Who else might the D-backs target this offseason? Spoiler alert: the answer may be “none of the above,” although the team could be in position to pick up an extra piece or two in February as they did with Oliver Perez last year. The jewels of what remains of the free agent class are still Max Scherzer and James Shields, but even as the theoretically more affordable of the two, Shields may have a five-year, $110M deal on the table, as Ken Rosenthal reported. Also in the same piece, Rosenthal reports that sources tell him the D-backs are among some clubs who “have backed off Shields due to the expected price.”
Shields may never really have been in the cards; the D-backs almost certainly explored trading Aaron Hill and Trevor Cahill before moving the as-yet not replaced Miguel Montero, and the front office probably feels as though it’s cut all of the salary it can reasonably cut from this roster. The signing of Yasmany Tomas, however, probably sealed the deal on the D-backs not snagging a top free agent starting pitcher. Mid-tier guys like Jake Peavy are also off the board, and as free agent starting pitchers go, only Brandon Beachy or Chad Billingsley look like possible fits.
The D-backs are an odd team, in that they’re not currently projected to do well at all despite not having any holes on the roster (with one exception). The D-backs have picked four men for the April starting rotation and have a healthy competition set up for the fifth spot. They have waves of starting pitchers due over the course of the season, either from the minors (Archie Bradley) or the DL (Patrick Corbin, Bronson Arroyo). They don’t need starting pitchers. They definitely don’t need relievers. They don’t need outfielders. They don’t need infielders. So if we talk about additional players the D-backs might acquire, we’re not really talking about an area of need, except that pesky catcher position.
But what about Dan Haren? Over the weekend, we learned that Haren has indeed asked for a trade after the unusual transaction that sent him from the Dodgers to the Marlins. Haren had one of a very few vesting options that actually vested in the 2014 season, and that must have been some big relief, as he wanted to stay in Southern California with his family (and Jeff Wiser, and a bunch of wild parrots that say “Kershaw” a lot). When Haren was then traded to the Marlins with Dee Gordon, the Dodgers sent the equivalent of his salary with him, but didn’t attach it to Haren actually playing (as in, Haren could retire, and the Marlins would keep the new money without having to pay Haren’s salary). But Haren would like to pitch another year, if possible, and the Dodgers are out, the Angels are now almost definitely out, and the Padres are supposedly set. Joe Frisaro reported that Haren requested he be sent to a team that plays “out West” and had spring training in Arizona. Well, don’t the D-backs fit his needs better than, say, the Mariners? In an offseason in which the D-backs front office has made a number of unrelated moves seemingly motivated by opportunity, a trade for Haren wouldn’t stick out as strange. The team hasn’t added anything for 2015 that it hasn’t also added for 2016 and 2017, so it’s probably not likely. Also complicating the leverage of a team like the D-backs is that Haren has pretty much declared that he won’t pitch for the Marlins. For that reason, we can expect that the Marlins won’t send any cash with Haren unless it’s to get a prospect, since they won’t be paying Haren either way.
So put Scherzer and Shields aside. Among the other 8 of MLBTR’s top 10 remaining free agents, only Colby Rasmus is even a theoretical fit for the roster, and even he is seemingly blocked. The only way Rasmus makes sense is if Mark Trumbo or David Peralta is moved, with Ender Inciarte still pushed to a fourth outfielder role. I expect that internally, the team acknowledges that a long-term outfield spot needs to be kept free for Tomas, for at least a while. Rasmus makes sense as a left-handed bat and if he were under team control somewhere for a reasonable salary (like he was last year), a Rasmus/Trumbo swap would make a ton of sense for the team (especially if it could extract some extra value due to the super sexiness of home runs). It was only a few weeks ago that Jeff and I believed that the D-backs were only partway through a greater plan (really cemented by the Wade Miley trade). Realistically, there’s only one month left now for maneuvering, and that alone might designate a Rasmus signing as extremely unlikely, what with it necessarily being a two-step process.
It’s catcher where the D-backs may be scrounging for some help. A lot of the trade or free agent possibilities identified by Jeff Wiser in the Montero trade writeup are still valid — and with respect to free agents specifically, there absolutely is a good chance that by February, one or more of Wil Nieves, Gerald Laird or John Baker could be had on minor league deals. Geovany Soto would cost more. And while I like J.P. Arencibia for his pop and his surprisingly good pitch framing (learned midseason in 2013), he’s probably in line for more than a minor league deal, and yet not promising enough for the D-backs to take a stab at signing him for a starting role. I like Jeff Mathis here as a fit for the D-backs. Going defense-only would be a bit of a swerve, but he’d help make this new group of pitchers look really good, and he might be able to help bring Oscar Hernandez along. Fingers crossed.
- Yet another truly excellent piece from Nick Piecoro, this time connecting the dots between the front office personnel who moved to the three active NL West teams (Padres, Dodgers, D-backs) and the players that those teams acquired. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what Mike Russell thinks about Robbie Ray? About how much De Jon Watson relied on his past experiences with Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa? Piecoro has some comments from Watson within, easily worth the price of admission. As to what he actually said, Watson is not alone in valuing makeup, and yeah it does seem like it’s undervalued. In a room populated by just Watson and some Boston people, though, Watson might be alone in considering makeup an asset for Webster.
- At Hardball Times, Chris Mitchell put together a system (called KATOH) for using minor league stats to project future major league value. I was curious about what it had to say about Jake Lamb, and it gives him a 20% chance of tallying at least 4 WAR total in the majors. That’s not that good, really, since that’s the equivalent of three mediocre seasons, but note that even though most minor leaguers in the list saw their percentage for other WAR tiers stay pretty sticky, Lamb’s was among the more sticky: a 17% chance of tallying at least 6 WAR, and a 16% chance of tallying at least 8 WAR. It even gives Lamb a 10% chance of at least 12 WAR. There’s a real chance that Lamb’s minor league BABIPs are an indication of a particularly precise hitting skill. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to find out if that’s true. Would playing Lamb full time for a year or two be worth it if he only had a 10% chance of being a pretty good player? Probably not. So it comes down to whether you believe the 10%. Total guess, but my cutoff might be in the 40% range for a team like the D-backs.
- Steve Gilbert has 10 questions about the 2015 Diamondbacks. What’s shocking about this is that there actually are (apparently) at least ten questions of this gravity. Take number 8, about injuries. Not only will the 2015 squad succeed or fail based on how Patrick Corbin and possibly Daniel Hudson returns (and the Eury de la Rosa trade puts some pressure on Matt Reynolds as well), but new injuries are part of what makes any season a crapshoot. A few key injuries, and the D-backs will definitely go nowhere. Is it the case that everyone needs to stay healthy for the D-backs to even dream about being a “sneaky” playoff contender? If so, I’ll go back to those Mandalay Bay 125-1 odds. But I’m not so sure. The team is very deep in the rotation, outfield and especially bullpen, and last year the team got much more production from one Mark Trumbo replacement (Ender Inciarte) than from Trumbo himself. If you didn’t have a high level of confidence in much of the rotation, I wouldn’t blame you. Are the replacements worse? This isn’t a brittle stars-and-scrubs team. This is a we-have-tons-of-scrubs-and-ours-are-better-than-yours team.
- At Venom Strikes, Joe Jacquez did a Hall of Fame poll, and the results were a little bizarre. I went back to this because I voted in a bunch of places this year, but when I saw the results here, I was taken aback: there were some odd names, but Randy Johnson was at just 50-something percent of the vote, with like 80 votes in. Pretty positive about that. In the real voting, if either Johnson or Pedro Martinez is named on less than 100% of the ballots, I’ll be a little disappointed. But I’m not really a HoF guy, anyway.
- Ah, memories: at Snake Pit, Jim McLennan breaks down the top 10 Snake Pit stories by traffic for 2014. What the heck, I’ll get in on this. The Inside the ‘Zona top 10 by traffic for 2014: a look back on the Upton trade (7,572), the alternate universe D-backs if we reversed all of Towers’s trades (5,560), the Gregorius trade piece (3,657), handicapping the race for Yasmany Tomas (2,981), our recent Offseason Plan (2,704), the Miley trade piece (2,637), the Tomas signing piece (2,287), ranking D-backs trade assets in June (2,191), the excellent piece by Jeff on how Towers prioritized player types over player quality (2,109), and RG’s prophet-like July piece explaining (and convincing me) why Montero should be traded (2,064). Huzzah!
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