10:00am: Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets that the Padres have had past interest in Ahmed and points out that San Diego manager Andy Green knows Ahmed well from his time as the Diamondbacks’ third base coach.
9:44am: The Diamondbacks’ offseason infield additions (Ketel Marte and Daniel Descalso) and the spring emergence of Ildemaro Vargas (who is currently on the 40-man roster) have created a willingness to listen to offers on defensive standout Nick Ahmed, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. According to Piecoro, Chris Owings has the inside track on the Opening Day shortstop gig right now, further prompting the team to explore options with its infield depth.
[Related: Arizona Diamondbacks Depth Chart]
The 27-year-old Ahmed does have a pair of minor league options remaining, so there’s no urgency for Arizona to move him prior to the end of Spring Training. Ahmed underwent season-ending hip surgery last August but has looked healthy this spring, per Piecoro. Thus far, Ahmed has appeared in 13 games and is tied for the most at-bats of any player in Diamondbacks camp. He’s hitting just .250/.263/.389 in that small sample, though spring stats are always best taken with a grain of salt, and Ahmed’s value is derived from his glove as opposed to his bat, anyhow.
In parts of three big league campaigns, Ahmed is just a .221/.268/.329 hitter over the life of 842 plate appearances. While that level of offensive output is hardly appetizing, Ahmed also grades out as one of the game’s truly elite defenders, however. Ahmed has logged 1920 innings at shortstop in his Major League career and has posted outstanding totals of +34 Defensive Runs Saved and +20 in Ultimate Zone Rating. That premium glovework could make him appealing as a bench option, at the very least, to other NL clubs that lack the Diamondbacks’ considerable depth at shortstop.
If the D-backs are to find a taker in a trade for Ahmed, a bench role on another club seems the likeliest outcome for him, from my vantage point. That, however, has more to do with the fact that there simply aren’t many teams looking for starting shortstops than it does with Ahmed’s overall ability. The Padres are known to be looking for shortstop help and have reportedly inquired on both Jose Iglesias and Zack Cozart this winter, making them one speculative club that could look to Ahmed as a candidate for more regular playing time. Of course, there’s also the matter of dealing with a division rival, which can often complicate matters. San Diego currently has Luis Sardinas and non-roster invitee Erick Aybar as its top two shortstop options in camp, so there’s certainly room for Ahmed to join the fray and compete for playing time.
Ahmed has not yet reached arbitration eligibility in his still-young career, so he’d be eminently affordable for the upcoming 2017 campaign. He’ll be a virtual lock for arbitration next offseason so long as he spends at least 86 days in the Majors in 2017, though his limited offensive contributions should keep his price tag down even if he does reach arb. Ahmed can be controlled through at least the 2020 season, so he could be a cost-effective depth option for any club looking to bolster its infield defense in both the short and long term. Given his defensive prowess at short, it stands to reason that Ahmed would be well-equipped to handle both second base and third base as well.