Big Decisions Pt. 2 – Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks are a team I spent all year trying to figure out. To an extent I feel justified in my confusion about this squad, because of their up and down season. And to an extent, this team doesn’t actually have decisions to make (as the title of this article suggests), so much as it has decisions to execute.
The outfield is complicated again this offseason. They have already made a big move by dishing Chris Young to Oakland. Unfortunately all this trade brought them was rapidly eroding closer Heath Bell and offensive void Cliff Pennington (SS).
They will likely make another move very soon. For several years now Gerardo Parra has been a starting outfielder stuck on the bench. Last year Adam Eaton earned a call-up and played well enough to warrant full playing time in 2013. His hitting was above average (117 wRC+) and he held his own in centerfield. Meanwhile, Justin Upton had a disappointing year, but his talent is still widely hailed as elite (and deservedly so). GM Kevin Towers has been working hard to trade the 25 year old outfielder.
They attempted a three team trade that would have netted them shortstop Andrelton Simmons from the Braves. Upton would have gone to the Rangers, and top third-base prospect Mike Olt would have been the Braves’ reward. But the Braves balked at the deal. Previously the Rangers had not been willing to take Upton in exchange for either of their terrific young shortstops, Jurickson Profar, or Elvis Andrus. Which brings us to an aside:
What the are the Rangers doing?
The Rangers have an MVP candidate at third base in Adrian Beltre, and one of the top five shortstops in the game in Elvis Andrus, who is just 24 years old. But they also have the top MLB ready third base prospect and one of the most talented shortstop prospects in the game in power hitting Mike Olt and über athletic Jurickson Profar. On opening day Olt will be 24, and Profar will be 20.
At first glance this situation seems untenable. It seems they either need to trade the veteran or the rookie at each position. But of the two prospects only Olt is clearly MLB ready. A team as good as the Rangers can afford to wait until every wrinkle is ironed out of Profar’s game to bring him to the big leagues. Their unwillingness to deal Profar and their attempt to flip Olt suggests they will stick with the veterans, send Olt out for a star, and give Profar more time to develop.
And we’re back
To resume the Upton discussion: They will likely have to wait until free agents Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton and Justin’s brother B.J. are signed to find a suitor desperate enough to part with a prized piece.
As mentioned, the Diamondbacks have been trying to land a young shortstop, but have failed to acquire their preferred targets. Cliff Pennington, Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald do not add up to a starting shortstop. They do represent a bizarre depth at the utility spot, which could land them a reliever should they successfully trade for the shortstop they seek.
The 24 year old Ryan Wheeler is pushing for a shot at the opening day roster after 16 HR and 100 RBI between AAA and the Big Club last season. Chris Johnson played above average in 2012, but he is not a slick fielder and he’s 28 years old. He represents an upgrade to most teams, but the Diamondbacks have seemed eager to replace him. This is likely due to his low walk rate (5.9%), high strikeout rate (25%), and high BABIP (.354).
If I were Kevin Towers, Upton, Johnson and either Bloomquist or McDonald would not be on my roster come Opening Day. I do favor youth, due to the fact that it is cheap. And since this team didn’t prove a lot last season, I would rather save some dough and wait to see if I have the makings of something sustainable, before adding to it for 2014.
I personally think this is is what the Diamondbacks are doing. Besides, they have yet to play their biggest trade chip: A surplus of young pitching. Between Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer, the Snakes have a lot to dangle, and it seems likely the D-Backs will get what they want via the trade market this winter. It is really just a matter of the lengths they will have to go.