The 2020 season was bitterly disappointing for the Diamondbacks, who entered the year with playoff aspirations before floundering to the National League’s second-worst record (25-35). Despite that, the Diamondbacks haven’t been active this winter, and that may not change to any significant extent.
- Madison Bumgarner, LHP: $79MM through 2024
- Nick Ahmed, SS: $25MM through 2023
- David Peralta, OF: $15MM through 2022
- Ketel Marte, 2B/OF: $16.5MM through 2022 (including $1MM buyout in ’23 and $1.5MM in ’24)
- Kole Calhoun, OF: $10MM through 2021 (including $2MM buyout for ’22)
- Eduardo Escobar, 3B: $7.5MM through 2021
- Merrill Kelly, RHP: $4.25MM through 2021
- Stephen Vogt, C: $3MM through 2021
This year’s arbitration projections are more volatile than ever, given the unprecedented revenue losses felt by clubs and the shortened 2020 schedule. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, who developed our arbitration projection model, used three different methods to calculate different projection numbers. You can see the full projections and an explanation of each if you click here, but for the purposes of our Outlook series, we’ll be using Matt’s 37-percent method — extrapolating what degree of raise a player’s 2020 rate of play would have earned him in a full 162-game slate and then awarding him 37 percent of that raise.
- Caleb Smith – $1.3MM
- Carson Kelly – $1.3MM
- Luke Weaver – $1.5MM
As last season was winding down for the Diamondbacks, CEO Derrick Hall expressed optimism about the team’s future but cautioned that it would be “far-fetched” for the Snakes to match their $124MM projected payroll from 2020. Hall hasn’t wavered from that since, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported earlier this week.
Considering Hall’s stance, it’s no shock that the club has been relatively silent since the offseason commenced a couple of months ago. Arizona’s biggest move so far has been exercising right-hander Merrill Kelly’s $4.25MM option, which came as a bit of a surprise after he underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in September. To Kelly’s credit, though, he performed quite well last year, leaving the D-backs content to roll the dice that he’ll return healthy and effective in 2021.
If Kelly is ready to go next year, the team’s rotation should be pretty much set (save for potential depth pickups, that is). Former Giants ace Madison Bumgarner had a stunningly poor year in 2020, his first season as a Diamondback. Nevertheless, with a contract that looks like an albatross, he isn’t going anywhere. Likewise, No. 1 starter Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver and Caleb Smith will stay in the fold. That group isn’t without promise. Bumgarner does have an enviable track record, so the hope is he’ll come close to revisiting his past form; Gallen has been outstanding during his first two seasons; Weaver was terrific two years ago, though he fell off a cliff in 2020 during his return from shoulder troubles; and Smith has at least shown the ability to miss bats.
The larger issue in the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff may be a bullpen that finished last year 18th in ERA and 25th in K-BB percentage. Stefan Crichton, Taylor Clarke and Alex Young are the only sure bets for next season’s bullpen, Zach Buchanan of The Athletic wrote earlier this winter. Among those three, only Crichton fared particularly well. All of the uncertainty leaves the D-backs in need of outside upgrades, but because of their financial situation, it’s up in the air whether they will actually make them. If they do, there are some free agents still available who could make sense as seemingly affordable targets. Kirby Yates, Alex Colome, Jake McGee, Sean Doolittle and ex-Diamondback Archie Bradley are just a handful of the familiar names looking for jobs on the relief market.
On the offensive side, Arizona stumbled to the majors’ 26th-ranked wRC+ and ended up 19th in runs scored. The Kole Calhoun signing worked out very well in Year 1, but the Diamondbacks lost one of their other top hitters – Starling Marte – in a trade with the Marlins at the August deadline. Their offense would look a lot stronger with Marte still around, but now it’s unclear who will start in center field on a regular basis next season. Ketel Marte, who went from 2019 MVP candidate to so-so in 2020, is a candidate, though the D-backs might rather have him at second base. Otherwise, there aren’t necessarily any other obvious choices on the roster, but Tim Locastro and Daulton Varsho could be possibilities. Jackie Bradley Jr. would seem to make sense as a free-agent pickup, especially considering the longtime Red Sox’s ties to former Boston executive and current Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen. However, Hazen is hamstrung by the Diamondbacks’ budget, so a Bradley signing might be out of the question.
Aside from second and center (depending on where they mainly deploy Ketel Marte), most of the Diamondbacks’ position player group looks to be set. Calhoun’s coming back, while catchers Carson Kelly and Stephen Vogt should continue handling that spot (and Varsho could get some time there). The same can be said for first baseman Christian Walker, third baseman Eduardo Escobar and shortstop Nick Ahmed. Left fielder David Peralta is also scheduled to return, though he has come up in plenty of trade rumors in the past (including this week). He’s due a guaranteed $15MM over the next two seasons, and though that isn’t an exorbitant amount, maybe the D-backs will be tempted to deal him if they want to save money.
While the offseason is still somewhat young, signs are pointing to the Diamondbacks bringing back mostly the same roster they put on the field in 2020. As part of his season-ending comments, Hall stated that there was “no indication that anyone wants to make changes as a result of this year. I also think it’s so difficult to judge the performance of either leadership or the majority of the players in such a short and strange season.”
Although those words probably weren’t music to Diamondbacks’ fans ears, perhaps they can take solace in knowing this was a team that won a respectable 85 games just two years ago. However, they’re undoubtedly facing an uphill climb if they want to break their three-year playoff drought in 2021.
Kind of late for an off-season outlook, no?
Well, considering the offseason still has about a month & a half before the pitchers catchers reporting date, there’s still plenty of time. Especially since there’s so many unsigned free agents out there. Not to mention any other decent trades that may or may not get done.
Why, is it July?
They must have gotten bored and decided to finish this. Unlike the “what will the teams do during the lockout”. They did the yankees and red sox and decided no one cares about the rest of the teams.
They actually stopped after the Yankees and Sox? Damn, large market bias at it’s worst right there. SMH!
Watch out Vladdy. Don’t be surprised if a possible DBacks-Blue Jays trade rumour starts soon, with Zona looking to shed payroll.
No, they didn’t actually stop after the Yankees and Red Sox.
Like always the Blue Jays are interested. David Peralta?
Yeah, you would think that there are 30 teams with 26 players to talk about or something…
mind-boggling that Walker is still pre-arb after spending time in the Majors almost every year since 2014 and all of the past two.
That is hardly “mind-boggling”.
Cap & Crunch
Ida gone reprehensible but mind boggling is perfectly fine –
It is a huge problem that the first time you can actually optimize making money at your craft is when you are on the decline
Offseason Outlook: Arizona Diamondbacks
Let me save you the time, if they get in 162 -which is doubtful – 70-92. Next!
You shouldn’t be so negative about the Yankees and Mets. I’m sure they’ll both win about 75 games in a full 162 game schedule…oh wait, you weren’t projecting your pessimism onto your teams?!?!
AZ will definitely be competing with Colorado for the basement dwellers of the NL West.
NYYstateof”mind”…You may have not watched the D-Backs much. I’m so many ways but especially for the D-Backs offense, 2020 was an aberration.
The glaring omission in this article is that the Dbacks have zero lefthanders in the bullpen, after trading Andrew Chafin at the trade deadline. They picked up some waiver wire lefties that don’t even move the needle on “inspire”. And there is no legitimate Closer.
If they can spend anything at all this offseason, I’d like to see them make a kill-2-birds-with-one-stone move by signing a left handed closer…Brad Hand.
False. Alex Young is a lefty.
And a starter
False, they picked up Travis Bergen in the Robbie Ray trade and he was pretty decent for the Dbacks after the trade and had a decent track record in his brief time in the Majors.
I’m calling it now Zac Gallen will finish in the top 5 in the Cy Young voting next year. I think he will win 17 or 18 games if healthy.
He’s not winning 17-18 games on a team that’s not very good offensively to start with and could trade guys like Peralta or Calhoun.
Nobody cares how many games he wins.
I care more about how many inherited runners relief pitchers allow than several other statistics. However, if a starting pitcher gets a lot of wins, he must be doing something right. I can’t stand it when an RP gives up a lead then gets credit for a win, when it’s the offense that bailed him out.
Angels & NL West
I’m just not sure what to think about the D-backs heading into ’21. They have several key players that need to bounce back from poor seasons last year – Bumgarner, Marte, Peralta and Escobar amoung others.
They will need expanded playoffs in ’21 to compete for a WC slot given several teams appear to have better rosters as of today – Dodgers, Padres, Braves, Mets and Marlins (I know I’m in the minority re the Marlins, but I was really impressed with them in the playoffs last year).
Things went south for us quickly after Martinez , Goldschmidt and Greinke’s
departure. If you asked me to pick a leader for the current squad I’d probably say Prealta , I suppose. And now they’re gonna send him off somewhere.
Covid really jacked things up but I’m not sure what the plan is here anyway.
Seems like this is a team clearly looking up in the standings but not really desperate to shed salary or restock the farm as it’s a pretty good one. Do they just run the same roster back out there and maybe trade their expiring contracts like Escobar at the deadline? Would/should they entertain offers for Marte this offseason?