The Diamondbacks have five outfielders on their active roster. Gerardo Parra, Mark Trumbo, and Cody Ross have all spent time as starting outfielders. Rookies Ender Inciarte and David Peralta are looking to establish themselves are legitimate major-league players. A month ago I wrote about the effects of the injuries to the outfield. Now, the rookies have played well enough to create a dilemma. Since only three guys can start on any given night, tough decisions must be made. In determining the best possible combination, there are multiple factors to consider.

The D-backs’ motives for the rest of the season should be to save money and to develop young players. They’re unlikely to make the playoffs, so winning is not important. The team is looking to the future, so seeing what assets they have is crucial. For example, if they can determine that David Peralta is a quality starting outfielder, they need one less outfielder for the future. As a mid-market team, it’s important to save money as well.

All that being said, there are a few possibilities that can address these objectives.

Plan A (Developmental):

If the primary goal was to learn more about the rookies, the optimal lineup would probably be Mark Trumbo in left, Ender Inciarte in center, and David Peralta in right. As Ryan wrote last week, Peralta has shown promise. He has shown a major-league caliber bat, and has all the tools to be an elite defender. As a former pitcher, he has enough arm strength to play right field. The organization seems to think he can play center field too. There are plenty of unanswered questions, which is why it would be so beneficial to let David Peralta play out the year in the majors.

Ender Inciarte is in a similar situation. Despite a horrendous 41 wRC+, Ender has been worth 0.5 WAR in 54 games. His defense has been outstanding in center field, so it’s really worth seeing if he can figure it out offensively. Unlike with Peralta, that doesn’t seem likely. He seems best suited for a bench role, but extra time would let our suspicions be confirmed.

Mark Trumbo seems destined to fill an outfield role down the stretch. Parra and Ross have been substandard, so this seems like the logical play. Towers gave up multiple pieces to acquire Trumbo in the offseason, and would be unlikely to agree to Trumbo’s benching. The logic for playing Trumbo is less related to baseball and more related to the General Manager’s pride. It’s possible Trumbo would help sell more tickets too.

Plan B (Cutting Costs):

If the primary goal was to save money, the optimal lineup would be Trumbo in left, Parra in center, and Ross in right. This would probably be a painful bunch to watch. Parra and Ross have combined for -1.7 WAR this year. Trumbo strikes out often and is a poor defender. Essentially, this would be a tryout for the other teams in the league. Ross is due around $11 million for this year and next, so trading him could save lots of money. There’s no way any team takes on the rest of his salary in a trade, but if Ross can play better in the forthcoming weeks, a team may take on a small portion of it. He could even be traded after the deadline because he’d certainly clear waivers. He’s been so bad after the hip injury that any trade seems unlikely. It might be best to hold onto him and hope the hip strengthens in the offseason.

Parra would be an asset to a team seeking outfield defense and left-handed hitting. He has one more year of arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2016, so he wouldn’t be a rental either. He could potentially be a contributor on a playoff team.

Plan C (Balanced):

An outfield of Trumbo, Peralta, and Ross would balance out the D-backs’ interests. Ross would get the opportunity to prove his worth, and Peralta would develop his skill. Starting Inciarte over Trumbo would be more educational, but, again, I don’t see Trumbo being benched.

This seems like a solid plan until you consider that A.J. Pollock will return from injury in early August. He’ll almost certainly play center, moving Peralta to one of the corners. At this point, all I can tell you is this: someone is going to be unhappy about their playing time.

4 Responses to With the Season Lost, How Should the D-backs Align Their Outfield?

  1. Chris Niels Sieler says:

    I have enjoyed watching the Outfield of Peralta in Left, Incirate in Center.
    The Veterans to me are not worth what we are paying for them period.
    Trumbo, Ross and Parra are being way overpaid.

    I like the Outfield of Peralta in Left, Pollock in Center, And Incirate in right. I love the thought Of these young guys getting better. I would bat Incirate lead off, Pollock 2nd, Goldy 3rd, ( And Watch his RBI numbers rise) and Peralta 4th. I like Montero because he just try’s to do his job every night. He has done the job batting forth but I would love to let Miggy get a break because after Goldschmidt he is a keeper.
    Anyway I enjoy your website. keep the great analysis coming.

  2. HowardNeal says:

    Great job laying out the options! If I had to choose one, I’d prefer the “Plan B (cutting costs)” option…

    I think you have to play match-ups for the rest of the season, to some extent, while also trying to increase the value of the players you may wish to get rid of. I’d prefer the designation of Cody Ross, but I can’t see the front office allowing this to happen at this time.

    Overall, I’m exceedingly curious to see how much salary the front office is willing to eat in order to get any kind of trade return… or merely free themselves of unwanted contracts.

    Even though we already know what we have in Trumbo, he gets the majority of the starts in left field for the remainder of the season, in order to enhance/regain his trade value by proving his health. Ideally that’ll give the team some trading leverage in the off-season; if trading him is the route they decide to take.

    The next question should be … is Trumbo someone LaRussa would want to keep on board?

    Maybe yes (see also Matt Holiday, a far better hitter, but a somewhat deficient defender a well).

    In any case, I see Peralta starting in left field once or twice a week going forward and Gibson using Inciarte as Trumbo’s defensive caddy/replacement, if and when the score dictates.

    Pollock is the starter in center when he comes back, but in the meantime, you rotate Inciarte and Peralta, giving a majority of the starts to Peralta there. Is Peralta a center fielder going forward? Probably not. But I don’t see the team playing Parra in center either… apparent loss of foot speed and/or defensive prowess (according to the numbers) on the wane… not sure how the team sees it, but the team’s actions speak for themselves.

    In right field, Parra sits versus all left-handed starters going forward. Cody Ross would be the primary platoon partner here, with Peralta match up occasionally.

    I believe Ross is a sunk cost, perhaps being able to hit well enough as a platoon DH next year on a non-contending AL team at league minimum (clearly, we pay the rest of his remaining salary).

    When Pollock comes back, one of Ross or Inciarte has to go. I think this decision will be a key indicator in regards to the team’s future path. And while I do think Inciarte I a useful piece, I really don’t think he’s anything more than a future fourth outfielder.

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  4. Tom Lynch says:

    I could see Parra being expendable and the outfield in 2015 be Trumbo, Pollock and Peralta from left to right. Inciarte would be a nice fourth outfielder with some speed and defense.

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