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Why the Arizona Diamondbacks should go all in

Making the case to ownership to open the purse strings.

Las Vegas Strip Exteriors Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

At the start of the week, we asked “Should the Arizona Diamondbacks rebuild, retool or go all-in?” and gave a high-level overview of the possibilities. The poll attached showed no clear consensus among fans: rebuild was the most popular option, but fell short of an overall majority. Throughout the week, we’ve been digging into each approach in a bit more detail, and making a case for them. Here’s the final installment of these, in which we cover pushing all the chips to the center of the table.

Any case for the Diamondbacks to go all in begins and ends with convincing ownership why it’s the right thing to do and most importantly, convince them why they need to spend the money. Here are our best efforts to put forward that case:

Why this approach makes sense.

[Eddbighead] YOU like to win, I like to win, the D’backs like to win, we all like to win. Winning is fun and makes us feel good about ourselves, our city and our franchise. Win now! This team and ownership group cannot afford to lose anymore. For the franchise’s sake the D’backs cannot afford to lose anymore fans or support. Of course I am not jumping ship and neither are you. But think of the children. The youth-base the organization has been fostering to grow up as D’backs’ fans joining fandom, to spend, to buy concessions, food & drink, and awesome team shop merchandise. The D’backs must go all in, and WIN IT NOW in order to keep what fan base has been built during the past 3 seasons. To do so the team will need to spend and spend some more. We fans demand a winner, we demand big bats and shut down pitching! As Jack notes below the team’s value is large and the D’backs have a couple of proven players to build a winner around, now. Spend with me.

[Keegan] It’s Paul Goldschmidt’s final contracted year with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they have nothing to show for his time in Arizona. The core that has been here with him is beginning to move on. If Paul elects to take his talents elsewhere as a free agent, provided he is not either extended or traded, it’s going to be a challenging few years of rebuilding. Time is up to capitalize on the best position player in franchise history. Outside of that, this season showed that not only are the Los Angeles Dodgers fallible, but that the Arizona Diamondbacks have a chance to win the division with some upgrades to the roster. Ownership is attempting to drum up support for a new stadium and would have a much easier time doing so with a winning product on the field.

[Jack] The team has not gone the all in route since the early days of the franchise. Mostly it’s been re-tool, reload, work around the edges. There has been no commitment to a full WIN NOW strategy, nor has there been a commitment to a full rebuild either. The time for half measures is over. The fan base here in Arizona is sick and tired of mediocrity and being teased by an occasional playoff team. After the disappointment of this year’s collapse, the fan base will leave them in droves if they run out a below average team next year.

Most importantly, they can afford it. In addition to the 20 year, $1.5 Billion TV contract they signed a couple years ago, the franchise value has ballooned well beyond what they could have reasonably expected.

When current ownership took over controlling interest in the club in 2004, the franchise value was under 276M. Heading into the 2018 season franchise value was estimated to be over $1.21 billion. Thats nearly 500% appreciation in just 13 years. (Table credit: Statista )

How it would be implemented

Payroll has to escalate, probably somewhere in the $170-180 million range. They can do this. Based on a starting point of $133 million estimated commitments, they can non tender or trade for any minor league assets they can get with players such as Shelby Miller, Chris Owings, Brad Boxberger, Stephen Souza Jr, Nick Ahmed, and even Jake Lamb. Lamb, Souza, and Ahmed could bring back a mild return from another team. Owings and Boxberger would each probably result in a low level prospect from another team. The only possible route to go with Miller is non-tender and then re-sign to a minors deal. By moving some or all off these players off the roster, they can lower the starting commitment to anywhere from $110-$120M, giving them $60-$70M to work with.

First things first: Re-sign Goldy. Do what it takes.

We’ve discussed at length what we can reasonably project Goldy’s performance to be on the wrong side of 30. While none of us hold a crystal ball, and acknowledging that anything can happen, we believe Paul Goldschmidt is a rare talent that has to be built around. By freeing up some salary as explained above, and with Yasmany Tomas’ albatross contract falling off the books in 2020, this team would be in a position to do what it takes to extend Goldy’s contract and still have room to move.

Identifying areas of the roster that can be improved

  • Areas of the team that must be improved via trade or free agency: catcher, pitching (starting and relief), center field, third base.
  • Players available via free agency (names to discuss, as examples of the caliber of player the team should be pursuing and targeting, but click through to the two free agent lists for a complete list of names):

— Catchers: Yasmani Grandal, Jonathan Lucroy, Wilson Ramos, Jeff Mathis

— Third base: Manny Machado, Eduardo Escobar, Daniel Descalso (utility/bench)

— Outfield: A.J. Pollock, Adam Jones, Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper

— SP: Clay Buchholz, Patrick Corbin, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn

— RP: Cody Allen, Brad Brach, Jeurys Familia, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, Daniel Hudson, Shawn Kelley, Craig Kimbrel, Zach McAllister, Adam Ottavino, AJ Ramos, Shawn Tolleson, Adam Warren, Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, Tony Sipp

So for example, one strategy may be to upgrade offense at the biggest offensive black hole on the team, by signing Yasmani Grandal, who as one of the best pitch framers in baseball also meets the defensive requirements of the team. In fact, he caught Greinke for most of 2015 with spectacular results. You also get the not so incidental benefit of subtracting him from the Dodgers.

Your options then also include signing/retaining your own best free agents, such as Escobar, Pollock, and Corbin. If you can’t retain Corbin, your next best option would be Keuchel.

One potential trade strategy would be to investigate whether or not the Nationals, who are likely to lose Bryce Harper , are about to go on the rebuild route. If they are, they should be willing to trade Anthony Rendon, (138 OPS+, 10 WAR over last 2 seasons) and will only be 29 next year. If the Nationals would give the D’backs permission to discuss an extension with him as part of a trade, this is the type of player that would be worth giving up top minor league assets for, provided it’s not just for one year.

Another permutation of this would be to trade Nick Ahmed, selling high on his career year, move Marte to SS, trade for Rendon, re-sign Escobar and move him to second base. If you can’t make a Rendon trade, sign Escobar to platoon with Lamb playing third base vs. LHP and have Escobar play second base vs. RHP. Then you let Marte and Ahmed (if you haven’t made the sell high deal) take turns playing SS vs. RHP, and whoever is hitting righties better gets to play more.

Arguably the biggest trade target available this offseason could have the largest impact on the D’backs chances in 2019. For the second winter in a row, rumors are going to be swirling around Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. He’ll be 28 years old at the start of next season and has averaged 4.1 fWAR / 3.5 bWAR over the past three campaigns. Pitch framing metrics aren’t as bullish on him as they are on Jeff Mathis, depending on which ones you refer to, but he more than makes up for that with above average production at the plate for his position. The best thing about trading for him is that he doesn’t hit free agency until 2021.

These are all just examples. The point being that with $60-70 million to work with, they have A LOT of options to make this team the team to beat in the NL West. It’s really impossible to do if they don’t make that kind of commitment.


2018-19 Free Agent List

2019-20 Free Agent List

Here are two possible rosters with payroll and war projections. They both add up to neighborhood of 180 Million in payroll and 92-93 wins. (WAR projection 44-45, plus replacement win 48). If a player from the 2018 team is not there, it means they have been traded or non tendered. (unless they have options in which case they are considered minor league depth)

The first one on the left includes trades for Realmuto and Rendon, which of course cost minor league talent to get. You would have 2 years of control over Realmuto and 1 year for Rendon, unless you could sign an extension. The second roster on the right only adds free agents including several of our own. Of course, combinations are possible.

2 Possible Rosters

Postion Player 2019 Salary 2019 WAR .. Postion Player 2019 Salary 2019 WAR
Postion Player 2019 Salary 2019 WAR .. Postion Player 2019 Salary 2019 WAR
C Realmuto 5.0 3.5 C Grandal 16.0 3.5
1b Goldschmidt 14.5 5.3 1b Goldschmidt 14.5 5.3
2b Marte 2.4 2.5 2b Marte 2.4 2.5
3b Rendon 14.0 4.0 3b Escobar 10.0 3.0
ss Ahmed 3.0 2.5 ss Ahmed 3.0 2.5
lf Peralta 5.5 3.5 lf Peralta 5.5 3.5
cf Pollock 14.0 3.5 cf Pollock 14.0 3.5
rf Souza 5.0 2.0 rf Souza 5.0 2.0
SP Greinke 34.5 4.0 SP Greinke 34.5 4.0
SP Corbin or Keuchel 18.0 3.5 SP Corbin or Keuchel 18.0 3.5
SP Ray 5.5 2.0 SP Ray 5.5 2.0
SP Godley 0.6 2.0 SP Godley 0.6 2.0
Sp Walker 5.5 1.0 Sp Walker 5.5 1.0
SP Minor Leaguer ? 0.6 0.0 SP Minor Leaguer ? 0.6 0.0
CL Familia 8.0 1.2 CL Familia 8.0 1.2
RP Bradley 1.5 1.0 RP Bradley 1.5 1.0
RP Hirano 3.0 1.0 RP Hirano 3.0 1.0
RP Sherfy 0.6 0.5 RP Sherfy 0.6 0.5
RP Lopez 0.6 0.5 RP Lopez 0.6 0.5
RP Chaffin 2.5 0.5 RP Chaffin 2.5 0.5
Rp McFarland 2.0 0.5 Rp McFarland 2.0 0.5
C Mathis 2.0 0.0 C Mathis 2.0 0.0
OF Brito 0.6 0.0 OF Kivlehan 0.6 0.0
OF Dyson 3.8 0.0 OF Dyson 3.8 0.0
2b-3b Descalso 4.0 1.0 2b-3b Vargas 0.6 1.0
Total 156.6 45.5 Total 160.2 44.5
Dead Contracts Dead Contracts
Tomas 15.5 0.0 Tomas 15.5 0.0
Avila 4.3 0.0 Avila 4.3 0.0
19.8 19.8
Grand Total 176.4 Grand Total 180.0

What needs to go right for it to work

Quite a bit. Winning the division and making it to the World Series has to be the goal. The team can’t afford regression or injury. Robbie Ray has to return to his 2017 excellence. Greinke has to continue to perform at the level he has in 2017-18. David Peralta, Nick Ahmed (if he isn’t traded), and Ketel Marte have to build on career seasons. Paul Goldschmidt has to continue to be a perennial MVP candidate. All of this is before we even discuss the contributions from the new additions proposed above.

The risks of failure.

[edbighead] The D’backs risk losing complete respect within the fan base the team has worked so hard to build over the past 20 years. The D’backs risk losing leverage in the ongoing battle for an upgraded Ballpark or even possible construction of a new Ballpark, who wants to invest in a losing team or product? Imagine the next 3-5 seasons of mediocrity, is that what you want? Now is the time to spend it all and win it all while the D’backs still have a cornerstone like Paul Goldschmidt and an ace like Greinke! If the D’backs are already looking mediocrity square in the face....why not at least try and hold off blandness for 1 or 2 more seasons? I’m not talking about selling the farm, I’m talking about buying new. Pursing free agents and spending for a winning product is a risk the D’backs must be willing to take.

[Keegan] It’s gonna be slim pickings for the next handful of years if additions to the team don’t pan out. Ownership will have nothing to show from a talented pool of players over the past decade. They’ll be playing in an aging, outdated stadium with a poor product on the field. Good luck finding fan support.

[Jack] The risk to franchise if they DON’T try to go all in and win next year is irrelevance in the valley sports scene and a mass exodus of the fan base. The risk of failure to execute a winning strategy of course mean future resource allocation is more of a challenge. But success means more momentum, better attendance, and more revenue. Time to roll dem dice!