The Diamondbacks have limped to a 51-73 record in the 2017 season. With talks about potential sweeping changes with the front office, I’m not sure if this may be even necessary. However, the decision to pick up a contract option for 2017 on both GM Dave Stewart and assistant GM De Jon Watson are due next week and current signs suggest the team will not pick up the option and just hire a new staff. That is going to be problematic since the hypothetical new front office would not have the sufficient time necessary to evaluate the current set of players in the organization, which could negatively affect the 2017 season. However, in the case they do keep everyone around for next year, this is what the team should do to prepare for the next season.
Trade or Release Rickie Weeks Jr. and Michael Bourn: If the Diamondbacks cannot unload both players by the end of the unofficial waiver trade deadline on the 31st, then there’s no reason to continue playing those two. By then AJ Pollock will likely be off the DL and with rosters expanding the next day, guys like Socrates Brito and Mitch Haniger need more playing time. The team will continue to schlep Yasmany Tomas out there, hopefully attempting to showcase him for a trade to an American League ball club. Tomas’ defense (-1.6 dWAR) completely takes away from any value (1.0 oWAR, -0.1 WAR) he gives the Dbacks at the plate and the team needs more athletic players in the outfield.
Give Top Prospects Jimmie Sherfy and Anthony Banda a look: The Diamondbacks have question marks surrounding their pitching staff. Anthony Banda has pitched to a 2.81 ERA in 134 2⁄3 innings between AA Mobile and AAA Reno, showing he has a big league future. Banda’s peripherals have stayed about the same relative to last year, so he was ready for the jump to AA and AAA. At this point, he has very little to prove in the minors and a few starts at the major league level may put his innings numbers around 170-180 for the year. The case for Jimmie Sherfy getting called up probably isn’t as strong as Banda given the volatility of relievers and a recent streak of bad games. Sherfy dominated his way through the minors this year, until the calendar struck August. Sherfy is going to be competing for a roster spot come 2017 and calling him up in September also protects him from the Rule 5 Draft since he’d be on the 40-man roster by December. The team might as well get a look at him anyway.
Play Chris Owings, Socrates Brito, and Mitch Haniger Everyday at SS, CF, and LF: Those players need all the ABs they can get. In Owings case, it’s to prove that the value he provides with the bat is enough to offset the difference in value between his and Nick Ahmed’s glove. Owings was playing all over the diamond this year, so it’s tough to peg how good his SS defense is, although he was 6 runs above average in 2014. Socrates Brito needs ABs in order to develop consistency at the plate. In Brito’s last stint in the majors, the team continued to play Michael Bourn over him and Brito struggled. That can’t happen in September. 80 ABs for Brito is of better use to the organization than 80 ABs for Michael Bourn, even if Bourn is likely to outproduce Brito over that span. When it comes to deciding who makes the roster next year, the team should give the players in that competition some ABs this year for an evaluation going into next year.
Give Goldschmidt more regular off days: The last thing the Diamondbacks need is Paul Goldschmidt getting injured in a meaningless part of the season. The more off days would give Brandon Drury more chances to get in the lineup at either 1B or 3B. No I don’t want Phil Gosselin starting at 1B when Goldschmidt is out of the lineup, it accomplishes nothing from a player development standpoint. If that means moving Lamb from 3B to 1B for those games and playing Drury at 3B, so be it. Goldy is the integral piece to any potential playoff run in 2017, even though I think this team is nowhere near close to contending, so the team needs him healthy in October so he can do his offseason stuff to prepare for 2017.
The Diamondbacks should use September as a chance to evaluate potential pieces for the 2017 season. That means AJ Pollock, Chris Owings, Socrates Brito, Mitch Haniger, Anthony Banda, etc. should get opportunities to play regularly to set the foundation for the next Spring. In the case of Banda, he’s eligible for Rule 5 after the season so they might as well get a jumpstart on putting him on the 40-man roster. 35 days of service time is not going to affect his clock moving forward. Veteran players that are not returning in 2017 should be offloaded in favor of players that will be.
*As a side note, please comment if you like the header “Mike’s Hardball Talk” for my opinionated pieces. I do admit it’s a bit corny since it’s combining Mike’s Hard Lemonade with Hardball Talk, which is NBC’s coverage of Major League Baseball.*