The Diamondbacks have five outfielders on their active roster. Gerardo Parra, Mark Trumbo, and Cody Ross have all spent time as starting outfielders. Rookies Ender Inciarte and David Peralta are looking to establish themselves are legitimate major-league players. A month ago I wrote about the effects of the injuries to the outfield. Now, the rookies have played well enough to create a dilemma. Since only three guys can start on any given night, tough decisions must be made. In determining the best possible combination, there are multiple factors to consider.
The D-backs’ motives for the rest of the season should be to save money and to develop young players. They’re unlikely to make the playoffs, so winning is not important. The team is looking to the future, so seeing what assets they have is crucial. For example, if they can determine that David Peralta is a quality starting outfielder, they need one less outfielder for the future. As a mid-market team, it’s important to save money as well.
All that being said, there are a few possibilities that can address these objectives.
Plan A (Developmental):
If the primary goal was to learn more about the rookies, the optimal lineup would probably be Mark Trumbo in left, Ender Inciarte in center, and David Peralta in right. As Ryan wrote last week, Peralta has shown promise. He has shown a major-league caliber bat, and has all the tools to be an elite defender. As a former pitcher, he has enough arm strength to play right field. The organization seems to think he can play center field too. There are plenty of unanswered questions, which is why it would be so beneficial to let David Peralta play out the year in the majors.
Ender Inciarte is in a similar situation. Despite a horrendous 41 wRC+, Ender has been worth 0.5 WAR in 54 games. His defense has been outstanding in center field, so it’s really worth seeing if he can figure it out offensively. Unlike with Peralta, that doesn’t seem likely. He seems best suited for a bench role, but extra time would let our suspicions be confirmed.
Mark Trumbo seems destined to fill an outfield role down the stretch. Parra and Ross have been substandard, so this seems like the logical play. Towers gave up multiple pieces to acquire Trumbo in the offseason, and would be unlikely to agree to Trumbo’s benching. The logic for playing Trumbo is less related to baseball and more related to the General Manager’s pride. It’s possible Trumbo would help sell more tickets too.
Plan B (Cutting Costs):
If the primary goal was to save money, the optimal lineup would be Trumbo in left, Parra in center, and Ross in right. This would probably be a painful bunch to watch. Parra and Ross have combined for -1.7 WAR this year. Trumbo strikes out often and is a poor defender. Essentially, this would be a tryout for the other teams in the league. Ross is due around $11 million for this year and next, so trading him could save lots of money. There’s no way any team takes on the rest of his salary in a trade, but if Ross can play better in the forthcoming weeks, a team may take on a small portion of it. He could even be traded after the deadline because he’d certainly clear waivers. He’s been so bad after the hip injury that any trade seems unlikely. It might be best to hold onto him and hope the hip strengthens in the offseason.
Parra would be an asset to a team seeking outfield defense and left-handed hitting. He has one more year of arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2016, so he wouldn’t be a rental either. He could potentially be a contributor on a playoff team.
Plan C (Balanced):
An outfield of Trumbo, Peralta, and Ross would balance out the D-backs’ interests. Ross would get the opportunity to prove his worth, and Peralta would develop his skill. Starting Inciarte over Trumbo would be more educational, but, again, I don’t see Trumbo being benched.
This seems like a solid plan until you consider that A.J. Pollock will return from injury in early August. He’ll almost certainly play center, moving Peralta to one of the corners. At this point, all I can tell you is this: someone is going to be unhappy about their playing time.
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