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SnakePit Round Table: Arizona Diamondbacks off-season review, Part 2

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In the second installment, we look at what the team DIDN'T do, what spring training might bring and, most importantly of all, how does the SnakePit like their pizza?

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Anything the Diamondbacks should have done, but didn't?

freeland1787: Probably sign a backup catcher, although a healthy Tuffy Gosewisch may have more value to the Diamondbacks at $500k than paying a veteran backup $2-3M.

Makakilo: I agree with freeland. In an ideal world, the team should have signed a top catcher. As it stands now, at least the team has choices. In addition to Tuffy, I see upside potential in Chris Herrmann as backup catcher.

Preston: Corner outfield looks like the position of greatest weakness. There was no shortage of players on the FA market that likely would have outperformed Yasmany Tomas, but the FO decided to roll with him. Based on last year's numbers, that's a drop-off of nearly seven wins (bWAR) from Inciarte to Tomas. Signing Alex Gordon would have been nice, but former Diamondbacks Gerardo Parra, Chris Young, and even Mark Reynolds might have been an improvement. I really hope Tomas will prove me wrong, but I have no confidence in him being other than a black hole, and I'm not talking about his ability to catch every ball hit in his general direction.

Piratedan7: starting to sound like a choir in here with all of these voices in unison...

2nd base, I think they have enough options to see if something works itself out, be it Gosselin, Owings, Segura or Drury, something should be better than last year where they find a happy combination of solid defense and offensive production. Tomas will play better, if not, then they have Brito in the wings and if that doesn't work, then they have Glaesman or O'Brien... there are potential fallbacks if the crap hits the fan in regards to offensive production and defensive liability.

Catcher is the position that causes me worry outside of the unforeseen. Castillo did great last year, can he do it again or was he simply infused with the spirit of Henry Blanco? Who backs him up, Tuffy, Hernandez or Herrmann? Are we putting too much emphasis on something relatively small?

Jim: I think the team went a remarkably long-way down their off-season to-do list. Hellickson gone? Check. Starting pitching improved? Check. Hill traded? Check. Bullpen improved? Check. Stuff like backup catcher can be filled easily enough as and when - and that's only necessary if the team decides Herrman doesn't fit the bill. I think the 2016 season is set - albeit at quite a high price in terms of the 2019 season on.

What do you want to see in spring training?

freeland1787: Emphasis on fundamentals. That means drilling in footwork and technique at the plate and in the field. Another thing I would like to see is how Tomás is running now that he's reportedly 25 pounds lighter from his 255 mark from 2015. Dbacks paid a lot of money to sign him, so the commitment for him to get in better shape is an encouraging sign. In 2016, I would like to see Tomás be a little more patient and not try to force things to happen, you could tell when he was pressing.

Makakilo: Freeland wrote that Yasmany Tomas has lost 25 pounds. Wow! His strength trainer is worth Tomas's weight-loss in gold. (That's a little less than the league minimum salary.)

Although I expect an emphasis on fundamentals, what I want to see is players having relaxed confidence while playing well. It feels like a new team, and there will be much to see! I will look at newly acquired players to form my first impressions. I will look for players who have improved a perceived weakness to such an extent that the improvement is easily noticed, such as a patient Tomas at the plate.

Preston: No pitchers getting hurt. Tomas in shape. Tomas, Owings, and Segura taking pitches. For that matter, all of our hitters taking pitches. We've been allergic to working counts the past few years, and that has to change.

Piratedan7: proper execution of the fundamentals... perhaps some emphasis on base coverage on the shift plays... pitchers laying down bunts, in fair territory.

Jim: A team that stays healthy. Few things are worse than seeing your Opening Day starter yanked from his last meaningless start, and subsequently missing the next 210+ games.
I'm interested in see what happens with Segura: the team has said he'll be playing short, but I think that's a mistake, and I hope is some kind of misdirection. Let him fight it out with Owings for the second-base job, because Ahmed's defense is more valuable than either guy's 2015 offense.

How did the rest of the division's moves stack up against us?

Makakilo: Let's look at the five teams.

  • Diamondbacks: Four signed over 1 to 6 years for $225 M: Zack Greinke, Tyler Clippard, Brad Ziegler, and Josh Collmenter. Traded for two major players: Shelby Miller, Jean Segura. Fifteen minor league free agents signed. Added minor league pitching depth: Jose Cisner, Kyle Drabek, Cody Hall, Sam LeCure, Adam Loewen, Scott Rice, Gabe Speier, Tim Stauffer, Tyler Wagner, and Wesley Wright.

  • Giants: Three signed over 3 to 6 years for $251 M: Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span. Ten minor league free agents were signed.

  • Dodgers: Nine signed over 1 to 8 years for $147 M: Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, Howie Kendrick, Brett Anderson, Chase Utley, JP Howell, Joe Blanton, Brandon Beachy, and Yaisel Sierra. Sixteen minor league free agents signed.

  • Rockies: Four signed over 1 to 3 years for $46 M: Gerardo Parra, Jason Motte, Chad Qualls, and Mark Reynolds.

  • Padres: Five signed for 1 year for $13.5 M: Joaquin Benoit, Alexia Ramirez, Fernando Rodney, Cesar Vargas, and Buddy Buamn.

Top pitchers were available this year! The Diamondbacks edged out the Giants by spending $225 M for pitchers compared to $220 M. The Diamondbacks re-signed 2 top pitchers, and added 3 top pitchers. With Corbin, Ray, and De La Rosa returning, the rotation has improved from a weakness to awesome! The Diamondbacks top of rotation compares much better against the Dodgers, who lost Greinke and replaced him with lesser pitchers.

The Diamondbacks addressed the weakness in the middle infield by trading for Jean Segura. He was delighted with the trade and laughed with joy while practicing at his new digs. I will not be surprised when Segura breaks out of his two year slump.

The Diamondbacks addressed the backup catcher by adding Chris Hermann. His strength at catcher is defense. He caught runners stealing at 42%. In 2015, Inside Edge Scouting shows his` fielding percent at catcher was above expected for all categories except impossible. He was especially great at remote and unlikely fielding plays. His weakness may be hitting. In the last two years, his hitting in AAA was wRC+ 110-138 (great) and hitting in the majors was wRC+ 31-41 (poor). His great hitting in AAA shows that he has potential to improve in the majors.

In summary, during the off-season the Diamondbacks addressed my concerns, albeit some were better addressed than others. Diamondbacks' off-season moves stack up very well compared to their Division rivals.

Preston: The Diamondbacks made a bigger splash than any of the other teams, with signing Greinke. But here's the problem: even going off of last year's numbers (which Greinke has practically no chance of ever repeating) that's an improvement of 8.5 wins (bWAR) over Chase Anderson, the pitcher he likely replaces. Meanwhile, replacing Inciarte with Tomas is a drop of 6.6 bWAR. I really don't think that Greinke is 8 wins better than Anderson in 2016, and I think Inciarte has a good chance to be 6 wins better than Tomas. So the sum of all the moves really is a very slight improvement, about on the level with what the Giants did. The problem was that the Giants started several wins ahead.

Piratedan7: It's baseball, and its practitioners are human, so I'll let our local commentariat expound upon what the numbers and trends say. We're still the underdogs in the eyes of many, so until they prove it out on the field, it's all just hopes and dreams and wishes. The guys have to come together as a team and become greater than the sum of their parts. I will say that apparently we do have better parts than we used to.

Jim: We closed the gap considerably: as freeland mentioned, signing Greinke didn't just make us better, it made the Giants and Dodgers worse, and I don't think their other acquisitions were generally as good as ours. Man, look at those Rockies' signings though: Coors Field is going to be like Chase Field East next season.

The first sports book over/under has us at 84.5 games. Where are you betting?

freeland1787: I said 86-76, so I'm going with over.

Makakilo: Over! Barring a tidal wave of the unexpected, wins will exceed 84.5.

Preston: I'm saying under, but I think that line is about perfect. As I said above, this looks like an 83-84 win team, unless two out of Lamb, Segura, Owings, and Tomas are well above-average.

Piratedan7: Over, period. Will it be enough over? I can't say. There are always injuries, to whom and the seriousness all become potential factors.

Jim: If a fan can't be optimistic and over the Las Vegas odds before spring training begins, when can they? My heart says over, though my brain wonders if the team has enough depth to be able to handle the toll a 162-game season will inevitably take on its players. I can imagine scenarios for just about any number of wins from 75 to 95!

Random question: What is your perfect pizza?

freeland1787: It's got to have pepperoni on it before the conversation even starts. Pepperoni, mushrooms or olives, and maybe a 2nd meat on there. Near the University of Arizona, the best pizza is No Anchovies, although it's a bit pricey.

Makakilo: Making a perfect pizza is a lot like making the 2016 Diamondbacks. The players are like the ingredients - vegetables, cheeses, and crust - because they all add excellence to the pizza. The coaching is like grilling the pizza because grilling melts the rough edges and improves the flavor.

The team salary is much higher than making my perfect pizza. However, in both cases achieving high quality requires a fair price. Enough of that! Please read my description of making the perfect pizza.

When I want perfect pizza, I plan ahead and I pay attention to all the details - from ingredients to grilling time. The perfect pizza has fresh vegetables, in this case fennel, which is chopped just before it is added to the pizza. Then one or more cheeses are chosen to match the vegetables, in this case Fontina cheese. The crust dough is made from scratch with a mix of flours, and in this case fennel seeds are added to enhance the flavor and texture. The pizza crust is grilled with exact timing until the crust is slightly crunchy on the outside and slightly soft on the inside. Delightful extras enhance the experience, such as adding fresh fennel tassels on the pizza when served.

Preston: The pizza you have is better than the pizza you don't have. Personally, I like deep-dish that could put you in the hospital, but I've never been known to turn down a pizza.

Piratedan7: Thin crust, arriabata sauce, pepperoni, italian sausage and cheese, lots of cheese, fontina, mozzarella, and small amounts of jack, muenster and harvati. A cold Moretti wouldn't be unwelcome either.

Jim: All about the meats. Pepperoni and sausage are, what I'd call, "a good start." No skimping on these - and that includes establishments which triple the area of the crust by replacing it with garlic knots. We know what you're doing. Not too much sauce either, I can't stand a pizza which drips tomato goo off the edges. A crisp, cold beer is good.