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Arizona Diamondbacks All Time Top 50: #36, Chad Tracy

Knee injuries derailed what could have been a great career

Diamondbacks Photo Day Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 34.66 (15/48/41)
  • Seasons: 2004-2009
  • Stats with Arizona: 704 games, .280/.339/.453, 100 OPS+, 5.9 bWAR, 6.6 fWAR
  • Best season: 2005 - 145 games, .308/.359/.553, 132 OPS+, 3.6 bWAR, 3.9 fWAR

As seems to be the case with many players, Chad Tracy is a perfect example of “what could have been?” had his career not been derailed by constant knee injuries. Chad Tracy made his Diamondbacks debut on April 21st, 2004 as part of the many “Baby Backs”, a season that might have been forgotten by many. And while most players from this era did not play many more seasons, Chad Tracy was one of the few bright stars. Originally a 7th round draft pick in 2001, Tracy quickly moved through the Dbacks organization, combining average-to-above-average defense at third base in addition to a good bat with power.

Tracy had an impressive debut season, putting up 1.6 fWAR and 1.8 bWAR, including 12 DRS at 3B. This was a precursor to his best season, 2005, as you can see above. In fact, over the course of his first three seasons in the MLB, Chad Tracy put up 7.3 fWAR and 7.0 bWAR. He showed above-average offense with some power potential and had some defensive flexibility, playing 1B and some corner OF, largely due to the acquisition of Troy Glaus in 2005. His batting line over those first three seasons:

  • .291/.348/.470 55 HR, 205 RBI, 7.7% BB%, 15.3% K%, .179 ISO, 105 wRC+

That’s a pretty solid line for a 26-year-old’s first three seasons in the MLB. Going into his age 27 season, Tracy’s future looked great. So good, in fact, that the team signed him to a 3-year, $13.25 million extension through 2009 with a team option for 2010 ($7 million). Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.

In the midst of the 2007 season, Tracy developed tendinitis in his knee that caused him to go through extended stretches of missed games. He managed 260 PAs across 76 games before undergoing micro-fracture surgery on his knee in September 2007. During his rehabilitation from this surgery, Tracy developed an infection and later a life-threatening bloodclot that severely dampened his rehab.

Tracy managed to return to the team in May 2008 after the delayed rehabilitation but by then, it was too late. Mark Reynolds had burst onto the scene in 2007, helping lead the Diamondbacks to a surprise playoff appearance, and was firmly entrenched at 3B. Tracy would stick around for three more seasons, primarily as a backup 1B, but wouldn’t manage more than 300 PA in a single season from that point on. Tracy’s offense had clearly diminished - with his ISO’s dropping to .147 in 2008 and .152 in 2009.

With diminished power and worsened batted ball contact, Tracy put up his worst season in 2009 with -0.8 fWAR and -0.7 bWAR. Tracy still struggled with injuries over the previous two years and seeing the writing on the wall, the Diamondbacks declined his $7 million option for 2010 ($1 million buyout). To put this into perspective, this would have been Tracy’s first year of free agency and we had control at a cheap price - and we still let him walk. Think about how coveted those free agency years are in today’s market and it really shows how far Tracy had dropped come 2010.

Tracy would sign on with the Yankees, Cubs, Marlins, Angels, and Nationals on minor-league contracts but wouldn’t see the MLB again until 2012 and 2013, with brief apperances (105 and 136 PA, respectively) for the Nationals. He actually had a pretty decent 2012, with 0.6 fWAR in only 105 PA, but he regressed heavily in 2013 before deciding to retire.

In the end, it comes back to the “What if?” for Tracy. Chad Tracy was one of my favorite players at the time and I think most fans have already completely forgotten about him. Had he not suffered so much with his knees, Tracy could have truly blossomed into a solid player from 2008-2010. Consider what happens if Tracy had stayed healthy: it would have been unlikely that Mark Reynolds would have replaced him at 3B in 2007.

Instead, I like to imagine the Dbacks calling Reynolds up to play 1B in 2008. Reynolds had a great bat but he struggled mightily at the hot-corner, despite his athleticism. I have to imagine Reynolds would have been no-worse than average at 1B. Now look at Dbacks first basemen from 2008 to 2010 - They combined for 0.5 fWAR over three seasons. Yes, you read that right. Now imagine a world with a healthy Tracy at 3B and Mark Reynolds’s bat at 1B. Our 2008 through 2010 seasons could have been drastically different. All because of one bad set of knees.

But alas, that is not the world we live in. Many fans have probably already forgotten you, but I will always remember you, Chad Tracy.