Offseason In Review: Arizona Diamondbacks

The defending NL West Champs added a top young starter to their rotation, signed an outfield bat and spent aggressively on bench help.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Mike Jacobs, Cody Ransom, Jensen Lewis, Rusty Ryal, Chris Jakubauskas.

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

The Diamondbacks improved by 29 wins and vaulted from last to first following their first offseason under Kevin Towers. This winter, the Diamondbacks raised payroll to unexpected heights, improving their pitching staff in the process.

Towers traded top pitching prospect Jarrod Parker and two others to the Athletics to obtain Trevor Cahill. The 24-year-old averaged 194 innings in his first three MLB seasons and is under team control through 2017. Operating with a modest payroll, the A's preferred Parker, who's just nine months younger than Cahill and under team control for the same period. But the Diamondbacks could afford Cahill's upcoming raises and were understandably drawn to the promising 24-year-old.

“While we were excited to add a guy like Cahill, we weren't going to mortgage the future for someone close to free agency," assistant GM Billy Ryan told MLBTR. "We weren't excited to give up Jarrod Parker. We think he's going to be a very good pitcher in the Major Leagues."

Faced with the possibility that Joe Saunders would earn $8.5-9MM in arbitration, the club non-tendered the left-hander. After spending a month on the open market, Saunders agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks on a one-year deal worth $6MM. His peripheral stats suggest he's a 4.50 ERA pitcher and that his 2011 mark of 3.69 isn't sustainable, but he can contribute 200 league average innings, so it's understandable that Towers asked to expand payroll to accommodate his salary. 

Saunders, Cahill, Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson each completed 200 innings last year, which gives manager Kirk Gibson a strong, durable projected front four. Josh Collmenter rounds out the rotation and top prospects Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs could make an impact as starters later on this year.

The signing of Jason Kubel puzzled many since left fielder Gerardo Parra posted a .784 OPS in 2011, winning a Gold Glove. Kubel offers more power than Parra, but his defense is not highly-regarded and he's a lefty hitter, like Parra, so they aren't natural platoon partners. It makes sense for the Diamondbacks to consider trades for Parra, but they seem likely to keep him as a late-game defensive replacement and left-handed bat off of the bench.

If $11MM sounds like a lot for a player who has a .225/.285/.375 line in his past 1151 plate appearances, recall that Aaron Hill hit well after the Diamondbacks acquired him last summer and that free agent infielders Clint Barmes and Mark Ellis signed comparable deals. It's not a steal, but the D'Backs needed someone to play second base and they expect Hill's offense to rebound to an extent in 2012.

"We still think he can be a good offensive second baseman," Ryan said. "But he doesn't have to be the guy for us."

The Diamondbacks discussed a long-term extension with catcher Miguel Montero, who will be eligible for free agency after the season. The sides tabled talks late last month and it now appears that Montero will test the open market. Kennedy and Hudson are also candidates for long-term deals, and talks could continue into the spring.

After reconstructing his bullpen a year ago, Towers contented himself with two major additions this offseason. The Diamondbacks signed Takashi Saito, who remains effective at the age of 42, and traded for Craig Breslow, an affordable left-hander who has averaged 63 innings per season since 2008.

Towers addressed his bench proactively, signing Blanco, Overbay, McDonald and Bloomquist to Major League contracts relatively early in the offseason. While two-year deals for bench players like McDonald and Bloomquist reduce roster flexibility, shortstop depth is especially important for the Diamondbacks, as Stephen Drew continues recovering from last summer's ankle injury. Overbay's left-handed swing will provide Gibson with an option off of the bench and complement Goldschmidt as he enters his first full season in the Majors (we'll ignore Goldschmidt's reverse platoon splits based on the tiny sample size).

Some of the Diamondbacks' moves were confusing when they happened, but now that the roster is in place, it's clear that Towers improved this team. Last year's club won 94 games without comparable pitching depth or as many weapons on offense. Health permitting, the 2012 Diamondbacks figure to contend again.

22 Responses to Offseason In Review: Arizona Diamondbacks Leave a Reply

  1. gmenfan 3 years ago

    Hate to say it, but as a Giants fan, the D’Backs had a really nice offseason. 

  2. I don’t think it’s really clear at all. Most of the moves seems like lateral shuffles disguised as “win now” decisions: Cahill, Kubel, banking on Aaron Hill’s ridiculous BABIP spike in Arizona. Really the best move they made was back in June when they drafted Trevor Bauer, the compensation prize for a disastrous 2010.

    I question whether they got meaningfully better, over and above the fact they played over their heads last year.

    • Kennedy, Hudson, Cahill, Saunders and either Collmenter or Bauer is a ridiculous starting 5.  Upton is older and will most likely have an MVP caliber year.  Adding Kubel is huge since now they have a big left-handed bat.  They have Parra (2011 Gold Glove winner) at a 4th outfielder, so they’re deep in the outfield.  The addition of Stephen Drew is like a free agent pickup (assuming he returns quickly and fully healthy, which all signs point to exactly that).  The bullpen, which was one of the best last year, got better with Saito and Breslow, plus having Patterson and Shaw with a full season under their belts can only be a plus (not to mention Hernandez and Putz still closing out games).  Finally, they will start the year with Goldschmidt at 1st.  All in all, they’re vastly improved over the team that began 2011 and solidly better than the team that ended the year.  

      The NL West should be a fun division to follow all year!

      • Saunders and Collmenter were exhibits A and B in overperforming in 2011. Kennedy is very good, but he gets an honorable mention (there are concerning peripherals). Bauer will be very very good soon, but posting much better than a 4 ERA (4th starter material in this league) would be very unexpected for a rookie fresh out of college. Cahill, while not a slouch, will probably see regression going from Oakland to Arizona, even as a ground-ball pitcher. Bullpens, by nature, are volatile. And Goldschmidt at first has great upside, but it doesn’t change the fact that he can’t hit a curveball, and probably will look more like a cheap Mark Reynolds (which, hint, isn’t as good as people think). Kubel will be a butcher in the spacious Arizona outfield, and Drew’s health remains a question mark; signs don’t point to a speedy recovery at all.

        So… like I said, it’s only disguised as an upgrade. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them win 90 games, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them win 70, either.

        • Brian Rudzinski 3 years ago

           Goldschmidt has a much better eye than Reynolds.  I see him as the Adam Dunn type of player with a relatively low to decent BA but with a High OBP and great power numbers.

          He may not be good at hitting the curve, but he can learn to avoid swinging at it or fowl it off, where as Reynolds will never have that kind of eye for the ball.

        •  Then please explain Vogelsong?  A career minor leaguer with a career year, due for some regression perhaps?

          What exactly did your Giants do to progress?  I’m still not sold on Buster Posey, even last year’s Posey wasn’t the same as was the World Series year and was way under everyone’s expectations.  Take last years Posey, destroy the ankle on his drive leg, and you lose a lot of power, power that was mediocre at best; Adam LaRoche behind the dish.

          • You’re cute when you get defensive, you know that? Once again, nowhere do I claim that the Giants had a superior offseason. Sorry if you can’t deal with critical analysis. Don’t get mad at me, get mad at the ownership downgrading from Kelly Johnson and Gerardo Parra to overpay Aaron Hill and Jason Kubel.

          •  Downgrading Kelly Johnson?  He was barely hitting above the Mendoza Line, and we brought in Hill who had a great 2nd half hitting over .300 with Arizona, who also has much greater defense.  Replacing Parra with Kubel was odd, we all know that, but a real cleanup hitter in Arizona was required.

          • Yes, he hit over .300 with Arizona, and still finished with worse numbers than Johnson. Johnson is a healthy regression candidate for 2012, and will probably thrive in Toronto while Hill continues, in aggregate, to be pretty uninspiring.

            The Diamondbacks didn’t need a cleanup hitter, and they aren’t getting one in Kubel; he put up the same OBP and SLG as Chris Young last season, and his peripherals are suspect. Compound that with the fact that he is slow and bad defensively, and stick him in one of the biggest outfields in the sport, and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

            The Diamondbacks have never hurt for offense: in 2011, they finished 3rd in SLG, and 4th in OPS. The main differences between the 94-win team of last year and the 64-win team of 2009 were pitching, defense, and a little bit of luck. Kubel serves none of those needs.

        • Reynolds failed to hit for average even in the minors, Goldschmidt has excelled at hitting for power and average in all levels of the game.  A .250 batting average for a rookie is pretty solid, he started the season slow but batted well over .300 towards the end of the season.  Goldy is also clutch, even though “clutch” doesn’t exist.  He delivered many game changing blows last season and in the offseason, expect great things from the kid.  But hey, if he’s not on the Media’s “SFGIANTS2010!!” bandwagon, he must suck, right?

          • Reynolds, age 24 rookie season: .279/.349/.495
            .378 BABIP, 31.2% K-rate, 0.29 BB/K

            Goldschmidt, age 24 rookie season: .250/.333/.474
            .324 BABIP, 29.9% K-rate, 0.38 BB/K

            Actually, Schmidtty matches Reynolds sophomore season even better: .239/.320/.458
            .320 BABIP, 33.3% K-rate, 0.31 BB/K

            What happens when the 20% line drive rate goes down? The production disappears, just like Reynolds. He’s even more hopeless against the breaking ball stuff.There are plenty of reasons to believe Goldschmidt will tank once he’s scouted properly and his road numbers come back to earth. The media has nothing to do with it.

    • Care to explain how any other NL West team improved outside of Posey returning?

      • You’ll have to demonstrate for me where I made that assertion. The NL West offseason was pretty much an LMFAO music video.

        • iheartyourfart 3 years ago

          padres brought in an all-star left fielder and finally have a first baseman.

        • gmenfan 3 years ago

          Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle …

  3. Brian Rudzinski 3 years ago

    Not a big fan of signing Bloomquist and JohnnyMac to 2 year deals.  I’d have rather they saved that 6.3 mil along with the 6 mil for Saunders and tried to sign Aramis Ramirez for 3B. 

    Roberts had a career year, and even then he still only hit .250. 

    • Philip Marlowe 3 years ago

      You don’t want Aramis. He’s a historically slow starter, and his defense is well past its prime. I agree, though, that they could have done better than keeping Ryan Roberts. I think he’s a flash in the pan.

      Bauer and Skaggs are gonna be the real thing though – AZ is going to have some great pitching in the years to come. Between the D-Backs, Giants, and Dodgers, the NL West is going to be a major pitchers’ division.

  4. Who can forget that they lost Micah Owings to the Padres? He was huge down the stretch last year as a reliever

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