2023 Dbacks Off-Season
I did see ILIKEPOTATOES post after I completed this, on my own, like I do, like a loser, but whatever it's cool to see other people do it too and I'm glad we had such similar game plans for the off-season. His post had more trades(which can get more complicated but certainly more fun) and his main FA target Arenado is officially off the market so I hope you guys enjoy this alternative. Feel free to rip me a new one in the comments
If you're reading this, odds are you know where the Dbacks currently stand. I won't preface this piece and instead just get right into it, explanations down below.
Free agents: *main targets
- Dbacks sign SS Xander Bogaerts to a 7 yr deal worth $215-225 million total(roughly $32m per)
- Dbacks sign 1B/DH Josh Bell to a 5 yr deal worth $75-80 million total(roughly $15m per)
- Dbacks sign RHP Mike Clevinger to a 4 yr deal worth $48-52 million total(roughly $12m per)
- Dbacks sign C Omar Narváez to a 3 yr deal worth $14-18 million total(roughly $5m per)
- Dbacks sign RHP Michael Fulmer to a 3 yr deal worth $14-18 million total(roughly $5m per)
2023 FA spending total- roughly $70 million, depending on who they need to overpay here vs who they can get for less
(Projected Total Payroll - $160-165m*)
*Includes projected $54.5m from current active payroll + $29m est. arbitration salaries + $9.5m in est. pre-arbitration salaries (according to Spotrac)
League average in 2022 was around $165m, so the Dbacks, $106m in 2022 and just over $90m currently, could still have some wiggle room in contract talks during free agency this year. Especially with SS Xander Bogaerts, who Hazen and Luvollo are familiar with from their time in BOS and is represented by Scott Boras along with Gallen and 1B/DH Josh Bell, Bell going to the same HS as Jordan Lawlar. I would like to see the Dbacks salary get around $150m at least, over $160m if they are able to land both pitching targets(Clevinger and Fulmer) and are still forced to roster/pay vets like Ahmed, Melancon and Bumgarner at their current overpriced salaries.
They could save an estimated $6.5m and DFA guys like Caleb Smith, Reyes Moronta, and Jordan Luplow, all pretty easy cuts. And while Melancon seems like a reasonable cut as well, I don't think there's much savings to be had there, it's really just about the roster spot. Ideally, the 26-man payroll would be near the top-10 in the league, and squarely inside the top-15 with the additions of their main free agent targets, Bogaerts, Bell, and Clevinger.
Hopefully their total payroll in 2023 is similar to what teams like CHC($167m), TEX($164m), STL($164m), and MIN($163m) paid last year, which shouldn't be out of reach for a market like Phoenix. I've seen the previous fanposts mention the Dbacks annual revenue figures and I won't get into that too much, but clearly this $150-170 salary range for a few years won't kill Kendrick or his bank account.
Are the Bogaerts and Bell contracts likely to be overpays when all is said and done? Sure, there's definitely a chance. Bogaerts' health and production could fall hard going into his early to mid-30s despite him staying extremely healthy and productive through his 20s. Bell's average and OBP could tank and even if he does hit 25-30+ homers a couple times during his stay in PHX, he'll likely never be worth that contract as a one dimensional switch-hitting DH. Those 2 outcomes are both possible, sure. You could even add in a 2nd Clevinger TJ surgery and there you go, damn near waste of almost $350 million over the next 4-7 years.
But I think the more likely scenario is that Bogaerts has 2-3 elite offensive years, 2-3 above average-great offensive years, and 2-3 average-below average/injured years over the life of that contract. I'll take that for $220+ million if I'm being honest and not footing the bill. I also don't think Bell stops walking above 10% and starts striking out more than 20% consistently. I think it's more likely he loves the hitter friendly Chase Field(.305/.431/1.058 career slashline at Chase in 72 PA) and his SO% hovers just below 20% and BB% stays above 10% as usual while getting back that 25-30 HR power and 100 RBI total at least a couple times in an offense behind an up-and-coming Carroll, a hopefully healthy Marte, and an extremely consistent Bogaerts.
Throw in a healthy Clevinger as the Dbacks #3 starter, not quite as elite as his Cleveland days, but a consistent 10-12 win threat with a sub 3.75 ERA and a WHIP that hovers around 1.2, averaging between 140-170 innings per year, well then this free agency class is a huge win. More on the other 2 signings later but these 3 guys are the focus for me, as those outcomes for Bogaerts, Bell, and Clevinger don't seem all that unrealistic in my opinion.
I think the team is almost ready for that jump, and it'd be nice to see just how close we are in Carroll's first full year as a pro with a competitive lineup around him. Ketel is still young enough to be an impact bat at a position where there aren't many of them. Varsho and McCarthy earned full time looks at the corner OF spots, McCarthy with his average and speed profile and Varsho with his gold glove quality defense and budding power potential.
I like giving Rojas and Walker the corner infield positions for at least another year. If Walker can recreate last year's power numbers with a little more consistency in the average department(he hit around .200 for most of the year and then turned it on the last month and half to finish at .242, which is pretty impressive in itself), then that Bell, Walker, Varsho middle could become extremely uncomfortable to pitch to, especially with men on base.
Throw a versatile Josh Rojas at the bottom of that lineup playing 3rd base for 140+ games, and I think you don't mind the lack of power and elite defense(Rojas is serviceable in my opinion) from that position if the steals and OBP are there like they have been the past couple years. How many teams have a guy who gets on base at a .340 clip in that 9-hole? I'd say not many… Gavin Lux in LA… that's all that comes to mind for me. That's a quality asset to have with guys like Carroll, Marte, and Bogaerts at the top.
Okay that's enough for free agency for now, what else is on the list? Oh yeah you noticed I haven't mentioned Alek Thomas, and here's why…
Dbacks trade OF Alek Thomas, 1B Ivan Melendez, 3B/OF A.J. Vukovich, and a PTBNL* to MIA for LHP Trevor Rogers and LHP Jake Eder
*I think this would likely be a young international prospect like Patino(#16 on Dbacks top prospect list), or possibly one of the more recent signings like Pena(#20), Santana(#21), or De La Cruz(#26).
Trade Analysis -
LHP Trevor Rogers(25 yrs old), is coming off a disastrous sophomore campaign in MIA but finished 2nd in the NL ROY race in 2021. Eder(24 yrs old, Marlins #4 ranked prospect), also had a stellar debut in AA during the 2021 season, but is just coming off Tommy John and did not pitch at all in 2022. So there's some legitimate risk of losing a gold glove quality CF for 2 possible duds, not to mention 2022 2nd rd pick, right-handed power bat, 1B/DH Ivan Melendez(who MIA drafted in 2021 before Melendez broke Kris Bryant's D1 home run record with 32 this past year), and the versatile Vukovich, who's coming off a 2nd straight solid year as a pro in 2022 during his climb to AA at 21 yrs old.
Either way, I think this is a pretty fair trade given the potential upside and downside on both sides, as well the needs. MIA needs an influx of young hitters and the Dbacks need some upside among their starting pitching, especially LHP. I still think Walston has the potential to be a solid mid-rotation starter despite his down year and underwhelming velocity numbers, but I can't say I feel the same about Henry unfortunately. Outside of a clearly available Lopez and a should-be untouchable Alcantara, I'm not sure who MIA is truly willing to part with out of Rogers, Luzardo, Cabrera, Meyer, Eder, Pérez, Garrett, and Fulton.
But getting back 2 guys (1 major league ready and 1 I'm willing to wait on) from that group with the package of Thomas, Melendez, and hopefully something like Vukovich and Patino, would be crucial. I love Alcantara obviously, and Cabrera, Meyer, and Pérez, all RHP with major upside, but I see the potential in bounce back candidate Rogers and other major league ready LHP Luzardo and Garrett. Even the less experienced LHP Eder(if he comes back healthy) and Fulton(if he can lower his walks) have mid-rotation upside with great K potential. I think you can pretty much take your pick if MIA is selling and buys into Thomas as their future CF and are still high on Melendez.
I'd be reluctant to give up guys like Lawlar, Jones, De Los Santos, Pfaadt, and likely even Walston and Sims, which I think puts guys like Alcantara, Meyer, Pérez, and probably even Cabrera off limits. And I'm not a fan of Lopez with so little team control left, hence my two likely targets being Rogers, who won't become a FA until 2027 and Eder, who really flashed before requiring Tommy John. Not too long ago Thomas was a unanimous top-50 prospect, and despite his low average as a rookie, I still think teams will buy-in on him eventually hitting around .265-.275 with a decent amount of XBH and potentially game-changing defense in CF.
If you're Hazen, you have to get proper value for that, so perhaps you are forced to wait until after the season gets going and teams realize their own off-season additions aren't going to get it done. No matter what, I think it becomes clear within the first 60 games of the season that Carroll has much more upside offensively. And if you're planning on making Druw Jones your everyday CF in 3-4 years like I hope the Dbacks are, then there's definitely more downside to letting Thomas be that bridge and likely lose some of his trade value over the next few years despite probably performing well, as opposed to Carroll bridging the gap in CF and eventually moving to LF where I think his bat will still play nicely.
If you can use that package headlined by Thomas and Melendez to fleece MIA out of not only Rogers, but a guy like Meyers, Pérez or Cabrera instead of or as well as Eder, then that's an easy win in my book. But I don't think you can just do something like Thomas for Rogers straight up and just hope Rogers figures out how to pitch well on even years(was legitimately terrible in the minors during the '18 season, during the Covid '20 season, and now during the '22 season). Throwing some more players in the deal and waiting until you get proper value for Thomas is key, but I think he's also the obvious guy to move in order to fill a different need, and maybe teams that clearly see that will also just wait until the Dbacks themselves get desperate enough to finally make that move. We'll see, moving on.
RHP Zac Gallen* signs a 7 yr extension worth $110-120m($5, $10, $20, $20, $20, $20, $25) that lasts thru 2029
*Scott Boras' client, and hopefully between Bogaerts, Bell and Gallen the Dbacks are on his good side for the foreseeable future. I've read that Boras' clients rarely sign extensions and he likes them to reach the open market, but maybe the two free agent deals can buy us some goodwill with the gatekeeper and they get something done. Would be good business to extend our ace through the prime of his career, that's pretty much all I have to say about that.
2023 Roster & Lineup -
*new free agent/trade additions
- L Corbin Carroll CF
- B Ketel Marte - 2B
- R Xander Bogaerts* - SS
- B Josh Bell* - DH
- R Christian Walker - 1B
- L Daulton Varsho - RF
- L Jake McCarthy - LF
- R Carson Kelly - C
- L Josh Rojas - 3B
- L Omar Narváez* - C
- R Stone Garrett - OF
- L Dominic Fletcher - OF
- R Nick Ahmed - SS/3B
- B Geraldo Perdomo SS/2B
- R Emmanuel Rivera 3B/1B
- B José Herrera - C
- L Seth Beer - 1B/DH
- L Pavin Smith - OF/1B
- Zac Gallen - RHP
- Trevor Rodgers* - LHP
- Merrill Kelly - RHP
- Mike Clevinger* - RHP
- Madison Bumgarner - LHP
- Brandon Pfaadt - RHP
- Drey Jameson RHP (closer)
- Michael Fulmer* RHP (setup/high leverage)
- Joe Mantiply LHP (lefty specialist)
- Ryne Nelson RHP (long relief/high leverage)
- Kevin Ginkel RHP (inning eater)
- Kyle Nelson LHP (high leverage lefty)
- Taylor Widener RHP (upside power arm)
- Luis Frias RHP (upside power arm)
- Cole Sulser RHP (possible high leverage)
- Corbin Martin RHP (inning eater)
- J.B. Bukauskas RHP (possible high leverage)
- Mark Melancon RHP (possible cut)
Additional 40-man options-
- LHP Jake Eder*
- SS Blaze Alexander
- RHP Bryce Jarvis
- RHP Justin Martinez
- RHP Slade Cecconi
- RHP Edwin Uceta
- OF/1B Dominic Canzone
- OF Jorge Barrosa
- LHP Tommy Henry
Top Prospects -
- R Jordan Lawlar SS - 2024
- R Druw Jones CF - 2026
- R Deyvison De Los Santos 3B/1B - 2024
- LHP Blake Walston - 2024
- RHP Landon Sims - 2025
Full Analysis -
Signing a guy like Bogaerts to a massive deal like that would obviously be extremely risky for a team like the Dbacks, as he would be 36 years old during the final year of his contract and the Dbacks don't have a great track record of late with big free agency deals(Greinke and Madbum). But I'd say there's a good chance those first 5 years (30-34) are still extremely productive offensively and if he's on board with moving to 3rd when Lawlar comes up, then I think they're only a few auxiliary pieces away from a legitimate WS contending offense if Carroll shows out and they also get some more contributions out of guys like Varsho, McCarthy, Marte, and their 1B/DH duo of Bell and Walker over the next 3-5 years. Bell doesn't hit lefties quite as well as Bogaerts or the switch hitting Marte, but their 2 main free agent signings would go a long way to getting more right-handed bats in a lineup filled with lefties like Carroll, Varsho, McCarthy, and Rojas. Some interesting numbers before we move to the staff…
Career Vs RHP (projected 3-5 hitters)
- Bogaerts - .285 AVG, .344 OBP, .796 OPS
- Bell - .269 AVG, .357 OBP, .827 OPS
- Walker - .250 AVG, .322 OBP, .782 OPS
Those aren't terrible numbers in my opinion, considering there's 2 right handed hitters in that group, with the switch hitting Bell's power showing up pretty consistently against both RHP and LHP. I also think Varsho should improve his .233/.315/.465 slashline vs RHP in the future, so you could always move him into the 5 spot behind Bell when they do face a tough RHP that could give Walker trouble. But anyway, moving on….
The staff is the only real question mark at this point, as who would be the guy to step up behind Gallen after Kelly inevitably falls off and Bumgarner literally rides off into the sunset, horse and all? Rogers and Clevinger are two solid options with experience of pitching really well in the majors in the past(Clevinger before his Tommy John surgery and Rogers during his breakout rookie year in 2021), with younger/less experienced options Pfaadt, Walston, Eder, and Sims as possible mid-rotation starters with upside in the future.
Jameson and Nelson both pitched well in their limited starts at the end of 2022 and I see a lot of fans penciling them in as starters in 2023, but I think both are primed for important bullpen roles over the next few years. Jameson has elite long-term closer written all over him. Anybody catch that article about him beating Corbin Carroll in a race? Yeah I want that cocky prick pitching the 9th for the next 5 or 6 years. And Nelson makes a lot of sense in a high-leverage multi-inning role(think '17-19 Archie Bradley, with more 6-out opportunities) to bridge the gap from the starters over the next couple seasons.
Nelson, along with free agent addition Fulmer, who also has previous starter experience, could eat up a lot of high leverage 5th-8th innings together over the next few years. If they could get good-great bullpen production out of those 3 guys and at least average production out of the other guys in the pen, then I think their bullpen issues would be nearly solved if they're planning on trotting out a more potent offense. Especially if Jameson turns into a young elite closer similar to how Emmanuel Clase has for CLE the past couple years.
I'd be trying to build my bullpen similarly to CLE has recently, with young and controllable power arms. And I think Jameson and Nelson are two perfect candidates to start the trend for AZ rather than just putting them at the backend of the rotation and calling it good. I think they'll provide more value pitching in games the Dbacks should win, as opposed to them pitching on days the Dbacks hope they can win, if that makes sense?
Going with 6 starters is also ideal in my opinion, either allowing the starters an extra rest day occasionally or giving the bullpen the occasional rest going 5-4 or 4-5 innings with the 5th and 6th starter on that 5th day. I'd just start to get less conventional with it going forward, between Nelson and Fulmer's multi-inning roles in the pen as sort of dual-setup men and finding more manageable major league innings for those backend rotation guys to handle(i.e. not having to face a lineup for a 3rd time). Cutting Madbum and just eating his salary is also an option, but I'd at least try to get one more year out of him and put him in a better position to have success.
4-5 innings a week from him and something like 4-5 innings a week from Pfaadt, likely on the same day most of the time. I like giving Pfaadt that first shot in the rotation over a guy like Nelson, but that could just as easily be reversed depending on how their spring goes. But Pfaadt is giving off some workhorse vibes, and I think if you put him in a good opportunity that rookie year to get accustomed to life as a major league starting pitcher without just throwing him into the fire every 5th day and saying "Hey, give us 6!", then he might just figure things out along the way and eventually become a really good compliment to Gallen at the top of the rotation 3 or 4 years down the road.
I see multiple 200 SO/IP seasons in his future, I'd just like to ease him into it and take some pressure off, and also have an excuse to at least see how Madbum does with less responsibility and lower expectations. If injuries pop-up then obviously a 6-man rotation is out of the question, but if they're healthy and have the manpower, I say give it a shot and make changes if necessary the following year when Madbum's salary becomes more reasonable to eat. Crazy thing is, Bumgarner is only 33, and yeah those 2000+ career innings have clearly taken a toll on him, but I also think he's yet to quite figure out how to pitch without the accustomed life/movement on his pitches like some other veterans have in recent years(think Wainwright or even some of those Bartolo Colon years in his mid-late 30s).
The 2023 season is a good jumping off point for the Dbacks, as they can hopefully gauge how far away from contention they realistically are before guys like Jordan Lawlar, Deyvison De Los Santos, and Druw Jones are ready to come up and make an impact. You don't sign a guy like Bogaerts specifically for 2023, you do it for 2024-2027 and hope you give yourself a legitimate window to make some magic happen.
If the staff turns out alright with Clevinger and Rodgers both pitching good-great over the next 3-4 years behind the ace Gallen, as well as a few breakout performances from young guys like Pfaadt, Jameson, Nelson, Walston, Eder, and Sims, then I think they are an easy playoff contender with WS upside depending on health and performance. The top of that lineup with Carroll, Marte, Bogaerts, and eventually Lawlar and Jones could be lethal for years to come, and not to mention better upside in the middle and bottom immediately with Bell, Walker, and Varsho in the 4-6 spots, pushing guys like McCarthy and Rojas into those 7-9 spots for the time being.
The catching position could eventually be the downfall, with Kelly not getting it done recently and no prospects on the horizon. A future trade is possible, but I feel like the staff is a more pressing need at the moment and trading from their depth of outfielders for a starting pitcher or two is more likely more valuable than a top catching prospect, at least until Kelly becomes a free agent in 2025 and still hasn't shown enough to be re-signed. Narváez hits righties well(.268 AVG and .345 OBP) while Kelly is a much more productive hitter versus lefties(.256 AVG and .341 OBP), so a straight platoon behind the dish would be suitable for the next couple years.
They also have Varsho as an emergency 3rd catcher, keeping that bench more versatile without the need for an additional catcher on the 26-man(E.g. Cooper Hummel). Overall, I think their additions and a couple improvements internally get them around 90 wins in 2023 and hopefully they can make the playoffs as a Wild Card team, just edging out the star power of the San Diego Padres with a more complete roster. They likely aren't ready to compete with the Braves, Dodgers, and potentially Phillies and Mets depending on how their off-seasons go, but with potential all-stars Lawlar, Jones, and De Los Santos still in their minor league system, they'll likely have the opportunity one way or another to close the gap in the near future.
There are many options in free agency, and the Dbacks can go about improving the roster a few different ways, but I like the consistency I've seen out of Bogaerts and I think he'd fit well in this lineup, or at least better than the other top tier SS on the market, Turner, Correa and Swanson. His fielding and arm might not make him a very appealing option to man 3rd base into his mid-30s when Lawlar comes up, but I think the offensive potential outweighs the potential defensive implications. A good defense is needed, sure.
But it can only carry a team so far. The Astros didn't win 106 games and the WS because they had multiple gold glove finalists, they won because their pitching depth was elite and 1-9 in their lineup were consistently tough outs. I think you can argue the same thing for the Braves in '21 and Dodgers the year before. Bogaerts and Bell would be great offensive upgrades for the middle of the Dbacks lineup over the next few years, even if they have to overpay a bit and the contracts eventually look bad when 2027 or 2028 come around.
I think they need to open themselves a window to contention over the next 4-5 years and while there's probably still more work to do with the staff/bullpen even after this off-season, I believe they could quickly build an offense that is great even before guys like Lawlar, Jones and De Los Santos come up. By the way, I don't see many fans giving Santos some legitimate love as a top prospect. Dude had an incredible year hitting his way across three levels as a teenager, and his power potential is elite.
He struggled a bit to end the season in AA, and he needs to show more plate discipline in the future, but I also think he's a top-30 prospect in baseball before the end of next year and I could see a scenario where they eventually let Walker walk(pardon the pun) in free agency to give the young guy a place in that lineup. I don't see him as the future 3rd baseman however, so I think it's either 1B or DH for him, but that's still a few years away and I think the team won't be truly ready until Lawlar comes up and takes over at SS.
Santos and Jones are just very nice extra assets to have, and while I'd like to see both in a Dbacks uniform in the future, I'd understand if they decided to eventually move one of them to complete the roster, whether that be for a future catcher or additional pitching help.
If you lasted this long, I appreciate it and let me know what you think in the comments.