It’s early in the process of free agency. So early, in fact, that nothing concrete can really be done yet as the playoffs haven’t even started. Speculation is always in season, however, and now’s just as good a time as any to discuss who the Diamondbacks might pursue in free agency this winter.

Now, I’m not a fan of throwing darts at a dartboard as a means of starting a discussion. By that I mean that I don’t think it’s productive to just start throwing names around. Instead, it’s best to start with what we do know, move to what we probably know, then finish with what we don’t know and ultimately make the best projections possible. It’s probably most useful to simply get the facts and unknowns on the table rather than establish deep feelings for who the team should attempt to sign, but I’ll toss a few names around just for kicks because it is kinda fun to dream, right?

What We Know
  • The payroll will come down in 2015, probably around $100 million, according to a recent report from Zach Buchanan at AZ Central. After arbitration raises, the team is slated to be somewhere in the $78-80 million range, meaning they should have safely $20 million to spend.
  • Several roster spots are already filled and aren’t up for discussion. First base, center field, and catcher are the most obvious for position players. Wade Miley’s spot in the rotation is safe, as is Addison Reed’s closer role, as well as Brad Ziegler (when he’s healthy) and Oliver Perez’s spots in the back of the bullpen.
  • A couple players will miss part or all of the season. Bronson Arroyo will not pitch in 2015 in all likelihood, and Patrick Corbin will miss the first few months of the season.
What We Probably Know
What We Don’t Know
  • Can the team open up additional spending by trading Trevor Cahill, Cody Ross and/or Aaron Hill? If that were the case, assuming Arizona ate no money but received poor prospect packages in return, they could free up as much as $33.7 million extra dollars in 2015, not to mention $13.3 million in 2016 commitments. Moving all of that money off the books is unlikely, but they may be able to ditch some portion, although we have no idea how much or how motivated the team is to make those moves in the first place.
  • Will Josh Collmenter be a reliever or starter in 2015? We have no idea, although the answer probably largely depends on what is done on the free agent market.
  • Will the team still run Mark Trumbo out in left field after the metrics and eye test have confirmed what we said at the outset: he’s more than a liability in the outfield, he’s a detriment. Does the team intend to repeat this black hole of an experiment? Will they trade him or minimize the issue by platoon?
  • Most importantly, when does this team expect to compete? Are they going to try to go big in the short term (again) at the expense of the future, or do they acknowledge that they’re a few years out and try to position themselves for 2016 and beyond? That’s likely something that will be decided once a new GM is hired, although I’m sure Tony La Russa and company already have an idea in mind.

Ok, so that was a brief list and I’m sure there’s more that we could add to each category, but for now, that’ll do. It leaves us with a couple of ideas: there’s room to add to the rotation (especially if Cahill goes), there’s almost no room to add to the infield except at third (if you trade Hill), there’s only room to add to the outfield if the team moves other pieces (Ross, maybe Trumbo) and the bullpen is in adequate shape (but a cheap upgrade might be alright, although it’s crowded in the ‘pen). So our list of needs, in order of importance, might just be:

  • Starting pitching
  • Outfield
  • Third base
  • Bench bat w/ utility options
  • Bullpen help
  • Backup catcher

So now things start to take shape, but again, we don’t know the budget for sure until the team establishes its ability to dump poor assets like Ross, and to a lesser extent, Cahill and Hill. If one of those guys get moved, that’s a big win. Two and it’s huge. Three? Well, that’s not happening so don’t get carried away. If we had to guess who’s most likely to get moved, we might end up with something like:

  1. Cody Ross
  2. Trevor Cahill
  3. Aaron Hill

Hill is the most desirable, but also the most productive. He may be part of a four-way time-share for three infield spots with Gregorius, Owings and Jake Lamb. Cahill has been effective at times and given the lack of stability in the current Diamondbacks rotation, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the team give him one more shot. He’s already on the roster and finding a taker may not materialize, so worst case scenario, Arizona can hope to turn him into a useful piece before his deal expires at season’s end. Ross just doesn’t make a lot of sense for a National League team. He could be more desirable to an American League club that splits his AB’s as part of a larger platoon situation and can shield his outfield innings by giving him DH time. He’s also the cheapest of the Diamondbacks’ aging spare parts.

If any of these guys go, the team’s needs change somewhat. If Aaron Hill goes, they’ll need some insurance at third base as Jake Lamb probably isn’t quite ready to take that over full time. Should Cahill move, Arizona will need starting pitching even more than it already does and removes a potentially useful bullpen piece, although that’s already a crowded situation. If Ross is dealt, the team opens a hole in the outfield, although not one of the starting caliber. Instead, it opens some bench space and needed outfield depth.

Well, we’re over 1000 words in now and we haven’t mentioned any targets on the free agent market, so before I leave you, I’ll provide some options keeping their potential fit with the team in mind (taking cost/age into account). You can find the complete list of 2015 free agents here.

Starting Pitcher
  • James Shields – the marquee name the team may actually have a shot at, although they’ll have to overpay to do it, which might just be okay.
  • Yovani Gallardo – maybe the Brewers decline his $13 million option. More okay than good, but durable.
  • Jason Hammel – he’ll be affordable and solid, although he’s had some struggles since moving over to Oakland from Chicago.
  • Francisco Liriano – the stuff is still pretty darn good and he can be effective. At 31, there’s still tread on the tires.
  • Justin Masterson – he’s struggled, but his groundball ways have to be enticing in a park like Chase. Can someone fix this guy?
  • Brandon McCarthy – just kidding, but really…
  • Ervin Santana – another durable hurler who can still run it up there, although the results have slipped this season.
  • Yosmani Tomas – big upside, Arizona might just be in the perfect spot to land him.
  • Melky Cabrera – will receive a qualifying offer from Toronto, but the D-backs’ first round pick is protected, so he makes some sense.
  • Nick Markakis – his option will get declined and he’s not the player he once was. The power has dried up, although he can still hit some.
  • Alex Rios – a little old for my taste, but can still hit and should age relatively well. Won’t require a long contract, but can Arizona get him for only two years?
Third Base
  • Pablo Sandoval – one of the biggest fish on the market, the D-backs could ditch hill and block Lamb by acquiring one of the best third basemen in the game. That said, he’ll cost a pretty penny, and how does that body age?
  • Chase Headley – he’s not sexy, but he’s solid and should come cheaper than the Panda.
  • Mark Reynolds – could be reunited with the D-backs on a short deal, keeping the way clear for Lamb/Drury in the future.
Bench Bat
  • Too many options to list
  • Luke Gregerson – consistently good, but not really necessary.
  • Pat Neshek – had a stunning first half, a poor second half. He’s funky as all get-up.
  • Craig Breslow – buy-low opportunity on a normally dependable lefty.
Back-up Catcher

While I feel like all free agent speculation is kind of equivalent to conspiracy theories, there are some names here that make sense. I don’t want to get into that too much right now and will instead tease the reader by letting you know that our annual Offseason Plan is slated for release next month and already in the works. But while perusing free agent names, please do me this favor: keep the budget in mind. A guy like Shields takes up the team’s entire spending budget. Arizona can free up some cash, but until they do, more mid-to-low priced options are probably most likely. In short, it’s okay to daydream, just don’t get carried away as this may not be the most exciting offseason in terms of free agents. Then again, players could be moved and the team could be big spenders.

Did I mention it’s too early for anything concrete?

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12 Responses to D-backs Have Free Agent Options, Limited Flexibility in 2015

  1. Mark says:

    I didn’t even see Edgar Inciarte mentioned… I think he has moved ahead of Peralta in regards to Next Year…

  2. Truxton says:

    The 2015 Dbacks need to get rid of Cahill even if they must eat his $7 million contract. He is incompetent. Trumbo is positionless and has proven his power infrequently making him trade material at any price. Ross has not recovered from and it appears he never will recover from his injury requiring a trade at whatever the market price happens to be. Hill is a quality player but his offensive production is 40 points too low and his home runs 15 too few to warrant his $11 million salary making him a trade candidate. This next idea is the one many fans and media types will attack, Montero. His $10 million per year is outrageous. A few unattributed souls have postulated that his pitch calling, his pitch sequencing, and his pitch locating are contributory factors to the poor performance of the pitching staff. I agree. This staff has given up too many home runs at critical times during a game. This staff consistently pitches behind in the count. Too few opposing at bats begin with first strikes. Why? Are all of the pitching staff that bad or could it be the tactical approach is flawed? Not all of this is attributable to Montero but some of it must be. His offensive production could carry him if his average was 20 points higher or his home runs increased by 15 or more. However, he is inconsistent at the plate and his production too low. By trading him Gosewisch can play regularly. The $9 million dollars of savings with Montero being replaced will go a long way toward securing front line pitching. In addition, Pacheco is roster listed as backup first baseman and backup catcher. What is he best at, catching or playing first base? If it is catching the backup slot is filled, with a low price option. With Owings, Gregorious, Lamb, Pennington, and Goldschmidt the infield seems set. The outfield has a starting 3 if Peralta is healthy, with Pollock in center, Peralta in right, and Inciarte in left. Marte or Jackson can backup the outfielders. THE real problem area, the pitching staff, needs the most attention in order to correct the runs scored against and home runs given up problems. Retain Collmenter as your long reliever. Put everbody else on notice. Miley, Anderson, Nunos, and Perez have potential to stick. However, based on this year’s performance Marshall, Stites, Bolsinger, and Delgado seem like trade candidates. Check out the injured returnees Hernandez, Hudson, Corbin, Ziegler, and Arroyo. Trade them when and if possible. Damaged goods will break in the future. It is the certainty that this will occur and the uncertainty of when it will happen that forces such action. This strategy assumes risk by trusting the scouting department’s recommendations of young and less experienced players having undamaged arms over the already damaged pitchers. It also saves millions in salary by ridding more expensive salaries and taking on lower paid talent. The key here is to acquire good talent that is willing to work hard and accept training. (A negative case in point was Trevor Bauer who turned out to be a prima donna who ate up time and resources while creating clubhouse discomfort. That is a risk.) Free agent acquisitions are inferior to new hires because they are more expensive than new hires and free agents have some reason for moving. Whatever that reason is discontent has a tendency to recur. The issue may change but why deal with it? Better to hunt for talent through the scouts’ travels and to take in trade, scout approved newbies. Cost containment is a factor and scout input can be graded pick to pick. Over time the really exceptional talent spotters will out and can be bonus paid accordingly. A final note, keeping Reed is not an option. For anyone who has played this sport one of the worst feelings in the world is to have competed full out, have the game ready to be finished, and to have a consistently untrustworthy closer lose the game the entire team has struggled to win. Look at the innings pitched and the hits given up by him. Now look at the walks. Now look at the home runs. This player can not be counted on to shut down an opposing team. Those statistics prove it. Yet that is a closer’s job. Find someone else.

  3. Robbie Massey says:

    Umm Arroyo already said he will be back in July from TJ. Also where is Inciarte in the mix for OF?

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Two months of Arroyo, as he recovers, isn’t much of anything. Also, I’m not taking his word for his recovery, although he should fall in that window for a return. I’ll let the doctors weigh in here, but the point is that the team shouldn’t count on any kind of real contribution from him next year.

      Inciarte should have been included, but I did an entire piece on him just prior to this article and failed to link it. You can read that piece here:

  4. Joe says:

    Tuffy is a good backup and your catchers don’t need to hit .300+ and he certainly calls a better game than Montero. There is no reason to go after another outfielder – Inciarte (LF), Pollock (CF) and Peralta (RF) and keeping Ross as your fourth outfielder isn’t terrible option. Jake Lamb will come around but he is never going to if he doesn’t play everyday. When did everyone begin drinking the platoon kool-aid?

  5. Howard Beale says:

    Do some research next time. It’s like you got all your information from espn. No mention of Inciarte…GTFO

  6. Prose says:

    good luck moving either hill (Aaron or Cahill). let’s not kid ourselves, the Snakes will most likely deal 2 shortstops (prob Didi and Pennington) plus eat some money to clear Ross and hopefully being a young arm or two back.

    2015 will be a transition year moving toward the young rotation and young players like Owings, Peralta, Lamb, and Pollock. Stay the course, TLR.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Right, it’s going to be terribly difficult to move either of those two, but it should be a priority nonetheless. They can also throw in an additional C-level prospect to help make the deal if need be.

      2015 should be a transition year, but will the club actually use it that way? I’m not sure. Ownership and management has been gun-shy of the retooling process even though the writing has been on the wall. I’ts going to have to happen and with the MiLB talent that the team has, 2015 should be the year to begin the transition.

      Moving any of Ross, Cahill and/or Hill would be a good start, albeit a difficult one.

  7. […] however, makes the lower end of that range seem highly unlikely. Two weeks ago, Jeff looked at how the limited payroll would limit Arizona’s flexibility as it looks to make upgrades this offseason. To help with future analysis, let’s look […]

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