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Arizona Diamondbacks Winter Meetings preview

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Mike Hazen and team go to Orlando with off-season work to do.

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MLB: Spring Training-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With all due respect to Brad Boxberger, I do not expect that his arrival from Tampa will be the biggest move the D-backs make this winter. Whether that move comes next week, during the winter meetings in Orlando, remains to be seen. In general, it has been a very quiet off-season: however, now that both Stanton and Ohtani are off the board, it seems reasonable to think that others will soon be in play. And right now, it appears the Diamondbacks have some work to do, if they are to repeat the success enjoyed by the team in 2017.

Offseason moves so far

Figuring out the payroll

It is generally expected that the team will be able to afford a payroll of around $115 million. But simply bringing back the same players as they had on Opening Day last year, will require significantly more money, because they have an MLB-high 13 players eligible for arbitration. That will not be possible: we have already lost catcher Chris Iannetta to the Rockies, and others, such as Fernando Rodney will likely go as well. The issue is, it’s estimated even the players still under team control will cost $117 million next year, per B-R.com. Something has to give, especially if the team wants to spend any money on, say, the outfield or further bullpen arms.

The most obvious route to balance the books would be trading expensive players and bringing on board cheaper ones. We can likely cross off the three most-expensive players, right away, for various reasons. Zack Greinke, Yasmany Tomas and Paul Goldschmidt aren’t almost certainly not going anywhere. If there are to be savings, it seems more probable these will come from the upper end of the arbitration-eligible players. Here are the seven who would provide the biggest cost savings, all being estimated by MLB Trade Rumors to cost more than $3 million for 2018.

  1. A.J. Pollock: $8.5 million
  2. Patrick Corbin: $8.3 million
  3. Taijuan Walker: $5 million
  4. Shelby Miller: $4.9 million
  5. Jake Lamb: $4.7 million
  6. Robbie Ray: $4.2 million
  7. Chris Owings: $3.8 million
  8. David Peralta: $3.8 million

The names which stand out on the list are Corbin and Owings, with a possible small side-order of Lamb. Pollock would certainly attract some interest - when healthy, he’s an All-Star caliber outfielder - but the problem is, the team does not have any obvious replacement in center. [We should remember, this could change if a move elsewhere brings Arizona back a young, controllable CF] Miller is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, so would be selling low. Ray represents extraordinary value for money - he was worth five bWAR last year; Walker was solid too. Peralta is also relatively cheap, and not easy to replace.

Corbin was worth almost three bWAR last year: not bad, but the team does have a potential cheaper replacement in Anthony Banda. He could stand in, at least until Shelby Miller completes his rehab. Would he be as good? Banda’s 5.96 ERA in the majors last year might immediately scream “No”, but his FIP was 3.24, so he would likely be better than his ERA in 2018. Owings is somewhat surplus due to the rise of Ketel Marte. If the team is convinced Marte is the real deal (and I’m on the bandwagon there), then he and Ahmed can man shortstop, with Owings being traded. Alternatively, the team could trade Lamb, who might get a better return, then move Brandon Drury back to third and shift Owings over to second.

Positional needs

How the team works to fill the following spots will depend on what resources are available.

  • Catcher. A lot of people, myself included, were hoping we’d re-sign Chris Iannetta, who worked very well last year in tandem with Jeff Mathis. With that possibility having departed for Colorado, the team would seem to need an offensive-minded catcher. Someone like Wilin Rosario might have been nice, but it seems he’s staying in the Far East. Nick Hundley (career OPS+ 91) or Geovany Soto (102) are possible free-agents, and should not be too expensive. Though both are definitely well on the down side of the aging curve.
  • Outfield. With Gregor Blanco also a free-agent, the team will need a fourth outfielder behind Peralta, Pollock and Tomas. This would not necessarily be a left-hander to join with Peralta. Hazen said, “Our lineup is fairly well balanced at this point. “We’re going to be opportunistic about the best player that may be available that fits. We want to continue to add to the offensive capability, helping the offense any way we can.”
  • Bullpen. This may now be a lower priority, with the arrival of Boxberger and return of T.J. McFarland. If Opening Day were tomorrow, we would probably go with Brad Boxberger, Archie Bradley, Jimmy Sherfy, McFarland, Andrew Chafin, Randall Delgado and, I’d suspect, probably Jared Miller. Braden Shipley could end up moving to the bullpen, but more depth is a good idea. After all, we ended up using 16 “true” relievers last year (not including Corbin, Zack Godley and Daniel Descalso!). An agent of a player who is described as a “2nd tier reliever” told Nick Piecoro that the team may try to get by with only spending $5M on upgrading the bullpen. It comes from an anonymous agent, so take it with a grain of salt although it does seem to fit the team’s standard operating procedure.

Projected starters going into the Winter Meetings

Position Players: C Jeff Mathis (60-60-42 split with Chris Herrmann and Jon Ryan Murphy), 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 2B Brandon Drury, SS Ketel Marte, 3B Jake Lamb, LF Yasmany Tomas, CF AJ Pollock, RF David Peralta

Rotation: Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Patrick Corbin, Zack Godley

We’ll be keeping you informed of all the winter meeting news and action, so stay tuned!