I believe there will be some urgency to improve this off season. I think the Padres will be forced to take a step back, and they are getting older, the Dodgers need multiple pitchers (Kershaw needs shoulder surgery), the Mets need multiple pitchers, and the Brewers might be on the verge of a rebuild. As such, I think 2024 and maybe 2025 is a reasonable window for the Dbacks.
I believe the real problem with the offense is against RHP. Given that RHP is probably close to 73% of PA in the MLB (see below), the Dbacks deficiency is power against RHP (and in particular from LHH) in the middle of the lineup (we have no one).
Prior to season start, the farm was filled with LHH, and as such, I think Hazen correctly identified that as a position of strength. He traded Varsho, Canzone, Rojas. We are left with Thomas, McCarthy, Fletcher, Smith, Peterson. Barrosa is a switch hitter (who I think hits better from the RH side). Most of them are not traditional power hitters, and do not hit LHP particularly well either.
MLB platoon splits for 2023:
- RHP vs LHH 0.748 OPS in 62659 PA
- RHP vs RHH 0.713 OPS in 72760 PA
- LHP vs LHH 0.689 OPS in 13053 PA
- LHP vs RHH 0.761 OPS in 35638 PA
About 73.5% of all PA are against RHP.
League wide, RHH hit RHP better than LHH hitting LHP. As such, I think that is what drives (what I perceive) the desire to have a RHH power bat in the lineup. At the same time, 73.5% of a players AB’s (assuming no platooning for a 'regular' player) will be against RHP.
So why the desire to have a RHH ‘power’ bat, when 73.5% of PA are against RHP? Should it not be the other way around, the desire to have a LHH power bat that is above average against LHP? I think the answer is simply that there are not that many LHH in the league, that hit for power, and are good against LHP. However, that damage they are capable of is unmatched when you have one (for example Schwarber, Harper, Seager, Freeman, Olsen etc) because 73.5% of the time they have the platoon advantage.
However, the Dbacks do not just need league average platoon production (0.748 OPS) against RHP. They need a couple of players that are much better (I use 0.850 OPS for simplicity instead of OPS+ or wRC+). Since 0.748 (or 0.750) is the platoon split average LHH against RHP, 0.800 would be considered above average, 0.900 would be considered all star, and 1.000 would be MVP.
This is the problem with the Dbacks. Too many RHH that hit LHP well, but not so good compared to the league average platoon split LHH against RHP.
Looking at the Dbacks hitters against RHP 2023:
- Gurriel 0.772 OPS (0.782 OPS career)
- Pham 0.768 OPS (0.768 OPS career)
- Perdomo 0.736 OPS (0.634 OPS career)
- Thomas 0.701 OPS (0.683 OPS career)
- Longoria 0.701 OPS (0.780 OPS career – not likely to ever happen)
- Smith 0.682 OPS (0.735 OPS career)
- Moreno 0.678 OPS (0.687 OPS career)
- McCarthy 0.643 OPS (0.711 OPS career)
- Peterson 0.631 OPS (0.674 OPS career)
- Herrera 0.547 OPS (0.482 OPS career)
Marte 0.828 OPS (career average 0.763) – hopefully this trend continues.
Walker 0.800 OPS (career average 0.787) – A little weak for the #4 hitter
Carroll 0.922 OPS for 2023
Thus, my argument is that the Dbacks need 2 more hitters other than Carroll that have ~ 0.850 OPS against RHP (even if only platoon hitters) to be in the middle of the order (#3-4-5) because based on league numbers 73.5% of all PA are against RHP.
Easiest and ‘cheapest’ will be to fill the DH spot (Dbacks are #30 for DH in 2023 (Fangraphs)).
Here are some examples:
Brandon Belt: 0.890 OPS against RHP 2023 (0.844 career), but he was OK against LHP (0.743 career, 0.572 in 39 PA in 2023).
JD Martinez (RHH): 0.880 OPS 2023 against RHP, 0.846 OPS career vs RHP (he is even better against LHP)
Justin Turner (RHH): 0.766 OPS 2023 against RHP (career 0.830 against RHP - though I doubt he does that in the future). Significant upgrade offensively over Longoria but still not adequate against RHP.
Dbacks were near bottom of the list for 3B production. However, this is why I do not want Matt Chapman:
0.722 OPS against RHP in 2023 (though his career number is 0.783 which is still not great). At age 30+ he is likely not going to get better hitting against RHP. Perdomo and his 0.736 OPS against RHP in 2023 is better than Chapman (Chapman does crush LHP, but that would only be 26.5% of the time).
If the Dbacks can address power against RHP via other positions, then Chapman would fill the void defensively and stabilize 3B for years to come. Otherwise, he will likely be another offensive void in the lineup against RHP.
Catcher is an area where we could try and get more power against RHP. Assuming Moreno plays 90-100 games, that will mean we need a backup catcher that can play the remaining 50-60 games, and maybe even PH. Unfortunately, I am not sure there will be a free agent to fill the void.
Free agency: obvious first name would be Cody Bellinger. I would like to see 1 more year of consistency, but his 2023 splits are 0.830 OPS against RHP, 0.984 against LHP (reverse which I think is odd for an LHH). For his career: 0.851 OPS against RHH, 0.782 against LHP which makes more sense but his season over season numbers are all over the place. He can play CF, corner OF, 1B. He had 20 SB in 2023. He is from the Phoenix area and is 28. He will cost a lot of money and years, but can he be the next great LHH in the league (he was league MVP)? Not that often that a franchise altering LHH power bat that is still young shows up in free agency.
Trades: Juan Soto, most likely will be available for a 1 year rental. He was better in the outfield this year. Maybe he is a generational talent. He just turned 25. 0.980 OPS against RHP (0.813 against LHP in 2023, 1.000 OPS against RHP (0.836 against LHP) for career. I would not trade for him unless we extend him, but I do not think we will give him 10/450 which a 25 year old generational talent will get. Why trade for him, if he is not a long term solution.
Otherwise, not much in free agency. Not much in the Dbacks pipeline either.
Pitching: Hopefully Gallen and Kelly remain healthy, and consistent. Similarly, hopefully Pfaadt builds upon his post season experience. That still leaves 2 starters and 3-4 backup starters. For a team with playoff aspirations, going into the season with Henry, Nelson, Jarvis, Cecconi, Walston, is less than ideal. The Dbacks need a frontline starter that ideally is LHP.
Snell: I don’t 'trust' pitchers that are from Tampa (my bias). They have an expiration date on their arms. He will likely get more than Rodon got.
Montgomery had a great season. He will get more than MadBum got for sure. I view him as a #3 pitcher that had a great season prior to free agency. Pitches to contact and relies on his sinker, that may not always sink at Chase. He does not have a great SO/9IP which I would want from a frontline starter.
Urias is too toxic.
Nola will get a lot of money, Sony Gray, Giolito, Flaherty will all get decent amount of money to be middle of the order starters. Eduardo Rodriguez and Stroman probably opt out. Severino may need a change in scenery. Rodriguez would be an interesting option, but how expensive will he be?
Yamamoto is 5’10" but 25. Imanaga relies on pin point control. Neither have MLB experience.
There are never any guarantees with pitching, but the Dbacks will have to swing with a large commitment and hope they get ‘lucky’. Paying a lot of money for a middle of the order pitcher is less than ideal. I say swing at the top (Snell, maybe Yamamoto) or don’t bother. If Imanaga mirrors Senga, that would be a huge hit, but it will cost a lot of money to find out.
Conclusion: The easiest path is to 84 wins, the foundation is there, and a few added pieces will achieve that. That would suggest running out the same/similar team in 2024. A reasonable expectation however is to get to 88 wins and hope that is enough for a playoff appearance. 92 wins would mean getting 2 great hitters and 2 great pitchers.
Thus: Aim for 88 wins
Add to the foundation. Pick hitting or pitching and make a long term commitment. The window is 2024 and 2025 as that is how long Gallen and Kelly are under control.
For example, sign Bellinger (8/200 with an opt out in 3 years) and JD Martinez (2/30) and fill in the back of the rotation will fillers that might bounce back (Hin Jun Ryu, or Wade Miley if he is available), maybe sign Severino with an incentive laden contract and then hope it is enough to get a wild card spot.
Or go the pitching route, take a big gamble in free agency, go after Snell, or Yamamoto and see if Gray will settle for a 2 year contact, and resign Pham, and maybe Belt. That should get us close to 88 wins.
I would absolutely not trade top prospects for singular positions of need (even if Jose Ramirez was ‘available’ I would not trade Lawler, Jones, and others to get him) because he alone is not enough.
Unfortunately, I personally believe that Hazen gets outbid on everyone, because the baseball top end market is ridiculous (as witnesses last year) and there are a lot of wealthy owners that saw that money can buy a world championship.