Offseason Outlook: Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks will look to reinforce the left side of their infield and acquire starting pitching depth while weighing trades for their outfielders.

Guaranteed Contracts 

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Contract Options

Free Agents

Some general managers prefer to keep their offseason plans private, speaking in abstractions instead of specifics and offering up vague or evasive answers. It’s their prerogative, of course, and a case can be made that controlling information leads to a competitive advantage. At the same time, it’s a whole lot simpler to listen to someone like Kevin Towers outline an offseason plan.

Justin Upton - Diamondbacks (PW)

When Towers recently explained his goals to Barry Bloom of he didn’t leave much to the imagination. The Diamondbacks will pursue veteran pitching via trades, look for upgrades on the left side of the infield, trade an outfielder and exercise J.J. Putz’s option. As for the team’s payroll, Towers said it could rise as high as $85MM or so. 

Longtime Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew leads a relatively unremarkable class of free agent shortstops, but he's "probably not" coming back to Arizona in the words of his former GM. If Towers looks to free agency for solutions on the left side of the infield, players such as Marco Scutaro and Kevin Youkilis could catch his attention. Yet the trade market might offer more variety, especially if Towers looks to acquire a long-term answer. Shortstops such as Elvis Andrus, Yunel Escobar or Jed Lowrie could draw trade interest from Arizona this offseason if Towers decides to bypass the free agent market.

Toward the end of the regular season, the Diamondbacks seemed content to rely on internal options at third base, and they have a fallback plan of using Chris Johnson (vs. RHP) and Cody Ransom (vs. LHP). Staying within the organization at shortstop seems less likely, as Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald aren't viewed as everyday options at the position.

Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, their most prominent organizational strength — outfield depth — happens to be a strength of the upcoming free agent market. There will still be demand for Arizona's outfielders, and at least one of Justin Upton, Chris Young, Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra figures to be traded. The presence of Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock means Towers can — and should — explore potential trades.

Upton, the 25-year-old right fielder whose name surfaced in trade rumors all summer long, would likely bring the most substantial return. The Rangers, Mariners, Mets are a few of the many teams that could have interest in completing a deal for Upton. The former first overall selection battled thumb injuries this past season, before finishing strong, with six September home runs. Towers knows Upton could play at an MVP level again as soon as next year, but the GM can't justify an exorbitant asking price for a player whose overall performance was good but not great in 2012. It means the Diamondbacks could keep Upton and trade someone else.

Kubel would draw interest coming off of a 30-home run season. So would Young despite a so-so season at the plate. And Parra, the youngest and most affordable of the three with a projected salary in the $2MM range, would appeal to many teams as well. Towers and other top Diamondbacks executives will have to weigh numerous possibilities with so many trade candidates to choose from — it's a good problem to have.

The Diamondbacks could seek an experienced starting pitcher in a trade for an outfielder. Though they have an assortment of promising young starting pitchers, Towers has said he'd like to acquire a veteran starter this winter. Rival teams will no doubt have interest in the likes of Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and Trevor Bauer, but to this point there's been no indication those young starters will be available. While manager Kirk Gibson figures to enter Spring Training with an enviable selection of starting rotation options, such depth can disappear quickly so it'd be imprudent to make moves based on the assumption that the rotation will always seem so deep.

Josh Johnson, a ground ball pitcher with one year remaining on his contract, might appeal to the Diamondbacks, who pursued top-of-the-rotation arms this past summer. His $13.75MM salary could be prohibitive, so a pitcher like Jon Niese might be preferable.

Reliever J.J. Putz will return, assuming the Diamondbacks exercise his 2013 option, as expected. Retaining a shutdown reliever for one additional season at a net price of $5MM makes sense for Arizona. As challenging as it can be to predict reliever performances accurately, the right-hander adds lots of value and the Diamondbacks can afford the $6.5MM commitment. Conversely, Matt Lindstrom's option could safely be declined. The hard-throwing right-hander looks more like a $2MM player in this market, so it'd be unnecessarily expensive to exercise his option at $4MM. Instead, free agents like Jeremy Affeldt, Randy Choate and Tim Byrdak could appeal to Towers, who has indicated he's interested in adding left-handed relief.

The Diamondbacks have committed approximately $55MM to next year's payroll, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. This gives them $20-30MM to work with, using Towers' estimate of next year's payroll. About half of that sum would go to the team's arbitration eligible players, assuming Brad Ziegler, Matt Albers, Chris Johnson, Gerardo Parra and Ian Kennedy are tendered contracts. That scenario has Arizona non-tendering Ransom, Wil Nieves, Mike Zagurski and Brad Bergesen instead of retaining them for another year.

Though Kennedy didn't appear to have interest in an extension last offseason, the Diamondbacks could explore the possibility of a new contract with agent Scott Boras this winter. Towers might also ask Aaron Hill about his interest in a contract extension that would cover 2014 and beyond.

There's no ambiguity about Towers' offseason goals. If he hasn't bolstered the left side of his infield and acquired starting pitching depth by Opening Day, the offseason will arguably have been a disappointment. But if the Diamondbacks follow the path they've traced for themselves and their fans, this team should enter the 2013 season with the expectation of contending again.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

14 Responses to Offseason Outlook: Arizona Diamondbacks Leave a Reply

  1. Knockahoma 3 years ago

    Chris Young links all go to the pitcher, not the OF

  2. tomymogo 3 years ago

    I still like Justin Upton, but I wouldn’t overpay. I would like for him to be a Brave and would be willing to trade one of the two priced prospects, Julio Teheran or Randall Delgado plus 2-3 complementary pieces like Zeke Spruill, Tyler Pastornicky, etc

    • vtadave 3 years ago

      Doubt there’s any interest in Pastornicky… I know you can in theory never have too much pitching, but if the Dbacks are going to deal Upton, I would have to think the centerpiece would be a shortstop or perhaps a thirdbaseman if he’s an upgrade over Johnson/Wheeler.

      • tomymogo 3 years ago

        Nick Amhed is the other interesting piece. Pastornicky is more of a 2B utility player. What I know for a fact is that Andrealton Simmons is off limits

  3. $17154452 3 years ago

    AA needs to bring Arron Hill and Johnny Mac back to Toronto. Hill was better than Johnson at 2nd, and Johnny Mac IMO was an asset the Jays should have never traded. Anytime he gets playing time he always delivers be it offense or defense.

    • vtadave 3 years ago

      That’s funny. What McDonald has “delivered” is a career .239/.276/.331 batting line.

      • $17154452 3 years ago

        OK fair enough but let’s look at some other numbers.
        McDonald has been in the ML (not including minor leagues) for 14 years x 162 games = 2268 games, of those 2268 games he has appeared in 954 games or if you wish he has played/appeared in 42% of the 2268 games.

        Now let’s look at his last full year as a BJ and first full year with the D’backs, his totals for 2010 were .250/.273/.454 and appeared in 63 games, 152 AB’s.
        In 2012 with the D’backs his totals were .249/.295/.386 in 70 games, 197 AB’s

        Another thing is you have to remember JM is and has been nothing more than a bench player and considering what the BJ’s had this past season for bench players JM would be a considerable improvement.

  4. the wrong chris young is linked. the outfielder, not the nym pitcher…

  5. Marcatmeowmeow 3 years ago

    Still can’t believe the whole Parker for Cahill thing. Really interesting how the D-Backs didn’t see him as close to major league ready, but The A’s plugged him in the best division in baseball to immediate exceptional results.
    Parker is cheaper, better, and under team control for much longer – a truly lopsided trade, so far.

    • AngryTick 3 years ago

      You got all that from one season. Interesting! Let’s wait and see when teams actually get some “film” on Parker before crowning a trade champion!

      • Marcatmeowmeow 3 years ago

        Well, Cahill has looked mediocre for three out of four full seasons now, Parker out-pitched him this year in a better league and better division, and I think its safe to say the general consensus is that Parker has more upside.

        The D-Backs traded Parker because they didn’t think he was close enough to major league ready and the organization had transitioned into a ‘win-now’ mode – he was considered a good prospect with a good future for a reason, though, and it’s not as if they were happy about parting with him. I just think it’s interesting how differently the two teams viewed the same prospect, and how (apparently) off the D-Backs were in their evaluation of his major league readiness. I know one year is only one year, but you can’t just say every rookie is going to fall off the map because other teams will study his “film.”

      • AngryTick 3 years ago

        My point being… How many times have you seen pitchers show great promise their first year, only to fall off the next couple. I’m not about to call “victory” in this trade just yet. It also shows you have some sort of “animosity” toward Cahill to call his 4 years in the bigs “mediocre”. The kid has almost averaged 200 innings in each of his 4 years while maintaining a sub 4 ERA. Without looking at the stats, that would equate to many QS (Quality Starts). I guess we have a VERY different definition of “mediocre”.

  6. JacobyWanKenobi 3 years ago

    I just woke up from a dream in which the Yankees traded A-rod and a ton of money for Upton and some other thing. Dammit.

  7. zack 3 years ago

    Dream Megadeal:
    Mets trade R.A Dickey, Jon Niese, Jordanny Valdespin, Kirk Niuewenhuis
    D’backs trade: Justin Upoton, Gerardo Parra, Tyler Skaggs

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