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The 2019 Diamondbacks Have Talent On Paper But It Is Risky And Expensive

Should the Diamondbacks rebuild, retool, or go all-in?

National League Wild Card Game - Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Like every Diamondbacks fan, I have my opinion on whether we should rebuild, retool, or go all-in. So far, I’ve mostly kept out of it, though I’ve let my opinions be known on a couple comments. The last two weeks, I looked at what to expect when Goldy signs his extension and how it (sort of) would impact the Diamondbacks.

Today, I’m going to take a look at the 2019 roster. This is not a projection system so accuracy of the 2019 values is not promised. Rather, I’m taking a very CONSERVATIVE look at how our roster will look in 2019 if everything clicked. The goal of this article is to get a fair assessment of how our 2019 roster looks and hopefully lead us to make a wiser decision to the “rebuild, retool, or go all-in?” question from above.

I’ve put together the current projected roster for 2019: this includes 23 players and Yasmany Tomas. Certainly, this will change between now and 2019 but this is the current state of the team. I have calculated every player’s salary: either the 2019 value if it is known or their 2018 salary (before arbitration). Furthermore, I have calculated a very simplistic projection of each player’s 2019 WAR by taking either the highest of the 2018 ZiPS projection or their actual 2018 fWAR. The purpose of this estimate to be conservative and show roughly how good this roster would be in the best case scenario.

So please, treat this exercise as such. It is not intended for accuracy as this is not a projection system. This is simply to be viewed as an overall view of the team’s upper limit, assuming everything goes well with the current roster.

Starting Pitching

Dbacks 2019 SP Outlook

Position Player Salary 2019 WAR
Position Player Salary 2019 WAR
SP1 Zack Greinke $34,500,000 4
SP2 Robbie Ray Arb 2 ($4,000,000) 3.9
SP3 Taijuan Walker Arb 3 ($4,800,000) 2.2
SP4 Zack Godley Pre-Arb ($500,000) 2.7
SP5 Shelby Miller Arb 4 ($4,900,000) 1.8
SP6 Matt Koch Pre-Arb ($500,000) 0.5

At first glance, these WAR values look fairly optimistic. I don’t think anyone believes even remotely that Shelby Miller will approach 1.8 WAR next year. If I had to guess, he won’t even be on the team next year, saving the team more than $5,000,000. Taijuan Walker is another major question mark, due to his return from Tommy John surgery.

Our rotation has surprised us each of the last two years, with Robbie Ray and Zack Godley breaking out in 2017 and Patrick Corbin (re)breaking out in 2018. If Miller is gone and Walker is still injured, the team’s starting rotation is likely to struggle unless Ray and/or Godley turn things back towards their 2017 forms. The depth in the minors is really thin, though surprises do happen.

As a whole, using my simply methodolgy, the group is projected for about 15 WAR. The current cost of this group is $49,200,000 before arbitration, though we could probably nullify the arb raises to Ray, Walker, and Godley by non-tendering Shelby Miller and his $4,900,000 salary.

Starting pitching is one of the most expensive pieces to improve in the offseason so unless we get a surprise within our system next year, this group could be a concern.

Relief Pitching

2019 Dbacks RP Outlook

Position Player Salary 2019 WAR
Position Player Salary 2019 WAR
RP1 Yoshihisa Hirano $3,000,000 0.5
RP2 Archie Bradley Arb 1 ($500,000) 1.7
RP3 Brad Boxberger Arb 3 ($1,800,000) 0.2
RP4 Matt Andriese Arb 1 ($500,000) 1.4
RP5 Andrew Chafin Arb 2 ($1,200,000) 1.1
RP6 TJ McFarland Arb 3 ($800,000) 0.5

Ah yes, our relief corps, which really helped to kill our 2018 season. This list only includes the players that are under arbitration for next year and is certainly subject to change, especially with Silvino Bracho, Yoan Lopez, and Jimmy Sherfy waiting in the wings.

The projection systems like this relief corps a lot more than their actual results last year. This group was projected for 5.4 WAR last year but the Dbacks bullpen, as a whole, only finished with 2.1 fWAR. I think the talent is there, at least at the back-end, though the team really needs to shore up the other parts of the bullpen to keep the workloads for Archie Bradley, Brad Boxberger, and Yoshihisa Hirano down.

Fortunately for us, the bullpen is fairly cheap ($7.8 million before arbitration currently) but considering the contracts that relievers have been getting the past few years, this is going to depend on either a really expensive signing or an internal upgrade... or three. We need a lot to really make this bullpen better.

Position Players

Dbacks 2019 Position Player Outlook

Position Player Salary 2019 WAR
Position Player Salary 2019 WAR
C Alex Avila $4,250,000 1.5
1B Paul Goldschmidt $14,500,000 5.1
2B Ketel Marte $2,400,000 2.5
SS Nick Ahmed Arb 2 ($1,300,000) 1.7
3B Jake Lamb Arb 2 ($4,300,000) 2.5
LF David Peralta Arb 2 ($3,300,000) 3.8
CF Jarrod Dyson $3,750,000 2
RF Steven Souza Jr. Arb 2 ($3,600,000) 2.4
Bench1 John Ryan Murphy Arb 1 ($500,000) 0.2
Bench2 Chris Owings Arb 3 ($3,400,000) 0.7
Bench3 Yasmany Tomas $15,500,000 0

And on the other side of our 2018 disappointment is our woeful offense which looks much better on paper than it was last year.

On the bright side, Paul Goldschmidt, David Peralta, Ketel Marte, and Nick Ahmed all had very good seasons. On the downside, the rest of the lineup has some major question marks. And the depth is even worse, especially when you consider the nearly complete lack of near-MLB talent in our farm.

On paper, this roster doesn’t look too bad - projected for a little over 22 WAR. But you have to ask yourself: is Avila going to get 1.5 WAR next year? Are Lamb or Souza Jr. going to hit their ~2.5 WAR marks as they’re projected? Can Jarrod Dyson stay healthy and put up 2 WAR in CF? Can Peralta repeat his 2018 in 2019?

I understand if you believe in our players and want to be optimistic for 2019. But just be wary that it is asking a lot for our entire team to play up to the level that we think they are capable of. There is plenty of upside, on paper, for this offense. But we’ve seen it struggle for the last two years.

There is a lot of risk in this group next year. If they click, they can certainly carry our offense and we’re a playoff contender. If not, this is an expensive group ($56.8 million before arb raises) that is going to be very difficult to improve upon in the offseason.

On paper, the 2019 Diamondbacks look like a fringe playoff team considering the best case scenario. Using my very simplistic method, the team is projected for about 43 WAR, which when combined with the ~47 wins at replacement level is a 90 win team.

However, a huge grain of salt needs to be considered here as this projection is extremely conservative - pretty much every player needs to live up to their potential next season just to hit 90 wins. And spoiler alert: 90 wins would not have made the playoffs in either league this year.

Also, don’t forget to look at costs, an oft-overlooked things here in the desert. Right now, we are committed to $113.8 million next year before accounting for a single arbitration raise. Our opening day payroll in 2018 was $131 million, which were almost certain to match or exceed with just the current roster, except it will be missing both Patrick Corbin and AJ Pollock (probably).

I will leave you to decide for yourself the best path forward for this team but hopefully this article helps you make a more rational decision. If the team is to compete next year, it’s going to need a substantial investment of talent or we either need to get very, very fortunate with injuries and player development. Any addition to the team is going to have a cost in either dollars and/or prospects so think these things through carefully if that’s the route you want to pursue.