With less than a week to go before the season finally gets underway, it is time for me to give my final grade for the Diamondbacks offseason. Sure, the grade could change somewhat in the next few days. The team does still have five roster positions to decide on, but the chances that any of those decisions are going to significantly alter the final grade are pretty slim. Furthermore, it is looking less likely that he Diamondbacks are going to make yet another late-spring trade. So, without further ado, here is the Bard's offseason report card for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Free Agent Signings: A-
The Diamondbacks opened the offseason by signing arguable the best free agent pitcher on the market. They finally put the checkbook away when they signed one of the better bullpen arms in Tyler Clippard just before Spring Training. These two moves undoubtedly improve both the rotation and the bullpen over their 2015 counterparts. For this alone, the team receives high marks. Unfortunately, when the offseason began, comments were made that the payroll could possibly be expanded a touch if doing so was necessary to accommodate bringing in the right player. It is difficult to think of how much more "right" a player could have gotten then Zack Greinke, but apparently the ace pitcher's arrival was not enough to budge the payroll. The big payout to Greinke early, seemed to make the Diamondbacks front office a bit gun-shy the rest of the offseason until they went out and signed Tyler Clippard towards the very end. This lack of spending left the team still thin in numerous positions, including quality on the middle infield and behind the plate. It's almost impossible to find fault with the team adding two big pieces, one of them a crucial piece to the team's success for the next five years. At the same time, one cannot help but wonder how much better and different this team would have looked if they had been willing to spend just a hair more.
Trades: Incomplete (Tentative C)
On the plus side, the team managed to relieve themselves of Aaron Hill while also managing to get a young, up-and-coming pitcher in Shelby Miller to pair with Zack Greinke. On the minus side, they saved very little money from the Hill contract as they sent $6 million and took on Jean Segura. The team also parted with #1 and #2 prospects Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair, as well as all-star caliber OF Ender Inciarte and a reliable cost-controlled arm in Chase Anderson. Daniel Palka was moved for a defensively "challenged" backup catcher with Tuffy-like numbers. It really is difficult to defend some of the trades made by the Diamondbacks this offseason. At the same time though, it is all but impossible to give a complete grade on this until we see how Socrates Brito, Ender Inciarte, Jean Segura, and (most especially) Shelby Miller all pan out in 2016. At first blush, this looks like a brutal offseason for the Diamondbacks in this category. On the other hand, flags fly forever.
The team is banking heavily on repeat performances from A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, David Peralta, and Welington Castillo, while also getting improved performances from Nick Ahmed, Jake Lamb, and especially Yasmany Tomás. Additionally, the team is going to need to recover from the loss in Ender Inciarte. During the offseason, the team passed on opportunities to definitively address offense out of the catcher or second base positions. On the positive side of things though, Socrates Brito has been moved from being the likely fourth outfielder to being squarely in the conversation to take over as an everyday starter. Socrates Brito living up to his potential offsets the loss of Inciarte, and just possibly allows the team the opportunity to get by with the rest of the offense as is.
The team traded away one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball when they moved Ender Inciarte for Shelby Miller. With Yasmany Tomás the likely 1-for-1 replacement, things were looking bleak in this category. The emergence of Socrates Brito could change that though. First base, shortstop, third base and center field all look to be somewhere between above average and outstanding. If Brito can bring center field defense to left field, it is quite possible that this team could actually be even better in 2015 than they were in 2016. The team's lack of a quality defensive backstop hurts, as might the glove that eventually winds up at second base. However, even Phil Gosselin's shaky defense is not terrible at second base.
Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller now head a rotation that was headed by Rubby De La Rosa by the end of last season. That's really all that needs to be said at this point. The Diamondbacks' best pitcher from the previous three seasons, Patrick Corbin, is now the team's number three pitcher. The only thing that might have made the offseason alterations to the rotation any better would have been finally calling an end to the years-long Rubby De La Rosa experiment, tabbing instead someone else to pick up those innings while moving De La Rosa to the bullpen.
Less than a week ago I might have given this an A-. As it is though, the team is preparing to enter the season with only one left-hander down in the bullpen and volatility in most of the rest. Josh Collmenter is not aging well. Brad Ziegler is going to get old someday. Tyler Clippard is a free agent relief pitcher, the very definition of a volatile piece. Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray throwing more innings, along with the additions of Greinke and Miller to the rotation should benefit the bullpen greatly. Overall, things are looking good for the Diamondbacks bullpen, but the lack of quality depth, including an absence of any left-handed options beyond Andre Chafin leaves it in a tenuous position.
The team passed on numerous opportunities to upgrade the bench at the catching position. The team also went out and found themselves someone with even worse OBP skills than Chris Owings to possibly man the middle infield. Yet, the team also parted ways with Aaron Hill and seems to be willing to make players fight things out through performance for playing time. There is still room for this grade to fluctuate some as the team still has five roster spots left to decide on.
Mike Harkey just was not getting the results needs out of the stuff. It became almost something of a meme last season that things were only going to get worse one Harkey made a mound visit. Turner Ward chose to leave the team, but Dave Magadan so far seems to be getting positive responses out of the players. Add to this, Chip Hale going into 2016 with a full season of experience under his belt as the skipper, and things are mostly looking up.
This offseason probably should really warrant an A-level grade. However, I just cannot get over the team seeming to have pumped the brakes a bit too hard on making improvements, leaving themselves thin in too many places. Looking at the balance between hopes and more reliable, bankable performance the scale is weighed a bit too heavily towards the hopes side for a team trying to be a playoff favourite in 2016. That said, should the team manage to pull through in 2016, it is set up nicely to make a good 3-year run out of things. It's time for the games to begin already so we the fans can stop speculating and start cheering.