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Surveying the Arizona Diamondbacks post-Goldschmidt landscape

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It’s a very different world on the afternoon after the trade before.

Morning Fog in Northwich, England Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

For the first time since he signed with the team in June 2009, Paul Goldschmidt is not a part of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. It’s likely that yesterday’s trade, which sent Goldy to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for three young players, may well end up defining the Mike Hazen era, in the same way that the Justin Upton trade was the key moment of Kevin Towers’ tenure, or the Zack Greinke signing was the big move by Dave Stewart. We won’t truly be able to judge the trade for years, until we see how the players pan out - case in point, who predicted that Nick Ahmed would be the most productive piece Arizona would get in the Upton trade?

But we can talk about the immediate impact the deal will have, in terms of the line-up and roster for 2019. There are likely three areas which will be affected: we gain a catcher and a starting pitcher, and need to find a replacement for Goldschmidt at first-base. Jack will be along with some updated payroll and WAR numbers later in the week, as we head towards the winter meetings. So this overview will remain a bit more abstract and general, discussing the options that Hazen and Torey Lovullo have, in terms of putting together the pieces now available to them for next season.

First-base

The main uncertainty is, who will be replacing Paul Goldschmidt at first-base on an everyday basis. There’s no denying the magnitude of the issue. Since the beginning of 2012, Goldschmidt started 1,018 times at first for the D-backs. No-one else has fifty starts, with the next most being Mark Trumbo’s 44 games. Only he, Lyle Overbay, Daniel Descalso and Jordan Pacheco have even made five starts for Arizona in that time. There is almost no doubt: the position will be less productive for the Diamondbacks in 2019. But someone has to play there; these are the three most likely candidates, in alphabetical order:

  • Kevin Cron - The 25-year-old Cron was a 14th-round pick by Arizona in 2014, but has put up decent numbers in the minors: an .826 OPS with 112 home-runs over 560 games. Last year, with Triple-A Reno, he had a line of .309/.368/.554 for a .921 OPS, with 22 HR in 104 games. However, the obvious counterpoint: it was in Reno. The current STEAMER projection has Cron being bascially replacement level for 2019.
  • Jake Lamb - The possibility of moving Lamb across the diamond from third to first is something which has been suggested. This would help minimize the impact of his sometimes shaky defense, apparent especially on his throwing. Eduardo Escobar could then play third, with a middle-infield of Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte. Whether Lamb plays full-time, or is part of a platoon (Cron and Walker are both RHB) would need to be decided.
  • Christian Walker - The only one of the trio with MLB experience at the position, albeit very limited. For Walker has seen playing time for Arizona each of the last two seasons, but almost entirely off the bench. Only six of his 48 appearances were as starts, with four of those at first-base. He put up very similar numbers for Cron in Reno, with a line of .299/.354/.568 for a .922 OPS, and 18 HR in 84 games.

If you’re curious, Cron had better platoon splits than Walker against right-handed pitchers last season. Based on those, he’d be the better platoon partner for Lamb, but Walker would likely be a superior full-time option, having hit lefties and righties almost equally well in 2018.

Poll

Who should play 1B for the D-backs in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Kevin Cron
    (21 votes)
  • 16%
    Jake Lamb
    (55 votes)
  • 13%
    Lamb/Cron platoon
    (44 votes)
  • 32%
    Lamb/Walker platoon
    (110 votes)
  • 24%
    Christian Walker
    (82 votes)
  • 7%
    Someone else (specify in comments)
    (26 votes)
338 votes total Vote Now

Starting pitching

Moves this week have gone some way to establishing who’ll be pitching next year, in replacement of Patrick Corbin (now with Washington) and, potentially, free-agent Clay Buchholz. The team signed Merrill Kelly, who has been pitching in Korea, and then added Luke Weaver as part of the return in the Goldschmidt deal. With both men likely to be part of the rotation, a provisional glimpse at what we currently might see on Opening Day for Arizona would be something like:

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Robbie Ray
  3. Luke Weaver
  4. Zack Godley
  5. Merrill Kelly

Rotational depth would then include Matt Andriese, Jon Duplantier and Matt Koch. Per Mike Hazen yesterday, when asked if he was done adding to the rotation, he responded “In its current form, yes. I would imagine that would be the case.“ As Jack noted, that is obviously dependent on Greinke remaining with the team. The departure of Goldschmidt would suggest that’s likely, but the team seems to be in no hurry to get rid of Greinke for pennies on the dollar. We’ll see what the winter meetings, and the rest of the off-season, brings.

Catching

Effectively, the team has now replaced Jeff Mathis on the roster with Carson Kelly, who will share duties with Alex Avila and John Ryan Murphy next season. So it does appear the team will continue with the three catcher approach they used last season: not something I personally favor, but whatevs. Kelly, like Mathis, is a right-hander, so this would offer platoon opportunities with the left-handed hitting Avila. Or, the team may prefer to go the “personal catcher” route, as we saw with Mathis and Greinke last season. Will Kelly become that man? Or will Zack prefer to work with someone who has more major-league experience?

The Opening Day roster

Here’s a current best guess at what we’ll see for the roster next year. All very provisional and subject to a whole lot of change. I’m open to any amendments, additions or alterations as appropriate.

  • C. Alex Avila
  • 1B. Jake Lamb
  • 2B. Ketel Marte
  • 3B. Eduardo Escobar
  • SS. Nick Ahmed
  • LF. David Peralta
  • CF. Socrates Brito
  • RF. Steven Souza Jr.
  • Bench:
    John Ryan Murphy
    Luke Kelly
    Jarrod Dyson
    Christian Walker
    Ildemaro Vargas
  • Rotation
    Zack Greinke
    Robbie Ray
    Luke Weaver
    Zack Godley
    Merrill Kelly
  • Bullpen
    Yoshihisa Hirano
    Archie Bradley
    Andrew Chafin
    Jimmie Sherfy
    T.J. McFarland
    Silvino Bracho
    Yoan Lopez