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Arizona Diamondbacks 2017-18 free agents: Gregor Blanco

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He was our main “fourth outfielder” this year. Should he stay or should he go?

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at San Francisco Giants Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Gregor Blanco was a relatively late arrival, being initially signed in mid-January. Like Fernando Rodney, the original deal included a relatively low base salary - $1 million, if Blanco made the major-league club - but included a slew of bonuses, based on plate appearances and games played. This could have added up to another $2.7 million for Blanco. It also included an April 1 opt-out, if he didn’t make the major-league club: he didn’t, though not through any real fault of Gregor’s own. He injured his oblique, which proved troublesome enough to keep him off the Opening Day roster. The D-backs released him - but immediately re-signed him to the same deal, just in the minors.

That allowed Blanco to regain his health without being rushed, and while remaining an option for the team. He missed about the first month, finally appearing for Arizona on May 5. He appeared in 90 of the 132 games after his call-up, his playing time increasing as a result of the first-half injuries to Yasmany Tomas and A.J. Pollock. However, the trade for J.D. Martinez led to an everyday outfield of David Peralta, Pollock and J.D, and Blanco made only 18 starts after the arrival of Martinez. He ended the season with a line of .246/.337/.357 in 246 PA, a .694 OPS or 76 OPS+, about in line with what he had put up for the Giants in 2016.

The left-handed Blanco was very much a platoon guy, struggling against lefties, with an OPS of only .525. The lack of playing time may also have been an issue: from August 1 on, Blanco hit .206 with no home-runs and a .553 OPS. But he seems to have been a good influence in the D-backs clubhouse from spring training, something Torey Lovullo appreciated: “It’s kind of like when he says something, everyone locks onto it and you pay attention... So when he says this is how it should be done, you stop and you pay attention to him. He doesn’t abuse that. He says things that are very meaningful. And he has that leadership quality that you can’t find in every player.”

Is he needed in 2018?

Even presuming Tomas returns to full health and above replacement level, the D-backs will need a fourth outfielder. However, there are a number of other options. These include Rey Fuentes, Daniel Descalso or Jeremy Hazelbaker, all of whom are under team control, are younger and would perhaps be a bit cheaper [Fuentes and Hazelbaker are both pre-arbitration; Descalso’s 2018 option is for $2 million]. They are all also left-handed hitters like Blanco, allowing them to play alongside Peralta, and balance out right-handers Pollock and Tomas. Blanco’s overall value was replacement level on the field, though the “intangibles” mentioned above are harder to factor.

Alternatives

I’ve had to come up with my own list here, since MLB Trade Rumors splits their list of free agents across the three outfield positions, and also does not break them down by handedness. If we were looking to replace Blanco, it would seem almost certain we’d want a left-handed bat, for the reasons of balance explained above. From what I can see, here are the available free agents this winter apart from Blanco, who would potentially fit the bill, along with their ages

  • Jim Adduci (32)
  • Norichika Aoki (35)
  • Jay Bruce (30)
  • Alejandro De Aza (33)
  • Jaff Decker (26)
  • Jarrod Dyson (33)
  • Andre Ethier (35)
  • Carlos Gonzalez (32)
  • Curtis Granderson (36)
  • John Jaso (34)
  • Hyun-soo Kim (29)
  • Carlos Moncrief (28)
  • Kirk Nieuwenhuis (30)
  • Shane Peterson (29)
  • Colby Rasmus (31)
  • Ben Revere (29)
  • Michael Saunders (30)
  • Seth Smith (35)