This is typically the point in the year where we look at the changes on the team’s roster. Who’ll be departing as a free agent? Which players might or might get tendered a contract for 2023? But that part of the roster churn equation is not going to be particularly of significance this year. The team jumped the gun on one impending free agent, by trading David Peralta to the briefly-appearing in the postseason Rays. That leaves just one other player scheduled to become a free agent. That’s Ian Kennedy, and after going 4-7 with a 5.36 ERA, and being worth 1.1 wins below replacement, that feels like an easy case of addition by subtraction. Replacing that production should not be an issue.
[Edit] As Spencer pointed out, Zach Davies will likely become a free-agent intending to opt out of the mutual option. That's no surprise: he was on a bounce back contract after a 73 ERA+ in 2020, and did indeed do so, basically being a league average starter in 2022 (ERA+ 98). That would be worth more on the open market than the $1.75 million option price. It doesn't close the door on Davies re-signing with the D-backs. He seems to enjoy it here:
#Dbacks right-hander Zach Davies said before the final home game that he will opt out of his contract for 2023 but hopes to re-sign with the DBacks. He likes the atmosphere of the team, likes playing close to home, and likes the direction the team is heading.— Evan Thompson, Last Word on Baseball (@LWOSEvanT) October 7, 2022
However, he'll be looking to get paid more than the option price. We'll save that for another article...
Things do get a little more interesting - but only a little - when we look at the arbitration eligible players. Most of those are absolute no-brainers. Anyone who has to pause and think about the answer, as to whether or not to offer a contract to Zac Gallen next year, should be taken behind the woodshed for a good re-education session. But in Caleb Smith and, particularly, Jordan Luplow, there are perhaps arguments to be made on both sides of the decision. So, I’ll be writing up (probably fairly brief) pieces for each player, with an attached poll, to gauge sentiment around the SnakePit. However, I kinda want to hold off until MLB Trade Rumors posts their arbitration salary estimates.
Those will be a significant factor in determining how much money the team has to spend outside of the current roster for 2023. There are a number of players who are going to get a significant bump: Gallen, in his first year of arbitration, will certainly be among them. There were rumblings he was not entirely happy about the unilateral contract imposed on him by the team, though he seemed to understand the situation:
This happens to someone every year. Gallen, repped by Scott Boras, believes he deserves more than the MLB minimum. But it didn't sound like a big sore spot: "There’s also a business side to this game. That’s pretty much how I looked at it."— Zach Buchanan (@ZHBuchanan) March 12, 2021
It’s hard to estimate what he might get - it may depend where he finishes in the Cy Young voting, perhaps - but a new franchise record for a first-year eligible player could certainly be possible. Remember, we signed Paul Goldschmidt to his contract extension here, before he even became eligible for arbitration. The same goes for Brandon Webb, who was inked after his sophomore campaign of 2005. The highest figure I’ve been able to find was $4.825 million for Taijuan Walker in 2018, his first “proper” arbitration year after being a Super-2 in 2017. The same season, Jake Lamb got $4.275 million, and Robbie Ray $3.95 million. It’d take some digging for comparables, hence me waiting for MLBTR to do the legwork. :)
Christian Walker is another player likely in line for a significant bump. Like Carson Kelly, he was a first-year arb player in 2021, and earned $2.6 million. Even though arbitration tends to concentrate more on old-school metrics like home-runs and RBI, Walker did pretty well there too, reaching career highs in both with 36 HR and 94 RBI. Lob in what seems like an all but certain Gold Glove for Walker, and there’s a pay rise in his future. It does help that the team has young players who will still be at league minimum, but there are also fixed increases due to Nick Ahmed, Ketel Marte and Merrill Kelly in 2023. We’ll cross all these bridges over the course of the next few months though.