Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers seems to be planning a quiet offseason, though the team must address second base and determine the future of Joe Saunders.
- Chris Young, CF: $17MM through 2013
- Stephen Drew, SS: $9.1MM through 2012
- Justin Upton, RF: $45.25MM through 2015
- J.J. Putz, RP: $6MM through 2012
- John McDonald, IF: $3MM through 2013
- Geoff Blum, IF: $1.35MM through 2012
- Henry Blanco, C: $1.2MM through 2012
Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)
- Joe Saunders, SP: $8.7MM (non-tender candidate)
- Miguel Montero, C: $5.3MM
- Brad Ziegler, RP: $1.8MM
- Ryan Roberts, 3B/2B: $1.7MM
- Micah Owings, RP: $1.3MM (non-tender candidate)
- Jason Marquis (unranked SP), Lyle Overbay (unranked 1B), Xavier Nady (unranked 1B/LF), Willie Bloomquist (unranked IF/OF), Aaron Hill (Type B 2B), Zach Duke (unranked SP)
The Diamondbacks pulled off the difficult worst-to-first feat this year. Several different executives deserve credit for crafting the 2011 D'Backs, but GM Kevin Towers will continue to mold the club in his second offseason. However, Towers is due for a relatively quiet winter, based on his October conversation with Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
One area of need is second base, a position Towers shook up midseason by shipping the disappointing Kelly Johnson to Toronto for Hill and McDonald. Hill's $8MM club option didn't make sense for the D'Backs, and while Towers declined it, the idea of offering Hill arbitration should give the GM pause. The move would give the team a shot at a supplemental draft pick or the chance to have Hill back for around $6MM. But since Hill's stellar 142 plate appearances for Arizona were preceded by over 1,000 mostly bad ones, even $6MM seems generous. The idea of a second baseman worth three-to-four wins above replacement is tantalizing, and the D'Backs should be willing to commit $4MM in base salary to see if Hill can return to that level.
Towers has already addressed a couple of minor concerns, re-signing backups Blanco and McDonald for a total of $4.2MM. The D'Backs moved quickly on McDonald after Bloomquist declined his side of a mutual option, prompting agent Scott Boras to suggest, "They got upset when Willie opted out. They got emotional and they went out and signed a guy who hit .169." McDonald was a better fit, though, as a superior shortstop who can handle the assignment if Stephen Drew is not ready for Opening Day after July ankle surgery.
There's no trade market for a $9MM, mid-4s ERA southpaw, as the Pirates' inability to find a suitor for Paul Maholm attests. The D'Backs have a similar predicament with Saunders, whom they may non-tender by December 12th if they can't find a trade partner. Saunders is more of an innings eater, but the trade market will be very limited. Getting rid of Saunders means relying on Josh Collmenter as the team's third starter, a fairly risky proposition. If two of Tyler Skaggs, Pat Corbin, and Trevor Bauer round out the rotation, then a lot of pressure gets placed on Ian Kennedy and Dan Hudson to repeat phenomenal 2011 seasons.
Towers told Piecoro he doesn't think there are "big, big needs" for his team, yet he won't rule out a run at "the right kind of marquee guy." President and CEO Derrick Hall agrees that there are "not many holes to fill." But with a potential $30MM in payroll flexibility, the D'Backs should be more aggressive in replacing Saunders in the rotation and adding a productive player at second or third base.
Towers also has internal business to tend to, as Drew, Montero, and Kennedy could be considered for extensions. Drew and Montero are entering their walk years and therefore should be more pressing concerns. Drew's health uncertainty and Boras representation make an offseason extension unlikely, but the D'Backs must begin planning for life without their longtime shortstop. There's no obvious replacement for Montero, either.
The Diamondbacks must be wary of resting on their laurels, as their rotation lacks stability behind Kennedy and Hudson. Instead, Towers should take advantage of the team's payroll flexibility by adding depth throughout the roster.