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Arizona Diamondbacks 2017-18 off-season issues #2: Relief pitching

No area of the team is likely to change as much, between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018.

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Arizona Diamondbacks v Chicago Cubs Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With an average score of 7.21, the bullpen was just four-hundredths of a point short of being the area of biggest concern. [If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be able to figure out what #1 is, by a process of elimination!] But with 52.7% scoring this eight or above, it’s definitely seen as a pressing matter for GM Mike Hazen

2017 relievers

  • Andrew Chafin 71 appearances
  • Jorge De La Rosa 66
  • Archie Bradley 63
  • Fernando Rodney 61
  • J.J. Hoover 52
  • T.J. McFarland 42
  • Jake Barrett 28
  • Tom Wilhelmsen 27
  • David Hernandez 26
  • Randall Delgado 21
  • Silvino Bracho 21
  • Jimmie Sherfy 11
  • Rubby De La Rosa 9
  • Braden Shipley 7
  • Anthony Banda 4
  • Daniel Descalso (!) 2
  • Zack Godley 1
  • Patrick Corbin 1
  • Matt Koch 1


  • 2.4 bWAR above average at the position (4th in MLB)
  • 499.2 IP, 27-18, 3.78 ERA, 494:189 K:BB

2018 depth chart

  1. Archie Bradley
  2. Andrew Chafin
  3. Randall Delgado
  4. Jake Barrett
  5. Jimmie Sherfy
  6. Jared Miller
  7. T.J. McFarland
  8. J.J. Hoover
  9. Silvino Bracho
  10. Braden Shipley

Considering how well the bullpen performed this year, with the fourth-best bWAR above average in all baseball, it’s perhaps a bit surprising to see it viewed as an area of such worry. But there will be a lot of roster churn from how the team ended up. Of the six “true” relievers who appeared for the Diamondbacks in the post-season [so, excluding Godley and Robbie Ray], we’ve lost half of them - Rodney, J. De La Rosa and Hernandez - to free-agency. With question-marks also over the performance of Hoover and McFarland, as well as potentially the role of Bradley, plus Miller and Sherfy being largely untested at the major-league level, the outlook is clearly unclear, as it were.

Rebuilding the bullpen has already been announced as one of the team’s goals this off-season, Mike Hazen saying, “We’re going to have to put it together some how, some way. There could be a variety of different ways to do that depending on what happens in the trade market and as we start to have conversations.” Bradley, Chafin and Sherfy appear likely to be inked in to slots, health permitting. The early rumblings suggest that Archie won’t be granted his wish to return to a starting role. But will he take over from Rodney as closer,. or will he remain in an extended set-up role, capable of getting more than three outs?

Indeed, speaking of Rodney, Jon Heyman of Fanrag reported over the weekend that the team “is open to bringing back Fernando Rodney”. I would still be highly doubtful: the only supporting quote is Hazen saying, “He did a great job for us,” which while true, is some way from the Arrow returning [“He did a great job for us,” would also apply, say, to J.D. Martinez...] Rodney’s stock-piling of those shiny 39 saves this year will put him in line for a nice pay-day elsewhere. I think the D-backs are more likely to go the same way as they did last winter: look for a pitcher who may have closer experience, yet did not finish 2017 in that role for some reason.

There is also the question - as at virtually every other position on the field - of money. Due to that, rather than bringing in a veteran at higher cost, the team may opt to go for one of the young prospects as closer. Sherfy looked great in the regular season, not allowing a run in his first 11 major-league appearances, but then gave up four runs on five hits in one post-season frame over two games during the NLDS. Which one will we get in 2018? Miller is another prospect whose arrival is eagerly anticipated. Though we’ve seen previous bullpen arms put up similarly great strikeout numbers in the minors, only to struggle in the major leagues, e.g. Bracho and Enrique Burgos.

If I had to predict, it would be a mixture of approaches. I think we will see young arms like Sherfy and Miller given every opportunity to claim spots in spring training. But, as with the likes of Hoover and McFarland, we may well also see Hazen go dumpster-diving, looking for cheap arms who might have some upside. It’s also possible we could see Shipley converted from a starter to a reliever. Using him as a long reliever instead of Delgado, would likely save the team close to a couple of million. But Delgado was actually better than you might remember last year, with an ERA+ of 134, his best-ever as a Diamondback. Might that make him trade bait?