Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb will undergo season-ending surgery on his left shoulder, manager Torey Lovullo announced to reporters on Thursday (Twitter link via Zach Buchanan of The Athletic). Lamb was previously said to be weighing surgery to repair a frayed left rotator cuff. He’s expected to be ready for Spring Training 2019, per Lovullo.
It’s been a poor season all around for the 27-year-old Lamb, who hit 59 homers from 2016-17 in establishing himself as Arizona’s primary third baseman before a sharp decline in his offensive output in 2018. Through 238 plate appearances this year, Lamb has been limited to a paltry .222/.307/.348 slash with just six home runs. His walk rate has dipped by nearly three percent from 2017, while his strikeout rate has risen by a similar margin.
There’s little doubt that the balky shoulder significantly hampered Lamb’s production in 2018. Lovullo said that the slugger felt that he “couldn’t finish his swing,” as Jack Magruder of The Sports Xchange tweets. He’d already missed roughly six weeks of the season — from April 3 through May 18 — due to an sprained AC (acromioclavicular) joint in that same shoulder.
With Lamb now out for the duration of the season, trade acquisition Eduardo Escobar will likely slot in as Arizona’s primary option at the hot corner. The D-backs acquired Escobar from the Twins six days ago, sending minor leaguers Gabriel Maciel, Jhoan Duran and Ernie De La Trinidad to Minnesota in return. Given Lamb’s disappointing numbers as he attempted to play through shoulder pain, Escobar and his .276/.339/.511 slash will be a significant upgrade over the final couple of months as the Diamondbacks try to catch the division-leading Dodgers. Escobar will be a free agent at season’s end, so Lamb will have a clear path back to the lineup in 2019 — assuming he’s healthy.
Lamb is earning $4.275MM after avoiding arbitration for the first time last offseason. He’ll be eligible for a small raise given this season’s struggles at the plate and lack of playing time due to injury, and he’ll be controllable for another two seasons before he’s eligible for free agency.