There’s no formal date yet for pitchers and catchers reporting to Salt River Fields for the Diamondbacks. But the teams which have announced their schedule are around the February 12-13 point on the calendar, which means there’s probably about four weeks left to go. Arizona still has a number of questions that need to be answered with regard to its Opening Day roster. We’ll be looking at each of these between now and P&C Report day, but it seems a good point to have a quick overview, and see where the team stands. There’s also a poll, as to which of these you consider most important, and that will decided the order in which the more detailed reports are done.
However, it is worth noting that the winter movement of players, whether in trade or free-agency, has generally been slow again, as it was last year. Unlike some, I don’t regard this as an indication that baseball’s economy is “broken,” it’s just a market adjustment. That’s probably the topic for a separate, rather extended, piece, however! What I will do, is point out that Mike Hazen has been something of a late shopper over his previous winters in charge of the Diamondbacks, swooping in late to pick up a bargain from the remainder aisle. Here are the dates of the players he has signed in the last two off-seasons, which took place between now and Opening Day.
- January 18, 2017 - Signed Gregor Blanco
- January 20, 2018 - Signed Fernando Salas
- January 31, 2018 - Signed Alex Avila
- February 7, 2017 - Signed Daniel Descalso
- February 19, 2017 - Signed Jorge De La Rosa
- February 19, 2018 - Signed Jarrod Dyson
- February 20, 2018 - Traded for Taylor Widener and Steven Souza
- February 22, 2018 - Signed Jorge De La Rosa
- March 3, 2017 - Signed T.J. McFarland
- March 28, 2017 - Selected Christian Walker off waivers
In other words, that’s 20% of our current likely Opening Day roster (Avila, Dyson, Souza, McFarland and Walker) who were signed after this point in previous off-seasons. Based on both 2017 and 2018, we should expect to see another four or five names of note added to the squad before the meaningful games get under way on April 5. What are the questions the team still needs to address? In no particular order, the ones that come to mind are:
Who’s on first?
We all know why this is a question, and whoever takes over at first-base for the 2019 D-backs are going to have some clown-sized shoes to fill. They’re almost certainly going to be found wanting, in comparison to the previous incumbent, making the position a bit of a poison pill for whoever takes over. Despite rumblings that the team might kick the tires on Adrian Gonzalez, the two main candidates appear to be internal. The team could go with Christian Walker, or move Jake Lamb across from third-base. We may even end up with a platoon of those two players, given Lamb’s historical struggles against left-handed pitching, Whatever happens may also have a domino effect over the rest of the infield.
With the decision to non-tender 2018 closer Brad Boxberger (one of the still unemployed), the position is open to applications. Yoshihisa Hirano took over the role after Boxberger lost it in September, but it doesn’t appear he’s the natural heir to the throne. When Torey Lovullo was asked about this at the winter meetings, he said, “I think if you were going to come up here and arm wrestle me and force me to give you a decision, I’ll probably start with Archie Bradley as the extreme back end of the equation.” However, each of the two previous winters, we’ve seen Mike Hazen go out and get a new pitcher for the role, in Fernando Rodney and Boxberger. I wouldn’t bet against him making it three in a row.
Look at me... I can be... Centerfield
Little less of a gap than at first needs to be filled in center. However, A.J. Pollock’s health issues mean he has been considerably less than ever-present: over the past five seasons, he has averaged only 85 starts a year in CF. But he still needs to be replaced. The internal options appear fine defensively: Socrates Brito and Jarrod Dyson should be able to fill in there effectively. The problem is on the offensive side, where neither man, historically, has been able to hit worth a damn. This is why, as we’ve discussed previously, the team is considering moving Ketel Marte there. As with the potential solutions at first, however, making that change could open up a hole elsewhere on the infield.
The starting five in the 2019 rotation seems fairly well set at the present time. Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, Luke Weaver and Merrill Kelly. But as we quickly saw in 2018, you won’t get very far with just five pitchers. April 20th, to be exact, was the date last year on which Arizona needed to begin dipping into their pitching depth, and ended the season having used 11 different starters. That’s about par: over the past decade for Arizona, the number had varied between nine and twelve. But after Kelly, things get considerably more murky for the D-backs. You have somewhat known quantities like Matt Koch, and untested prospects like Jon Duplantier, Widener or Taylor Clarke.
What’s the biggest issue left to be addressed?
This poll is closed
Who’s on first?
Look at me... I can be... Centerfield
Something else (specify in comments)