#AllTheShortstops was a meme back in the Kevin Towers’ day. But it seems almost as, if not more, true of the 2017 Diamondbacks. For on the current 40-man roster, there are four men who started more than 30 games there in the majors last year: Daniel Descalso (31), Chris Owings (65), Nick Ahmed (80) and Ketel Marte (116). That’s a total of 292 starts between them in 2016, so clearly something - or someone - is going to have to give, there alone. Then we also have the next wave of shortstop prospects, spearheaded by Jack Reinheimer and Ildemaro Vargas, who have both made good impressions this spring.
The latter was the subject of a piece by Nick Piecoro in the Arizona Republic yesterday, but tucked away in the middle was the following section, discussing how the team might move to make room for Vargas.
The Diamondbacks’ depth at shortstop gives them options – along with Owings, Ahmed and Vargas, there’s also Ketel Marte – and sources say the club is exploring those options. They say the Diamondbacks have shown a willingness to listen to offers on the defensive-minded Ahmed, who, by all accounts, has looked healthy in his return from hip surgery. They say Owings appears to have the leg up on the everyday shortstop job. “That would make sense,” a rival scout said of a deal involving Ahmed. “They need to add prospects to their system.”
As noted, there is the question of Ahmed’s health, because he is recovering from hip surgery last fall. But this does not appear to be an issue now, GM Mike Hazen saying, "Physically, he looks like he's back to 100 percent... He has answered the bell every day. He's doing great. I think he's moved well, I think he's done well on defense, and he's swung the bat well."
It’s no secret that Ahmed’s value would be entirely with his glove. Even with a hitter’s park as his home, his career OPS still sits below .600, with his offensive value solidly under replacement level (-1.1 oWAR). But over the same time, Ahmed is ranked by UZR/150 as the 4th-best defensive player at the most challenging of positions (min. 1,500 innings). That has given him a dWAR of +4.9, and lifted him solidly into the plus category overall, especially considering he’s still earning close to league minimum this season - he’ll likely reach his first time of arbitration eligibility next winter.
On the other hand, as MLB Trade Rumors points out, there are not many teams who are currently looking for a starting shortstop, and that lack of demand may depress Ahmed’s value as a trade-chip. He can still be safely optioned to the minors, so even if the Diamondbacks opt to go in a different direction for their major-league roster, preferring a player with a little more offensive punch, Ahmed could still be stashed away in the vault. Then, as will inevitably happen, when another team finds itself in need of a replacement, Arizona will then be able to take advantage of that requirement.
The San Diego Padres are one team who could perhaps use Ahmed now, and have already been floated as a possible destination. Beat writer Dennis Lin Tweeted that they “have had interest in Nick Ahmed before”, and pointing out that Padres’ manager. Andy Green knows Ahmed well, through his time as the D-backs third-base coach. As yet, there is nothing concrete to report, in this direction or any other. But it’s something to which we’ll be paying attention over the remaining two weeks, as the need for roster decisions becomes steadily more imperative.