Last week I wrote about trading Miguel Montero. Trading him would mean the Diamondbacks are heading towards a complete rebuild. Starting over is painful; it takes time and patience. Understandably, pulling the trigger on a complete rebuild is not easy.

Many people, including me, believe the Diamondbacks could be a playoff team with better starting pitching. The starters are 13th in WAR in the National League. They’re also 13th in FIP. But exactly how much better would the starting pitching need to be? Let’s set out some parameters to answer that question.

I’m going to use a mix of the ZiPS preseason projections and actual performance to estimate the performance of the hitters and bullpen over the course of the season. To make the playoffs, a team needs to win about 90 games. A team of replacement-level players would win about 48 games. That means the roster needs to be worth 42 WAR. Now that we have a goal, let’s start with the position players.

Injuries have hurt the everyday lineup. I’m going to assume no starter gets hurt through the course of the season. The outfield was supposed to be worth eight wins. That sounds about right. David Peralta has been a pleasant surprise, but Parra and Ross have been bad. A.J. Pollock was great in 52 games, and Trumbo has been mediocre in a small sample size. As for the infield, ZiPS projected 11 wins. Paul Goldschmidt was supposed to be worth four wins. Well, he’s already surpassed that in 97 games. Let’s assume he’s worth six wins. Owings produced almost two wins in 72 games, so I feel comfortable projecting him at three wins. That’s nine between those two guys, and another four for Prado and Hill puts the infield at 13 WAR. The system projects three wins from the catcher spot, and I have no qualms about that. All together that’s 24 wins. Let’s assume two wins from the bench combined to put the total at 26 wins.

The bullpen was projected to be worth four wins. Let’s use that and put the win total at 30. Assuming everything goes according to plan, the starting pitching needs to generate twelve wins above replacement.

Let’s start with Wade Miley project him at two WAR. This is where it gets tricky. I’m assuming a healthy Patrick Corbin is worth three wins, which leaves three starting spots and seven wins left. Josh Collmenter, Chase Anderson, and Vidal Nuno cannot produce anything close to seven wins. Okay, so maybe Collmenter is worth a win or two. It’s possible Trevor Cahill figures it out and is worth a win or two. Or maybe Archie Bradley takes one of those two spots. Then, the Diamondbacks can shell out a $100M+ and snag one of the free agent 2015 top-line starting pitchers. Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and Justin Masterson could be free agents. Another option would be to add two pitchers worth two or three wins each. With those changes they’d reach the 90-win threshold.

Phew. I wouldn’t say the projections were too generous, but things never go according to plan. Injuries happen. Players under-perform. Players also get old. Martin Prado will be 31 next year. Montero just turned 31. Aaron Hill will be 33 next year. With all that being said, the Diamondbacks probably don’t have the money to pursue a front-line starter. They would have to add at least $20M per year to add one of the premier guys. Without that ace, they would be approximately an 86-win team.

Sometimes projections skew our perception of reality. In fact, the outfield has not been worth anything close to eight wins. The starting pitching has been even worse. There are no quick fixes here. The Diamondbacks are on pace to win 70 games. Reality is, they’re not close to competing.


6 Responses to Can Retooling Work?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Holy cow, I read the whole thing and thought about something else the whole time.

  2. Paulnh says:

    I don’t think this team is very far away from being a contender. Our offense is good enough, we just need our starting pitching to come around. Next year our rotation will be significantly better than it was this year and our record will show it. I think we will have a chance to compete next year, especially if we go out and sign a free agent starting pitcher. In complete reality though, I still see us coming up short next year, maybe with about 83-85 wins, but it will only go up from there. In my opinion, our best chance to win in 2016. We have lots of money coming off the books and young guys will be coming up and progressing. 2016 isn’t that far away and I think that we should play for that year, not particularly next year.

    I just want to see the front office make a decision, though. Obviously, we are sellers at this deadline (McCarthy and Thatcher), but I want to know when they think we can win. If they want to have a complete fire sale, I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with a quick retooling. I just want to know where the FO thinks we are going. I want to see moves made and things happen, I don’t want to see this team finish the year with the same roster it has now unless management thinks we can win next year. I want a new GM who makes a decision and sticks with the plan, because frankly, I don’t think Kevin Towers has a plan on when he thinks we can win.

  3. Chris Jackson says:

    Hi guys. Great read. Love you. #Hugs

  4. […] D-backs are aiming to contend in 2015. I don’t know that that will necessarily work; RG had some doubts, I touched on it Monday, and on Wednesday Jeff Wiser examined the question of whether the D-backs […]

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