- Date of birth: December 24, 1983
- 2017 line: 90 games, 256 PA, .246/.337/.357 = .694 OPS, 3 HR, 13 RBI
- 2017 value: -0.1 bWAR
- 2017 salary: $1 million, plus up to $2.7 million in incentives
- SnakePit rating: 5.49
Blanco was originally signed in mid-January, but it took some contract shuffling before he played for us in the majors. An injury meant he wasn’t able to make the Opening Day roster, so he was released, then re-signed to a minor-league contract for the same terms. He missed the first 30 games, but received steady playing time in May (14 starts) and June (16), as injuries to other outfielders depleted our depth. The arrival of J.D. Martinez impacted Blanco’s playing time significantly in the second-half, with only 22 starts after June 30. He played all three outfield positions for Arizona, with the bulk of the innings in center.
Hard to be sure of Blanco’s value, since I couldn’t find details of the incentives: $1m is a very different proposition from $3.7m, clearly. His performance at the plate, though better than 2016 (OPS+ up to 76 from 70), was still well short of adequate. Perhaps surprisingly, defense dragged him down, Blanco having a dWAR of -0.5, and UZR of -1.2. His base-running was more positive, Gregor going 15-1 in stolen-bases. No player Blanco’s age has had such a high success-rate (min 15+ att.), since the 37-year-old Paul Molitor went 20-0 in 1994. His value may have been as much in that nebulous area of clubhouse chemistry. A glowing article in June praised Blanco highly:
Blanco’s personal intervention was like a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the ninth. Owner of two World Series rings with the Giants, he told it like it was, didn’t mince words, and said if they wanted to be champions to follow his lead... Paul Goldschmidt said Blanco’s leadership has been felt since before the team even reported to spring training, adding, “Guys have really listened to what he’s had to say, both positive and negative, and have tried to learn from that.”
He’s a free agent: would the D-backs want to bring him back? It looks increasingly unlikely the team will re-sign J.D. Martinez, and GM Mike Hazen has said. “We’re going to have to look at the outfield situation at some point, one way or the other. I don’t know how that’s going to shake out at this point.” The team lacks credible internal options for the outfield. Rey Fuentes and Socrates Brito are next on the the depth-chart, and neither have looked much more than replacement level. Evan Marzilli is a name we might see in 2018: otherwise, given the apparent disinterest in Jeremy Hazelbaker, the team may look outside for their fourth outfielder next year.
Although the performance might not initially appear to merit a further look, nor did that of Daniel Descalso, and the D-backs still chose to exercise their option on him for 2018. Position flexibility is something the team appears to value and, as noted above, that’s something Blanco possesses. However, he turns 34 next month, a full three years older than Descalso, and if his base-running doesn’t remain at the almost-perfect level it was this year, his production will go entirely south. I’d be inclined to pass, and see what other free-agent options are available.