To make way for the arrival of the team’s top prospect, the Diamondbacks have designated for assignment Nick Ahmed. This is quite a moment, because he was the longest serving player on the team, having made his debut for Arizona on June 29th, 2014. He is the only man to have appeared in ten different seasons as a Diamondback, surpassing the mark set by David Peralta and Miguel Montero. He ends at #5 on the franchise all-time list for games played, with 888. His overall batting line is nothing special: he hit .234/.288/.376 for a .664 OPS, which is an OPS+ of just 75.
That was not what Ahmed was about. As two Gold Gloves and a feature-length reel of defensive highlights show, it was his defense which kept him in the major leagues for a decade, and he hit just enough for that. He won’t be found on many of the Arizona leader-boards for the offensive categories. But when it comes to defensive WAR, he is the Diamondbacks’ all-time leader in the metric at 12.3 dWAR. Only one other player, Craig Counsell (10.8) has been worth more than half as much defensively for Arizona. That’s how good Ahmed was with the glove.
I imagine you would probably have got favorable odds against him becoming the longest tenured Diamondbacks, when he was dealt to the team in January 2013. He was part of the return from the Atlanta Braves in the Justin Upton deal, and though some of the other players involved had their moments (Randall Delgado and Brandon Drury), all of them were gone from here by the end of 2018. Nick was just getting going by that point, winning the first of his National League Gold Gloves at shortstop that year. After the second the following season, where Ahmed also had a 93 OPS+, his career best to that point, he and the team agreed to a four-year contract covering 2020-23, worth a total of $32.5 million.
However, it proved a poor decision to give a player approaching his 30th birthday a long-term deal like that. Though the first season was perfectly respectable, Nick being worth 1.6 bWAR over the 60-game shortened season, his production fell off a cliff thereafter. He lost almost all of the 2022 season to a shoulder injury that required surgery, and across the final three years of his contract, Ahmed averaged only 73 games per season, with an OPS+ of 65. He was paid a total of more than $26 million, but in that time was worth only marginally above replacement, at 0.4 bWAR. He couldn’t quite see out the contract, being let go earlier today, to open up a 40- and 26-man roster spot for shortstop Jordan Lawlar.
He might end up playing shortstop in Arizona for ten years himself. We’ll have to wait and see. It may be the end for Ahmed, and in a harsh way - most fans will probably be glad to see him go after a miserable season. But I’d rather remember some of the stellar defense he played over his ten seasons in Arizona, which was often beyond spectacular. Below you’ll find a compilation of some of those plays; I could easily have done two or three of these. So long, Nick, and thanks for all the web gems.