Being a baseball GM is actually very simple. All you have to do is bring in players who will get better going forward, and get rid of ones who are going to get worse. That is, I should probably point out, me being sarcastic. But the old saw of “Buy low, sell high,” is certainly a valuable skill to have. We saw earlier in this series how Mike Hazen was apparently able to do the latter last winter. This was in particular shown with the trade of Paul Goldschmidt, but also in letting walk away a number of players who subsequently proved unable to repeat their 2018 performance. But what about the players he brought in to Arizona for this year? How did they stack up?
Below you’ll find the comparable bWAR figures for the players who appeared for the D-backs in 2019, but did not do so in 2018. That may have been because they were with another organization, or because they spent the entire season in Arizona’s minor-league system. We’ll then take a look at more detail at some of those whose performance changed the most, year to year.
New position players
|Player||2018 bWAR||2019 bWAR|
|Player||2018 bWAR||2019 bWAR|
It has been nice to have a catcher who can hit again. Since Mike Hazen took over, the focus seems to have been more on defensive-minded catchers. While I completely get the point of that, as a fan it does lead to a sinking feeling when we reach the bottom of the order and have a weak-hitting catcher followed by our pitcher. On the plus side, at least it means you can go to the bathroom and know you haven’t missed much. Chris Iannetta is probably about the only catcher in the Hazen era who has hit his weight, and he was just a one-year wonder. But the arrival of Carson Kelly in the Paul Goldschmidt trade gives hope that Arizona may have found their long-term solution at catcher.
Became a fan favorite, largely due to his single-handed willingness to demonstrate that getting hit by pitches is an actual skill. But you can’t argue with a perfect 17-0 in stolen bases either, proving that bruises don’t slow you down. It makes you wonder why he hadn’t been so effective in previous seasons. Though in Arizona, significant injuries to Steven Souza and David Peralta helped necessitate the team digging deeper into their outfield depth than expected. Credit Locastro for making the most of the opportunity presented to him. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up being on the team’s Opening Day roster next season, as a younger, cheaper version of Jarrod Dyson.
Making a late run on the outside was Almonte, who spent almost the entire season with the AAA Reno Aces, before becoming a September call-up. All he did the rest of the way, was bat .290 with a .969 OPS. However, that was in a small sample-size of 38 PA, and stands in sharp contrast to his career figure, even including this year, of an 82 OPS+ in over 1,110 PA. That’s probably a more realistic expectation going forward. He may not even make it very far into the off-season. The team will need to free up some 40-man roster spots, in order to protect prospects in the Rule 5 draft, and Almonte’s hold on one of those seems potentially to be tenuous.
It seems that even Hazen is not immune to the call of the “veteran presence”, signing Jones after spring training was already well under way. Whatever Jones’s effect may have been on clubhouse chemistry - and, by all accounts, it was positive - his on-field performance was disappointing. It is probably the case that, when he was signed, it was not expected Jones would end up starting 118 games for the Diamondbacks this year. But, mostly thanks to the absence of Souza, that’s what happened, and Jones’s batting average of .260 was the lowest since his rookie season of 2007.
While most of Hazen’s moves over the past year have turned out pretty well, the acquisition of Swihart was a moist, sucking sound made flesh. It kinda made sense, seen through the lens of Swihart being a first-round draft pick and former top 20 prospect in all baseball, as recently as before the 2015 season. But the fall since has been precipitous, and if the prospect we sent to Boston (Marcus Wilson) turns into anything, I’m going to be peeved. Swihart’s .136 average is the lowest by any non-pitcher with 50+ PA for Arizona, and it isn’t even close: the next-worst is thirty-one points higher (Deven Marrero and Josh Kroeger). He won’t be missed.