The Diamondbacks had one major need this winter and they’ve filled it about as adequately as possible. Yes, they could still use an impact reliever, but by and large, the work is done. Finding an impact reliever might be difficult-to-futile at this point considering the team probably knows full and well who is and who is not available at this point. Getting Andrew Miller from the Yankees probably isn’t going to happen and Daniel Robertson looked like a possibility but the White Sox apparently want to contend. The trade market is the same – the Rays could deal a guy or two but haven’t done so yet, which probably reflects their asking price. At this point, there is already a ton of useful relievers already in the fold and I’m not holding my breath on a big move for the bullpen.
Like the ‘pen, the team also already has it’s starting lineup in place for the most part. They’re mostly set across the board due in large part to the fine collection of position players in the fold. There’s a lot of reason to think the team will carry eight relievers, leaving only 12 position player spots – four on the bench. And if that’s the case, well, there are going to be some guys left out in the cold (a.k.a. sent to Reno or worse). The needs, as I currently see them, are:
- A backup catcher
- A fourth outfielder
- A backup corner infielder
- A backup middle infielder
Backup catchers are backup catchers – the bar isn’t exactly high here. But bringing something to the table would be nice, be it offense or defense (including pitch-framing). The fourth outfielder will probably play a relatively big role as it’s imperative to keep A.J. Pollock and David Peralta healthy and rested from time to time. An ability to spell Yasmany Tomas with some regularity might prove important, too, depending on how he shows himself in his sophomore campaign. Paul Goldschmidt will play first every day, but having a powerful corner infield bench option is never a bad thing. Since Goldy bats right and won’t ever be pinch hit for, this player might be best-served to be right-handed and hit for Jake Lamb on occasion (please don’t fire me, Ryan). The middle infielder should offer some kind of offense since Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings aren’t expected to light the world on fire. And since both can play shortstop, this player really just needs to be an average-hitting second baseman.
So what fits the bill? What are their current options? A quick glance at the 40-man roster gives us a list of candidates:
- Tuffy Gosewisch
- Chris Herrmann
- Oscar Hernandez
- Brandon Drury
- Phil Gosselin
- Aaron Hill
- Socrates Brito
- Gabby Guerrero
- Peter O’Brien
Oscar Hernandez is not ready and neither is Gabby Guerrero. They’re on the roster for protection only and eliminated from immediate contention. In the catching department, Tuffy Gosewisch and Chris Herrmann are the only two real options. Gosewisch is average defensively and is surely a better pitch-framer than Welington Castillo, which isn’t saying much. Herrmann is similar in the framing department as basically average. He does hit left-handed, but it’s nearly impossible to use your backup catcher as pinch hitter, meaning he only really makes sense as a platoon partner for Castillo. Considering his MLB track record as a paltry hitter, that’s not exactly a strong option. His ability in the outfield is pretty terrible even by Arizona’s standards, so playing him as a catcher makes the most sense. Really, it’s a decision to take Gosewisch’s known ability (he’s actually probably a better hitter than Herrmann by a very small margin) versus Herrmann’s perceived defensive flexibility and left-handedness. Then again, the team did trade Daniel Palka for Herrmann early in the offseason, so maybe they value him more highly. We’ll have to wait and see.
In the infield, Drury has long been a personal and fan favorite who showed he’s nearly ready late last season. He’ll carry that momentum into Spring Training where he’ll look to really make an impact and the Opening Day roster. You know the story – he’s capable at third and second where the defense probably plays a little better at third but the bat plays a little better at the keystone. Phil Gosselin isn’t a slouch, however. In 94 career plate appearances at the big league level, he’s shown that he can be a close-to-average hitter while being able to play short or third in a pinch. Owings would get the nod to back up Ahmed and Drury would get the nod to back up Lamb, but Gosselin can do it all in case of emergency. Aaron Hill is still hanging around and is pretty bad defensively at every position and doesn’t hit any more. If Arizona really wants to contend, they can’t keep giving him at-bats and semi-regular playing time to keep the veteran happy. He shouldn’t be considered at all unless there’s a Spring Training injury to Drury or Gosselin. Given that Lamb can play a little first base, there’s a way that Drury and Gosselin can make the roster, but it requires Hill to be traded or released. One of those two things probably happens in March.
The fourth outfield spot only has two internal candidates in Socrates Brito and Peter O’Brien. Brito is a right fielder by trade who’s played some center field in the minors and might be a touch better there than David Peralta, although not by much. If Pollock goes down, the team will need to find another option, which is why they may yet look to add a veteran who can back up center field, preferably a guy with options who can be sent down when Pollock would return. Then again, Evan Marzilli might already be that guy. O’Brien is basically Trumbo 2.0 and really shouldn’t be in the outfield, but that’s kind of where he’s settled after basically everything else failed. We know he can hit, we know he can slug and he makes for a tremendous bench option, but the limited defensive make him a tough play. If it weren’t for an iron-clad all-star at first base, he could slot in there, but Goldy will probably get less than 10 days off in 2016 so having a designated backup first baseman isn’t something to worry about. Brito is the defensively-viable upside play while O’Brien is the slugging backup play. We don’t really know which option the team will choose.
Also of major significance, the team does have to worry to some degree about making sure these young players get adequate playing time. Is it good for Drury or Brito or O’Brien to spend the majority of their days on the bench? Probably not, although I’m not sure much more than another half season at AAA does any them much good, either. Brito is probably the guy most in need of additional seasoning, yet he’s the best defensive option. O’Brien is probably the most ready to hit, but he’s the worst defensive option. Drury is somewhere in the middle. I can’t forecast which players can handle the rigors of pinch-hitting and starting once a week without having their development delayed, but I’m sure it’s something the team is considering carefully.
There are a lot of combinations here. You’ve probably figured that out. I’m not ready to project the bench because there will likely be a depth move or two executed and/or we’ll learn more as spring approaches. Shoot, they could settle on seven relievers and clear a lot of this up by adding another bench spot. It’s really too early to responsibly weigh in. I’ll let you decide for yourselves who you’d like to see at this point. Just keep in mind that there are needs and there options and not all of the options fit the needs. But somewhere in here there’s a combination that maximizes production. I’m just not quite ready to decide what that is yet although there are plenty of intriguing ways the Diamondbacks can go.
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