With the topic of whether you thought the Diamondbacks went far enough to address their offseason needs as this week’s Fan Post Friday, I’ll kick things off with my own article. The top needs for the Diamondbacks were catching, starting pitching, outfield defense, and the back-end of the bullpen.
The first major move was the Diamondbacks acquiring Taijuan Walker from the Seattle Mariners. Walker was a long sought-after target from previous regimes, although the cost to acquire him included the team’s best player in 2016 and a player with the floor of a 4th OF. The trade itself will ultimately be judged on Walker’s performance over the next two years because there’s no doubt Segura is a better player today than Walker. This was a move to try to move from a position of depth, with Chris Owings and Brandon Drury as potential replacements at 2B, to a position of no depth. The starting rotation is full of question marks, with Walker arguably already being the team’s 3rd best starter behind Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray.
The Diamondbacks didn’t make any big splashes in free agency due to a constrained budget and a new regime who only has three games in August to work with. The biggest FA signing was soon-to-be 40-year-old closer Fernando Rodney. Rodney still had excellent stuff in the first half of 2016, but wavered down the stretch when traded to Miami and taken out of the closer role. The rest of the bullpen moves where either 40-man promotions of prospects such as Jimmie Sherfy and minor league signings such as Rubby De La Rosa and JJ Hoover. Another method to improve the pen will also be converting starters to a relief role where their stuff plays up. Patrick Corbin, Matt Koch, and Archie Bradley come to mind as possible conversion projects. Corbin and Koch do have experience pitching out of the bullpen at the MLB level in 2016, both looking solid in that role.
The Diamondbacks elected to just blow up the entire position and start over. Welington Castillo and Tuffy Gosewisch are playing for new teams while the Diamondbacks imported veteran catchers Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis to fill the void while giving Oscar Hernandez the freedom to develop at his own pace. The Diamondbacks could be using a three-man rotation behind the plate between Mathis, Iannetta, and Chris Herrmann, whose bat was a big surprise in 2016 even though he struggled to stay on the field. Iannetta and Mathis are superior framers to Castillo and Gosewisch, even though pitch-framing data itself is somewhat dubious for now from the fan’s perspective.
Most of the offseason moves in the OF focused on signing minor league free agents that were either at the twilight of their careers or former top prospects that haven’t panned out at the MLB level. The team also made a focus on left-handed bats, signing Gregor Blanco, Oswaldo Arcia, and Reymond Fuentes to minor league deals. Another move at the position was GM Mike Hazen’s first transaction, which was claiming former Red Sox prospect Jeremy Hazelbaker from the St. Louis Cardinals. A healthy AJ Pollock, who has averaged 1 WAR per 100 PA in since 2014, and David Peralta, who may be the best pure hitter on the roster, makes the outfield better. Jim makes the case for possibly platooning Chris Owings in the OF to get him ABs and to take pressure off of Peralta to perform against LHP. For 2017, it looks like the Dbacks will be looking at an OF of Peralta, Pollock, and Yasmany Tomas with a battle for the 4th OF role between Socrates Brito, Blanco, Hazelbaker, Arcia, and Fuentes.
If you were expecting the Diamondbacks to be aggressive this winter, then the offseason will be very disappointing. Given budget constraints and a lack of familiarity of the roster for the current regime, 2017 strikes me as a wait and see year for the next course of action to take. If the team is indeed a playoff contender, then the team will take that course and fortify itself for a playoff run. If they struggle early and are out of it (>5 GB at the break) by July, then they have to consider a possible retool and if the team repeats 2016, it a tear-down could be in the works. One thing is for sure, the team is better equipped to win games than they were a year ago with roughly the same talent pool. Grade: B-, but could look better if the acquired players perform in 2017.