[Jim's note. If anyone else would like to write up their suggested plan for the winter in detail as a Fanpost, I'll happily also pop that onto the front page. I think it's a very interesting exercise to try and figure out where the team goes from here...]
Hello everyone! I am a lifetime D-backs fan, and I’d imagine quite a few of you are the same. Like you all, I have been watching this team all year. In my opinion, this team is not far from being a wild card contender. It’s been documented many times that if the team had a competent bullpen, they’d be much closer to .500. However, beyond the bullpen, there are other holes/issues that need to be addressed. Some of these shortcomings could be fixed from within. This is a very young team, and there's still a ton of talent in the farm system. But if the team wants to be a legit wild card contender next year, here are thoughts I have to get them there.
The opening day starting lineup and rotation, as of now, is likely to look something like this:
- 1B- Christian Walker
- 2B- Ketel Marte
- 3B- Emmanuel Rivera
- SS- Geraldo Perdomo
- LF- Corbin Carroll
- RF- Daulton Varsho
- CF- Alek Thomas
- C- Carson Kelly
- DH- Jake McCarthy
- Zac Gallen
- Merrill Kelly
- Madison Bumgarner
- Drey Jameson
- Ryne Nelson
Based on the above lineup and rotation, I believe the team’s biggest needs, in order, are:
- Bullpen (duh)
- Left side of the infield
- Starting rotation
Quick side note- in this exercise, I will be increasing the payroll. Jack Sommers had an excellent piece at SI discussing the team’s payroll commitments for next year. In his estimation, the team has about $96 committed already through contract salaries and arbitration raises (although that number includes Jordan Luplow and Reyes Moronta at $2 million each and Caleb Smith at $3 million, and personally, I would DFA all three of them). The team’s high mark for payroll was $132 million in 2018. I think at least $120 to $130 million is not only within reach, but should also be expected by fans at this point.
And remember everyone- the team makes $80 million from the local TV deal, $118 million from revenue sharing (in 2018), and $91 million from national TV deals (in 2018). That’s a whopping $289 million before the team sells a ticket, hot dog, jersey, etc. Forbes says the team’s revenue was $267 million last year. My point is that whenever Derrick Hall tells us that Ken Kendrick puts everything he makes back into the team, it’s a flat out lie.
Anyway, here is my wish list:
- DFA MadBum and Melancon. It won’t happen, but they’re wasting a roster spot at this point.
- Sign a legit star to play the left side of the infield. There's many great shortstop and third base options out there this winter. We have Correa, Bogaerts, Swanson, and Turner at short (Correa and Bogaerts have opt outs that will almost certainly be exercised), and Arenado at third (if he opts out).
- Trade one of the young outfielders to address one of the above weaknesses, preferably in the rotation or catcher.
And here’s how I would upgrade the gaps on the roster:
I think the team should make a huge splash and go for one of the big free agent bats for the left side of the infield. Here's my guess for free agent contracts for Turner, Bogaerts, Swanson, Correa, and Arenado:
- Turner- 7 years, $240 million ($34.2 AAV)
- Bogaerts- 7 years, $220 million ($31.4 AAV)
- Swanson- 7 years, $180 million ($25.7 AAV)
- Correa- 9 years, $300 million ($33.3 AAV)
- Arenado- 7 years, $210 million ($30 AAV)
Mike Hazen has discussed the need to acquire a right handed slugger. If he's looking for a middle of the lineup bat, then that probably rules out Turner. I’m also going to rule out Swanson for obvious reasons. Bogaerts isn't exactly a slugger and may not stick at short much longer. The two options left are Arenado and Correa. I highly doubt that Arenado is leaving St. Louis, but he also fits a need the best, so in my made up scenario, I’m going to say the D-backs should sign Arenado to play third. We all know how good Arenado is from his years in Colorado, but what really stands out to me is the improvements he has made into his 30s. Did you all know he actually increased his bat speed from working with Driveline? That helped fuel the improvements he made this year and have an MVP-type season. He’s an absolute difference maker at third and should be someone to pencil in for 5 or more wins for the next few seasons, even as he advances into his 30s.
And if Kendrick is worried about adding that much payroll, perhaps the salary could be backloaded a bit until MadBum and Melancon's contracts expire.
The trade proposals are probably the most fun aspect of this exercise. I’ve attempted to find teams who need have needs that the D-backs can fill while also having depth that the D-backs need (and a possible willingness to part with those players):
- Marlins (Trevor Rogers, Pablo Lopez)
- Guardians (Triston McKenzie, Shane Bieber)
- Rays (Druw Rasmussen)
- Tigers (Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Casey Mize if they weren't hurt)
- Blue Jays (Gabriel Moreno and Danny Jansen).
- Athletics (Sean Murphy)
- Dodgers (Diego Cartaya, although this ain’t happening).
- Pirates (two top prospects in AA in Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez)
- Guardians (Amed Rosario)
- Padres (Ha Seong-Kim, but this ain’t happening either)
- Cardinals (Paul DeJong)
The Marlins seem like the likeliest trade partner for pitching help. They can’t develop hitting to save their lives. No, seriously. If I am not mistaken, the last player they have signed/drafted that has developed into a 2 fWAR player is Brian Anderson in 2019. The only two players who have eclipsed that mark this year are Jazz Chisholm and Jon Berti. Their farm system is pretty bad, but it’s especially bad position player-wise. Plus, they just drafted a DH in the first round this year (LOL). The Dbacks biggest area of strength is their upper level outfielders. IMO, none of the outfielders on the Marlins' MLB roster will ever even be average. To me, this is an ideal trading partner, and both teams would solve a ton of needs. My trade proposal:
Alek Thomas and AJ Vukovich for Trevor Rogers
The Dbacks get a high upside starter in Rogers who still has a ton of talent even with his up and down season. While his pitch quality metrics took a step back this year, he’s still a lefty who throws a mid-90’s fastball with an excellent changeup. I think Brent Strom can get him back on track. Sign me up.
The Marlins get a long term answer in center field in Thomas and a lottery ticket power bat in Vukovich who has reached AA. Both players have very high upsides, even with their obvious flaws (I’m personally not convinced Thomas is going to hit, but that’s a separate discussion. My reservation about his bat is the reason I’m okay with trading him away).
The Blue Jays have an embarrassment of riches at the catcher position. Their major league roster has two above average catchers in Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jensen, and they have a top 5 prospect in Gabriel Moreno. I can’t imagine Kirk is going anywhere. Trading for Moreno would be wonderful, but I think Toronto balks at any trade that doesn’t include Carroll, Lawlar, Jones, Gallen, or Varsho. With that in mind, here’s my trade proposal to get Jansen:
Blake Walston and Ivan Melendez for Danny Jansen and Thomas Hatch
The Dbacks get their new starting catcher who posted a 140 WRC+ this year and played above average defense. He has had some injury issues (oblique strain and a fractured finger this year) so he only had 248 plate appearances. The injury issues are the reason he doesn’t fetch a higher return. However, when healthy, he is outstanding. And in Hatch, they get additional pitching depth in a talented pitcher who has not quite figured things out in the majors.
The Blue Jays get a pitcher in Walston who has yet to increase his velocity as expected. As of right now, he averages around 92 with the heater. With his good secondaries, he projects as more of a 3 or 4 starter right now, unless he is able to continue to gain strength. The Jays also get Melendez, who was an older college first baseman who the D-backs drafted in the second round this year. He’ll have to really mash to project as a starter.
Michael McDermott of SI.com did a wonderful series this week detailing potential avenues to fix the bullpen. This piece here details potential trade targets. There’s a few names here that really intrigue me, so here’s my trade proposals:
Gregory Soto and Joe Jimenez for Buddy Kennedy, Dominic Canzone, and Juan Corniel
AJ Puk for Bryce Jarvis
The Dbacks acquire relievers on bad teams who have no need for these arms. The players they give up are talented, but unlikely to ever project as stars.
I think I am content to roll with Perdomo for one more season to see if he can figure it out, even though I am concerned about him long term. I understand he is only 22 years old, and he was probably rushed to the majors. However, he does not hit the ball hard at all. His average exit velocity of 85 MPH is in the bottom 2% of the league. According to Baseball Savant, his expected batting average and slugging percentage are .217 and .287, respectively. That isn't going to cut it. He needs to get a lot stronger physically in order to keep a roster spot. His ability to get stronger is the part I am losing faith in, though. In Fangraphs’ scouting report of him from before the 2021 season, Eric Longenhagen said
"Perdomo’s exit velos climbed throughout 2019. He averaged about 80 mph off the bat at Low-A, then about 82 mph after his promotion to Hi-A, and finally averaged 87 mph during a limited Fall League sample."
Three years ago, his average exit velocity was slightly higher than it was this past year. I’d give him another year to try to figure it out. If he doesn’t, Jordan Lawlar is charging right behind him. And to Perdomo's credit, he says he will be working to add strength to his frame this offseason. His frame does look like it could add a lot of strength, so I hope he is successful.
With all my proposed additions, the new opening day roster would look something like this:
- 1B Christian Walker
- 2B Ketel Marte
- 3B Nolan Arenado
- SS Geraldo Perdomo
- LF Jake McCarthy
- RF Daulton Varsho
- CF Corbin Carroll
- C Danny Jensen
- DH Josh Rojas/Emmanuel River
- Josh Rojas
- Stone Garrett
- Emmanuel Rivera
- Carson Kelly
- Pavin Smith
- Zac Gallen
- Merrill Kelly
- Trevor Rogers
- Drey Jameson
- Ryne Nelson
- Gregory Soto
- Joe Jimenez
- AJ Puk
- Kevin Ginkel
- Joe Mantiply
- Taylor Widener
- Kyle Nelson
- Tommy Henry
There would be plenty of pitching depth with Brandon Pfaadt, Corbin Martin, Slade Cecconi, Tyler Gilbert, Keynan Middleton, Sean Poppen, Luis Frias, JB Bakauskas, Thomas Hatch, etc.
1 through 9, I'd sort that lineup like this:
- Jake McCarthy,LF (L)
- Nolan Arenado, 3B (R)
- Corbin Carroll, CF (L)
- Christian Walker, 1B (R)
- Daulton Varsho, RF (L)
- Ketel Marte, 2B (S)
- Danny Jansen, C (R)
- Josh Rojas/Emmanuel Rivera, DH (L/R)
- Geraldo Perdomo, SS (S)
Suddenly the lineup looks strong and formidable, and both the rotation and bullpen have high upside, hard throwers. This looks like a legit team that will compete.
Starting payroll- $96 million (see above SI article about the team’s payroll situation)
Subtract $7 million for non-tendering Luplow, Moronta, and Smith
Add $30 million for Arenado
Add $6 million for Jansen (arb estimate)
Add $5 million for Jimenez (arb estimate)
*everyone else added should be at the league minimum*
New total: $130 million
I’m right at the high end of my projected payroll of $120 to $130 million. However, I would justify this to Mr. Kendrick by saying this new rotation throws very hard and is extremely talented. The lineup can really hit and there’s power throughout it. The bullpen has hard throwers who can throw strikes and get strikeouts. And there’s depth in both the rotation and lineup. While I do have reservations about two rookies in the rotation, both Jameson and Nelson have gotten their feet wet, have really high upside, and have thrown enough innings this year that they should be able to get through a full season next year.
I believe that with these additions, this team is a 90+ win team. There would be a full year of new additions Arenado; Jansen; and Rogers; and the improved bullpen, and the team would get a full season of production from Carroll; McCarthy; Rivera; Jameson; and Nelson. I expect a bounce back season from Marte (he hits the ball too hard and has far too much sheer talent to struggle again). And the bullpen should be able to hold leads much better.
Everyone not named Walker is under team control for at least the next three seasons, which means this team should compete for the foreseeable future. Any raises the arb eligible players would get in 2024 would be washed out by the $16.5 million coming off the books after 2023 in the way of Melancon and Ahmed, and Bumgarner’s salary drops by $9 million in 2024. That’s a $25 million drop from 2023 to 2024 payroll. Mr. Kendrick's wallet won't be pushed too hard.
What do you all think? I understand that none of what I wrote about above will happen, but I am eager to hear everyone’s thoughts on the team’s offseason outlook.