the past two seasons:
Castillo: .252/.310/.437 = .747 OPS, 96 OPS+
Mathis: .205/.244/.315 = .559 OPS, 53 OPS+
We’ll talk more about pitch-framing tomorrow, and its apparent new importance to the Diamondbacks. What isn’t clear is how playing time will be split up: Torey Lovullo said, “There's no clear-cut No. 1 guy,” but also with regard to Mathis, he is “a guy that's going to probably catch 60 games and we'll fill in from there.” By a process of subtraction, that makes Herrmann the “everyday” guy - unless, of course, there are further arrivals to come.

Middle-infield. This could go any number of ways: while the personnel on the roster are probably relatively settled (I don’t see us acquiring any more, at least), their roles are to be determined. It could be Ahmed or Marte who is the everyday shortstop, rather than Owings. According to Lovullo, “It's going to be a competition, and nothing is going to be given to anyone.” We may end up moving Ahmed; I think Gosselin’s positional flexibility gives him an advantage off the bench, and Marte likely isn’t going anywhere. However, given the emphasis on defense we saw at catcher, perhaps it could be Owings who is dealt?

Rotation. The first four spots appear fairly solid at this point. Though the D-backs have said they are “willing to listen” to offers for their starters, with Miller and Corbin being specifically named, and a starting catcher sought. That would appear to be selling low at this point, with each having terrible struggles resulting in demotion to the minors or the bullpen respectively. However, both men did show some signs of having turned the corner at the end of the season, so I think we’ll see if it is indeed the case first, then figure out what needs to be done. It may be that someone like Braden Shipley or Archie Bradley is used instead. Or if the team elects to keep Corbin in the bullpen, one of them (or perhaps someone else, such as Matt Koch?) could step into the rotation.

Bullpen. Even after the signing of Rodney, this is still the biggest question-mark. It looks increasingly likely we won’t re-sign Brad Ziegler, given the silly money being paid to the top tier of relievers this winter. While I’m fine with that, I would feel considerably better about our corps of relievers if we get Daniel Hudson back. There’s also the question of whether we add another situation lefty to the bullpen, such as Steve Hathaway or Jared Miller. Burgos and Godley are the names closest to the exit door of the relief bus, in such an eventuality. Though in the latter’s defense, I would imagine the team does want someone to give us decent length out of the ‘pen; for the first time since 2010, this will apparently be an entirely Josh Collmenter-less Diamondbacks.

The way forward

"We're still having daily dialogue with clubs. We're getting asked about a lot of our players. We're still doing more due diligence on a lot of different things than going through specific deals right now... I think it's important for us to have a firm understanding of the value of these guys externally. We know how we value them internally."
Mike Hazen

Even if the winter meetings themselves were very quiet for Arizona, with only the two new bullpen pieces added, it seems to have been a good source of information. Hazen and the rest of the front-office will return to Phoenix to chew over what they have learned in terms of the current roster’s value, and figure out whether they can make further moves that will help the team - both in the short- and long-terms. There’s still close to four months between now and Opening Day, and I suspect every one of them will be used to adjust the players available, in line with whatever philosophy the new front-office intends to adopt.