While Gabriel Moreno was, rightfully, the centerpiece of the trade with the Blue Jays for Daulton Varsho, outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was a nice supplementary piece for the D-backs this year. Gurriel hit .261 with 24 home-runs and 82 RBI - only Christian Walker drove in more for Arizona this season - and was worth 3.0 bWAR. Lourdes was chosen to appear in the All-Star Game, alongside Zac Gallen and Corbin Carroll, on the strength of a particularly good May, batting. 352 with eight home-runs and a 1.130 OPS. The power was especially notable, since Lourdes had just five HR in all of 2022 - that may have been due to a hand injury.
He followed that up with a solid post-season, batting .273 with three homers and 11 RBI, only Moreno surpassing the latter number. His defense also proved better than expected. He had always been in the bottom 30% of players by Statcast's Outs Above Average metric. But he showed a marked improvement in 2023, whether due to Dave McKay or something else, Gurriel's OAA jumping to the 75th percentile. His departure in free agency is one of the reasons Arizona had been looking to add a right-handed bat to the line-up. Of the six men to play 120+ times in the regular season for Arizona, only Walker and Gurriel were pure righties, so his return helps plug the gap.
With Lourdes re-signed, the big question remaining to be answered is, will the team also look to add another bat, most likely for a role as designated hitter? They have been linked there to various names including former D-back J.D. Martinez - likely the player most fans want to see them add - and Jorge Solar. Though a factor is likely going to be, how far the 2024 salary bill will be expanded. At the time of writing, we don't yet know a detailed breakdown of the Gurriel contract, in terms of what it will add next year. It’s possible it could end up being more backloaded like the Rodriguez signing, where the pitcher is getting a lower amount ($14 million) in 2024.
But our Pope of Payroll, Jack Sommers currently has the price-tag at $141m or thereabouts. While now the highest in franchise history (not allowing for inflation), it is getting close to the $150 million generally perceived as the likely upper limit for 2024. If that is the case - though we genuinely do not know - then a big-ticket DH signing would appear to be off the table. MLB Trade Rumors projects Solar to a three year, $45 million contract, and Martinez at two years and $40 million. Either would likely push Arizona well past even the most optimistic projection. In terms of free agency, I suspect Mike Hazen may pivot the remaining cash towards, say, a backup catcher and an additional bullpen arm.
However, it is worth noting that the team has managed to fix most of the most pressing and obvious gaps, while retaining their prospect capital. They had to give up hardly anything for Eugenio Suarez from Seattle, while both Eduardo Rodriguez and Gurriel were straight free-agency pickups. If Hazen is so inclined, then he still has the ability to negotiate a trade for an under contract player - as Jack noted, perhaps a first-year arbitration one, who would come with additional years of control beyond 2024. It does appear that the existing pieces are in place for the next few seasons to be a window of opportunity for Arizona, even if it looks likely they will be chasing the Dodgers.
Still, for now, given the current players, it seem that Gurriel will once again be expected to be the everyday starter in left field, with Alek Thomas in center and Carroll as right fielder. Jake McCarthy now would seem to occupy a role as Arizona’s fourth outfielder, spelling any of the others as necessary. The DH position will again end up being a revolving door, used as much to give regulars a bit of a break. This year, Gurriel appeared in 50 games there, more than anyone else, but there will be a lot of slots to fill. Of the next four by designated hitter appearances, only Pavin Smith is still on the team, with Evan Longoria, Tommy Pham and Kyle Lewis all having departed. No-one else was in double figures.
Presuming we have a 13/13 split between position players and pitchers on the roster, here’s who I think would be the thirteen at this point.
- Corbin Carroll, RF
- Ketel Marte, 2B
- Lourdes Gurriell Jr, DH
- Christian Walker, 1B
- Gabriel Moreno, C
- Eugenio Suarez, 3B
- Alek Thomas, CF
- Jake McCarthy, LF
- Geraldo Perdomo, SS
+ Jose Herrera, Jordan Lawlar, two of Emmanuel Rivera, Jace Peterson and Pavin Smith
How the back end of the bench shakes down remains to be seen, along with how the front office views the players concerned. I was singularly unimpressed with Peterson, but maybe it’s just me. It’s also possible the team might prefer Lawlar to play every day in the minors than get less playing-time in the majors. Not that he has anything to prove down there, but riding the pine in the majors won’t help. Though if he’s not on the Opening Day roster, I don’t believe the team would be eligible for the bonus draft pick they got from Corbin Carroll this year. It’s likely Lawlar will take over from Perdomo on an everyday basis at some point, though would not want to bet on exactly when it will take place.
Beyond that, maybe the team would want to carry an extra outfielder, with Dominic Fletcher the most obvious candidate, I’m also curious if Carroll will continue to bat laad-off, or if they team will seek to have him drive in more runs, by batting him lower in the order. All told, it feels like the team as currently constructed is likely going to be a little better on offense, having basically replaced Pham and Longoria with Suarez, plus expected improvement from the younger side of the roster. There’s also the possibility of a breakout season from Lawlar, which would be nice. Adding more at this point feels like a bonus rather than a necessity.
Now might also be a good time to pick up a Gurriel T-shirt, since he’s going to be here for a while...