Over the coming week, we’ll be looking at the six main questions the Arizona Diamondbacks need to answer over the course of spring training. On Thursday, we asked you to rate these questions, and beginning tomorrow, we’ll be going up the list, from the one seen as least important to the area of biggest concern. But there was also a field on the form for “Any other questions.” So, before we get into the big six, let’s take a quick look at some of the other suggestions.
“Are there any bullpen arms in the farm system that may be major league ready soon?” - Brett
To some extent, this will be covered in the “Figuring out the bullpen” section, but I think we’ll have our work cut out there, simply covering players who already have major-league experience! The two names most often mentioned as offering help in 2017 are Jimmie Sherfy and Jared Miller - the former is already on the 40-man roster, while the latter is a non-roster invitee. Daniel Gibson, Joey Krehbiel and Tyler Jones are also possibilities - the latter was a Rule 5 pick, so has to be kept on the 25-man roster, or offered back to his original team, the Yankees. But let’s cover Sherfy and Miller, though will be written about in more depth further into our Opening Day countdown.
Sherfy started 2016 in High-A Visalia, and had an insane first half ending it in AAA Reno. Through July 6, he had pitched 36 innings, allowed one run, on a solo homer, for an ERA of 0.25 and struck out more than half of all batters faced (59 of 116). This was a surprise as his 2015 numbers had been far from good - a 6.70 ERA. The Pacific Coast League also gave him his issues, a couple of bad outings bloating Sherfy’s ERA there to 6.17. He may simply have run out of gas, as his final dozen games, covering 10.2 IP included seven walks and four homers. Hopefully, he’ll have recharged his batteries over the winter, and will get back to the amazing form he showed earlier on.
Miller zoomed up the system even further: also ending 2016 in Reno, he started down with A-ball Kane County. Across his four levels, he had a 2.64 ERA, with 80 strikeouts in 61.1 innings. But it was in the Arizona Fall League, against some of the minor’s top hitting prospects that he really opened eyes.W Jared threw 18.1 shutout innings, with a K:BB of 30:4. No reliever, and only one starting pitcher, had more strikeouts than Miller. For a yardstick, the last pitcher to throw 15+ innings in the AFL and not allow an earned run was back in 2007 - some guy called Jake Arrieta. Whatever happened to him?
“Will we see any trades prior to opening day?” - John B
It’s always possible, but my instincts suggest probably not. Sports Illustrated recently floated the idea of the Diamondbacks trading a starting pitcher, saying “Arizona remains in a good position to exploit its relative pitching depth in a bid to improve.” However, that depth of our rotation needs to be significantly more proven: as Michael mentioned in a comment on the Tomas deal suggestion article, bodies do not equal depth. We need to take care of our own needs first, and only then see if we still have a surplus of arms. Mike Hazen seems to consider the depth as something which can benefit the team directly, not as a trade chip, saying:
“I like the starting pitching that we have, I do. Not only in its talent but in its depth,. As you go through a major league season, some of the really good teams we had on paper in the past could be undone with a lack of starting pitching. We may still deal with some of those issues, as every season is different, but I feel good coming into the season with the breadth of the starting pitching that we have and the talent that is here.”
The other issue is that, we’d be selling low on a lot of pieces, from Zack Grienke through A.J. Pollock to Yasmany Tomas. It’s probably noteworthy that the only major trade this winter - indeed, virtually the first thing the new GM did - was the exact opposite, selling Jean Segura at peak value. I think Hazen probably wants to get a better look at what we have first, figure out how far the team is from contention, and which pieces can be of value during that next window. I think we may well be very active at the trade deadline, rather than in the pre-season.
“Tomas - if he gets a really good start, could he be a hot item as a DH at the Trade deadline? Upgrading the outfield defense would help with our pitching woes - this might be the key?” - Bob S
And, lo, we had a good discussion about trading Tomas just yesterday. While I probably don’t want to get into deceased equine territory here, I can well see Hazen trying to get out from under the contract ASAP. This year, Tomas earns $9.5 million, and if he hits like he did in the second-half last year, that would be enough to offset his defensive issues. But next year, his cost jumps to $13.5 million, then $15m and $17m in 2019 and 2020. That’s not money we should be spending on a player whose ceiling in the National League is perhaps two WAR. [I’ll always wonder if we signed him in a mistaken belief bringing the DH to our league was going to be part of the new CBA?]
I think the best-case scenario would be a hot start for Tomas, he gets to move to the American League, and we don’t have to pay any of his salary. There may be a token prospect or two coming back in the other direction, but I’d regard that as icing on the cake. Though I suppose the real best-case scenario would involve him having learned how to field effectively over the winter. Not holding my breath for that, though I do endorse moving him from right to left. It should at least cut back on those “Tomas triples” which we saw all too often, rattling around in the right-field corner.
“Is it possible to rebuild the farm system and if need be the major league team without dealing the faces of the franchise in Goldschmidt and Pollock?” - Michael Mos.
The answer is, not quickly. For the alternative involves rebuilding through the draft, international signings, etc. a process which requires patience, smarts and no small degree of luck. Because the prospects garnered that way are a long way from being major-league ready, and you need to wait for them to develop. The more you can have, the better, so if the front-office decides the window of opportunity is closed, we may as well then go the whole hog and trade everyone with more than, say, two years service time. If they ain’t going to be around for the next window, they’re part of the problem, so convert ‘em to prospects that could be part of the solution.
If you want to hang on to “marquee” players, and use them as cornerstones around which to build, that is certainly possible. The downside is that they’ll be getting older - Goldschmidt and Pollock are now both already 29 years old - and, likely, not improving much more. While it would be nice to put Paul and A.J. in cryogenic stasis (alongside Ted Williams!), and defrost them when we’re ready, the players’ union would probably object to this. So we have to keep paying them through the lean years. Is that worth it? Depends on how long you think it will be before we contend again. It’s not an easy bit of calculus to figure out.