We have fun with the Offseason Plan, but we do try to take the project seriously — in November, we hashed out our offseason priorities and then tried to examine each of the other 29 organizations through that lens. As we were trying to turn goals and fits into actual transactions, things kept happening — the Taijuan Walker trade was pulled off toward the beginning of the process, but the Welington Castillo non-tender and Jeff Mathis signing also caused us a few extra days’ worth of recalibration.
A lot of things we considered along the way, though, are still real options now, and we thought you might also find it interesting to think them through. Some of our thinking is memorialized in the series of spreadsheets Jeff set up almost three weeks ago, in which we kept adding and working — feel free to take a look around there, but note that some of the sheets were for earlier steps in the process, and were not updated. The “TeambyTeam” sheet, for example, has not been updated since Thanksgiving weekend.
Thoughts from along the way, in no particular order:
* Trading Yasmany Tomas was a priority for us, although we acknowledged that moving him could be a pipe dream. We could only find seven teams that we thought would listen after the word “Yasmany,” including the Rangers, who ended up being the trade partner in the Plan. The other six were the Orioles (no Mark Trumbo deal was assured, and Tomas could have fit into a DH/OF time share with little difficulty), the Athletics (if only through creativity), the Royals (who would only have used him as a DH), the Indians (Michael Brantley is a question mark, and Tomas looks spectacularly major league next to Cleveland’s complement of part time OFs), the Blue Jays (had not filled the holes left by Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, and Justin Smoak wouldn’t necessarily block him, either), and the Reds (low likelihood, but can’t really know what they were thinking, but theoretically could have thought Tomas could be turned into a trade asset if Jose Peraza is not yet ready). The Rangers still look good as a potential fit, given their interest in Encarnacion but lack of interest in paying a lot for Encarnacion. The Orioles are supposedly not on the same page as Trumbo, but could get themselves a 31-HR hitter in Tomas for what actually would be a fraction of the price. Other than the Blue Jays (who linked up with Kendrys Morales), the other teams are still vaguely possible, but it’s hard to imagine specific deals that would make sense for those teams.
* We also badly wanted to completely change the catching situation, leading us to look for trade fits for Beef as well as Chris Herrmann. As a commenter has pointed out, it is a little surprising that the D-backs couldn’t find a taker for Castillo: the Orioles (Chance Sisco means having catching set at the beginning of the season, but not so set that Sisco can’t play later in the season — and Beef could DH quite a bit), Athletics (good complement to Stephen Vogt, Yonder Alonso and Matt Joyce, even if they kept Josh Phegley and despite the presence of Mark Canha), Rays (good fit given Corey Dickerson‘s strengths and struggles), and Rockies (oh so left-handed) all seemed like real possibilities. We found it hard to plot out trades for both Castillo and Herrmann, though, so maybe it’s no big surprise that the D-backs ended up cutting Beef; that no deal was made could be a good indication that no deal could have been had, and if they were as committed to making catcher a more pitching-oriented position as we hoped they would be, they wouldn’t risk getting “stuck” with him. I’m not sure other front offices were actually surprised, and you might notice that no one has snapped Castillo up yet (and that the Rays, one of two teams to be linked to Castillo after he was cut, have already moved in a different direction). If Castillo were still in the fold at the time we published the Plan, one possibility on the table was with the Rockies, centered on Adam Ottavino, who has recovered from Tommy John, and who has proven an ability to get hitters to miss in thin air with his mix of sliders.
* Chris Herrmann is kind of a strange commodity. Of the teams we considered as trade matches, the Royals and maybe Angels might be the only fits out there. After Catcher Shakeup Day last Friday, we discussed the possibility of bringing Herrmann to spring training, seeing what he looked like, seeing how he took to new instruction, seeing whether the team had other healthy catchers, and seeing if other teams developed a need — and then seeing if the D-backs could justify cutting him. It doesn’t happen much, but when a team can essentially say “it doesn’t look like you can play baseball” for non-injury reasons, the player can be cut in the early part of the year without owing him a full non-guaranteed salary (even if it is an arbitration salary). Not sure if the new CBA changes this, but “termination pay” for players cut in spring training that way is 30 days’ prorated pay if at least 16 days before the start of the season, 45 days’ prorated pay afterward.
* You’ve probably thought about it before, but just think about how little catcher movement there really is in MLB. Nearly every team was essentially set with a starter of sorts and a backup of sorts before the offseason even began. Only a handful of teams arguably had three guys that teams would break camp with on purpose: Mets, Red Sox, Athletics, Padres. Maybe Pirates, in a weird way, and Toronto kind of has a 1, a 2, and two 4ths. The Padres have since traded Derek Norris, but picked up a Rule 5 catcher in Luis Torrens by trade (good luck with that, by the way). Could the D-backs argue their way onto this list? Oscar Hernandez did great framing work at Double-A this season according to Baseball Prospectus, and in ZiPS projections, Hernandez has a shocking .303 wOBA, higher than Chris Owings and Zach Borenstein…and Chris Herrmann.
* We really like quite a few Rangers relievers, many of whom could fare well in a transition to Arizona. Like the D-backs, the Rangers have a significant number of relievers with option years remaining, probably have pitchers in the minors who could be 4th- or 5th-best relievers on other MLB teams, and could be looking ahead to a roster crunch a year or two from now. Alex Claudio was the main target, but Dario Alvarez is also very attractive, and Jose LeClerc has a chance of Kyle Barraclough-like effectiveness — and none of those three pitchers are currently expected to have a featured role for Texas next year.
* Also on the reliever trade target wish list: Hector Neris, Blake Treinen, Rob Scahill, and Brandon Maurer, none of whom would be easy gets. Sean Doolittle would be a dream come true, and we had also targeted the Athletics’ Andrew Triggs in our Midseason Plan. Of these pitchers, it could be Maurer that is most attainable. The main problem with any of these deals is that the value the D-backs can most easily give up and which fits the price tag are similar assets, and teams rarely make “challenge trades” anymore.
* Mike Hazen knows a lot more than us about the Red Sox. That’s why we hesitated with respect to Junichi Tazawa; when he was at his best, he pitched in a way that would probably translate well in Arizona, but from the outside looking in, you have to wonder if there’s something physically wrong with him. Also, few things would make us happier than Christian Vazquez in a Red Sox uniform, although we had a lot of debate among the three of us internally as to his availability, whether he’d hit in Arizona much or more, and what his price tag would be.
* We never came close to including one in a deal, but it was odd how frequently recent D-backs came up as players who fit the current roster well. Didi Gregorius will fit so long as the team rosters Nick Ahmed or Chris Owings, although Ketel Marte is poised to do a pretty good Gregorius impression. Martin Prado still fits as a complementary player at third and in combination with David Peralta, especially since high minors outfielders on the 40-man are lefty hitters, and because his high-contact hitting style still fits Chase. It’s hard not to be wistful about Adam Eaton, but for reasons that also make him a good fit for nearly every other team: most high-OBP hitters are also good hitters generally, and you “waste” some of their slugging percentage hitting them leadoff. As things stand, the D-backs are not exactly brimming with good candidates to hit first. Bryan Shaw, Ender Inciarte, Keon Broxton, even Mitch Haniger… the list seems to go on, but even when you’re in the midst of a project in which you’re starting from other teams’ perspective, you never know if it’s just some kind of familiarity bias.
* In setting our goals, we decided to hope that a number of non-transaction contributions by the new front office would make the on-field performance better next season. That’s part general optimism and general faith, probably, but also quite a few specific things that we expect to address in their own posts in the coming weeks. No tear down yet, not with the roster lined up the way it is, and in particular because there’s good reason to think that if the D-backs were to tear down now, they wouldn’t necessarily do a lot better in trade than they could a year from now. The White Sox could have done what they’re currently doing a year ago, after all. The Paul Goldschmidt haul could be smaller if Goldy has another not-quite-spectacular season next season, but for the most part, the team can probably get just about as much for two years of player control as for three, and quite a few of the players they might trade (Goldy, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Shelby Miller, Patrick Corbin, Zack Greinke) did not exactly improve their stock in 2016, particularly at the end. Note that Jean Segura is maybe the only player whose star was about as high as it could have gotten, and he was traded. Chances are the Offseason Plan a year from now will look very, very different than the one we posted yesterday.
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