There are a few new faces with the Diamondbacks within the last week; Cody Ross is back from the 15-day DL, and Daniel Hudson in on the roster and ready to take the mound again for the first time in over two years. But there was another curious development: a successful waiver claim that brought Nolan Reimold to Arizona from Toronto.

Once upon a time, Reimold looked like a promising major leaguer, maybe even an above-average one. 30 years old now, Reimold was a little on the old side when he made his debut with the Orioles in 2009. With 15 bombs and a respectable .279 average, he was good for 1 win above replacement in just 411 plate appearances despite some questionable contributions on defense. But the wheels quickly came off, as Reimold was shut down before the end of the 2009 season with fraying in his left Achilles tendon.

After opening the 2010 season with the Orioles, Reimold was sent down to Triple-A that year in May to learn first base. He returned in September 2010, but only after putting up stat line at Triple-A that was merely decent (107 wRC+). Reimold also spent time in Triple-A in 2011 despite a decent half-season in the majors, but the real story became injuries: neck spasms, hamstring issues, and finally a herniated disc in his neck that caused weakness and numbness in his left thumb, arm and shoulder.

Between the beginning of 2012 through this morning, Reimold has played in just 81 games with only 278 plate appearances (and an additional 120 PA in Double-A). And it’s not like he was ever Josh Hamilton; based on his track record, the best case scenario for Reimold is a 2-win left fielder. He’d probably be better with an AL team, as his defense is bad enough in left field to be a liability.

My first reaction to the Reimold news was not favorable, because I had just had a “here we go again” feeling in the wake of the Brett Jackson trade less than two weeks earlier. But Reimold was acquired for free, and at least to the extent of a September look, the D-backs don’t have anything to lose. With one year of arbitration left, Reimold came into the clubhouse with a big “non-tender candidate” sign on his forehead. But as we saw last week when we looked at call-up candidates for the expanded roster, the outfield could be one of the more crunched parts of the roster, at least once A.J. Pollock returns. In deference to Reimold, the D-backs could simply not call up Roger Kieschnick, but giving him plate appearances means not giving them to someone else, like Cody Ross.

So let’s temper expectations for Reimold. He’s hit as many home runs for the D-backs as Mark Trumbo since Trumbo’s return in July, but Reimold is essentially the same player with less power. He’s a professional hitter, maybe an above-average one, but not an above-average player overall. And, for what it’s worth, Reimold never did end up playing any first base in the majors.

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend — on to the links!

  • Steve Gilbert published an excellent Q&A with Kevin Towers last week, focusing mostly on the tour of the minors that Towers had just completed. If this is not your first time at this site, you probably know how much I love young bullpens — so I’m thrilled to hear that Towers came away with the thought that “[b]ullpen arms stood out the most.” Here’s hoping that we never see a Heath Bell or J.J. Putz contract ever again — not just because they were money pits, but because having the chance to let relievers get fixed in the minors on an option is worth something (as with David Hernandez this time last year). Interesting note from Towers that they could use a six-man rotation with Andrew Chafin or Randall Delgado — I’d personally like to see Chafin transition to relief, but as we saw last week, it’s not like he’s running up against an innings threshold. Also from the piece, a bit more of an explanation from Towers about how Aaron Hill may get some time at third base. I like that Towers is thinking about flexibility, because it means he’s open to the idea of alternative time shares, like having Hill, Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, and Jake Lamb share three spots. Change approved.
  • Seeing Daniel Hudson pitch again will be one of the best highlights of the 2014 season, and with Hudson reinstated from the 60-day DL, all he’s waiting for is an opportunity, which could come as soon as tonight. Who knows what the future holds for Hudson. Nick Piecoro put it perfectly in this piece when he said: “In a perfect world, he could start next season working out of the bullpen before ultimately transitioning back to being a starter.” It’s entirely possible that Hudson will seem too valuable to the D-backs as a reliever to risk that transition, either in spring training or at some point during the 2015 season. Hudson topped 100 MLB innings in a season just once, in his 222 inning 2011; but before the first Tommy John in 2012, he had actually pitched about as much as an MLB starter in 2009 (166) and 2010 (188.2). Really excited to see how Hudson looks and fares.
  • How about the Other Guy, Cody Ross? Couldn’t be rooting any harder for Ross, but I’m not sure what September is going to do for him. Trumbo is temporarily out of the way at first base, but that still leaves a September outfield of Reimold, Pollock, David Peralta and Ender Inciarte, and not many chances for Ross. I do see him breaking camp with the team next year, but possibly as a bench bat. Trumbo will never get moved to right field on odd days for the hell of it, and Pollock will play in center every day that he plays. That means Ross could have a role to play in right field, what with both other candidates (Inciarte and Peralta) being lefties. And as the last two seasons have re-taught us, bad things happen. Subtract one or two of those outfielders, and Ross could suddenly matter quite a bit. We might get more information out of spring training than out of this month, however; as noted in this Nick Piecoro piece, Ross’s offseason work last year was focused on rehabbing his injury, and not necessarily on baseball skills.
  • I spend most of the time mildly annoyed with GM Kevin Towers, but occasionally he does something great. Occasionally, he says or does something terrible. As noted in yet another Nick Piecoro piece, Towers is now on the hunt for an on-base percentage guy. This is a good thing, but it’s just so frustrating. Adam Eaton has a .378 OBP in his first full season in the majors, good for thirteenth in all of baseball. And it would be more frustrating still if Towers replaced the wrong guy with a questionable free agent. As I argued about ten days ago, it’d be nice to see a Trumbo/Inciarte platoon in left field. But even if that doesn’t happen, there are three guys likely to be starters — Trumbo, Pollock and Peralta — and a fourth who is so excellent on defense that he’s still an above-average outfielder despite a 80 wRC+. Ender Inciarte is now up to 2.2 WAR in just over a half-season of playing time. And given that he went from a horrendous -4 wRC+ in his first month to being solidly above average in August (118 wRC+)… shouldn’t we see what Inciarte can do with more playing time? It’s hard to have a .358 OBP by accident, as Inciarte did in August. If his true talent level is more like August than May, Inciarte could be better than most players who might replace him.
  • Alex Gordon‘s rise to the top of the WAR leaderboard has caused a bit of a stir because so much of his value appears to come from defense in left field, where defense is, maybe, hard to come by. Check out this piece by Jeff Zimmerman at FanGraphs. The problem, I think, is that while left field has historically been a place to dump bad fielders, that doesn’t mean teams should have done that. Defensive statistics give credit to a fielder for being above average or below average. Why exactly should Gordon get extra credit not so much for being a great fielder, but for being a great fielder at a position where “average” is so mediocre? There is a positional adjustment built into WAR, with corner outfielders, first basemen and DHs bearing the brunt. But if the average left fielder is really bad, that just leaves a lot of room for there to be a great discrepancy between a great fielder and average. We saw this last season with Gerardo Parra to some extent, although what is “average” in right field is quite a bit better than what’s average in left. Why am I going into this? It’s because just as Gordon’s greatness isn’t greater because of the low bar in left, Mark Trumbo’s failures in left aren’t any less harmful because of that low bar. There is such an obscene difference between Inciarte’s defense and Trumbo’s that the real but not amazing difference in offensive production between the two players shouldn’t be the driving factor. And with Trumbo featuring a hefty platoon split… well, to me a platoon between Trumbo and Inciarte seems obvious, and I’d like to hear some reasonable counterarguments.
  • Robert Arthur of Baseball Prospectus goes even further on the impact of defense on WAR in the wake of the Gordon debate. I’m frequently awed by Arthur’s work, and this was no exception. Arthur used a model to see at what weighting did defense best explain pitching statistics; although the premise was that we might need to regress defensive statistics due to their lack of reliability, Arthur found that with both WARP (from BP) and fWAR (from FanGraphs), the optimal weighting for defensive statistics was that they be emphasized more. Arthur thinks that defensive statistics are weighted just fine, and that the problems arise with individuals. That makes sense to me, especially given that so many games breed outliers, but I also wonder if defense being weighted appropriately overall need not mean that it’s being weighted properly at specific positions. I wrote about six months ago that teams were starting to treat right field as a skill position, but that has not been the case with left field (which gets the same positional adjustment). If teams have not distributed playing time in left field optimally, we might have an explanation for what seems so haywire with Alex Gordon’s numbers.
  • This was more frivolous than anything, but last week I totaled up negative-WAR position player performances for every team just to see what the results were (and see if there was any meaning to be found after doing it). Some of the teams that fared the best are also the teams that have seemed to be lucky this season; at the bottom were teams that were bad, worse than expected, or simply biding time, like the D-backs have been for most of this season. Take it with a grain of salt. I think it’s possible that some teams gain an advantage from pulling the plug quickly (something that teams generally don’t do with well-paid relievers, for example), but that “study” isn’t proof of same.
  • From this interview of CEO Derrick Hall with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on Power Alley (SiriusXM), it’s clear that no final decisions have been made on the futures of Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers. But it’s also clear (“go into the offseason”) that decisions could be made before the end of this month. The offseason won’t get hot and heavy for the D-backs until late November, but if Hall, La Russa and Kendrick would like to put a new team in place (and if that new team doesn’t come from within), it’s going to take some time to put that together. Stay tuned, sports fans.

One other thought: poor Tuffy Gosewisch, who was part of dress-up day not only this year:

But last year, too:

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