This winter’s free-agent shortstop market has long-promised to shake up the league, and it’s lived up to its billing thus far. But we’re only part-way through the transfiguration. The Rangers signed two of the top shortstops available, adding a wrinkle that the other 29 clubs have yet to iron out. If nothing else, two significant dominoes – Carlos Correa and Trevor Story – have yet to fall, so there are even more twists-and-turns when the lockout ends.
For those teams not willing to plunk down six figures for a long-term solution like Correa or Story, however, it would be worth giving Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen a call to see about the availability of veteran Nick Ahmed. Ahmed struggled mightly at the plate in 2021, slashing just .221/.280/.339 over 473 plate appearances, but that’s never been his calling card.
If nothing else, he’s affordable. He’s entering his age-32 season with two years and $18.25MM left on his deal. The contract is affordable, but it could also be a potential obstacle. The money owed is substantial enough that teams may doubt whether he offers enough of an upgrade whatever they have in-house. Any rookie shortstop will offer better value potential because of a rookie minimum contract. Besides, it’s easy to dream on the untapped potential of a young player that you haven’t yet seen fail at the Major League level.
There is still, however, the question of whether the Diamondbacks would be willing to sell a player that’s come into his own with their franchise, becoming a fan favorite in the process. But after a disastrous 110-loss season, it’s hard to consider the Diamondbacks as anything but sellers.
They’ve finished last in the NL West for consecutive seasons and only made the playoffs once in the past decade. What’s more, they’re staring down what might be the most competitive division in baseball as the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres are each in pedal-to-the-metal, World-Series-hopeful mode.
As teams look to upgrade their rosters, there are only so many rosters to scour. This time of year, belief is rampant, so finding a trade partner requires either an aligning of team needs, a team looking to cut payroll, or as in the Diamondbacks case, a team in rebuilding mode with an outside shot at contention next season. Whether the Diamondbacks see themselves in that light is unclear, given that they’re just two offseasons removed from signing Madison Bumgarner to a five-year, $85MM deal.
Even this winter, they made a win-now-ish move by signing veteran closer Mark Melancon to a two-year, $14MM deal. Of course, there are levels of rebuilding, and the Diamondbacks have to field a full roster just like any other team. Signing Melancon could just as easily be the acquisition of a future trade piece as it is a sign that the front office thinks they can win the NL West this season. Teams around the league have definitely called to inquire about the availability of Ketel Marte, but they’ve thus far been rebuffed–another sign that Arizona might be leaning towards a soft bid for a wild card spot.
Ahmed, however, has never been a high-impact player, and the Diamondbacks can almost certainly find another solution, should they decide to move him. He’s never posted higher than a 96 wRC+, and his career mark sits at 74 wRC+. His 2.3 fWAR season in 2019 is the only time he’s topped 2.o fWAR over a full season (though he was on pace to surpass that mark in 2020, had there been a full season).
Frankly, Ahmed is pretty close to being a prototypical second-division starter, and that’s not the type of guy that teams really look to trade for in the offseason. What makes Ahmed appealing, however, is that he does have an elite skill: defense. Certain teams have grown adept at maximizing flawed players with elite skills, and there’s no reason to think that the right organization couldn’t maximize Ahmed’s talents in a similar fashion.
Bottom line: Ahmed is a veteran who should probably transition to a part-time role, but that might be something he’s willing to do if he’s on a contender. The Diamondbacks don’t need a win-now veteran like Ahmed, and they should probably be using that spot to audition young players who have a chance to stick long-term. That’s the calculus for a trade.
So who might be interested in Ahmed? The right team would be a competitive club looking to make the playoffs who has a solution up the middle, but not a surefire All-Star in that spot. Ahmed would be a perfect third middle infielder to compliment a lefty bat or a bat-first option up the middle. Some options:
The Astros could use Ahmed to ease Jeremy Pena into regular playing time. He would essentially be the glove-first version of Aledmys Diaz. They probably have enough pop to slide another glove-first body into the bottom of the lineup, though this probably only works if one of their young centerfielders proves a genuine offensive weapon, as they’re already giving one lineup spot to a glove-only vet in Martin Maldonado.
The Cubs might take a flyer on Ahmed to bolster the young and injury-prone up-the-middle duo of Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal. Both young infielders are natural second baseman, and both are coming off injury-ravaged seasons. Ahmed would find playing time as Hoerner gets moved around the diamond, and he could serve as insurance should one of the pair end up back in the trainer’s room.
If the Yankees don’t pony up for one of the top free agents, Ahmed would nicely protect the offensive asset that is Gleyber Torres by allowing their young slugger to mostly stay at the keystone. The plan to convert 30-year-old Gio Urshela to a full-time shortstop has some legs after a 24-start tryout in 2021 (-1 DRS, -0.2 UZR), but it would be a lot to expect him to handle the full load. Ahmed would instantly become the best defender in an offensively potent Yankee infield, and they could find ways to maximize his glovework and minimize trips to the dish.
The Phillies really need more offense, but so long as Didi Gregorius is their starting shortstop, there would be a place for Ahmed. After a 68 wRC+ season from Gregorius, the Phils might just as soon improve their infield defense – which also needs work.
Given the stars that have been on the free-agent market this winter, and the stars that might be on the market next year (Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts), Ahmed represents a decidedly milquetoast solution to a premier position. But he’s not a solution on his own. He’s a capable veteran who can absolutely help defensively if fit into a bench role on the right club. There’s a team out there that can use Ahmed to help them win games and reach the postseason. Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks probably aren’t that team.
Thanks for mentioning the gold gloves.
Please, Hammer. Don't hurt 'em.
I almost feel bad for pointing out how the Dejong contract is underwater now. Ahmed’s contract is definitely worse. He’s paid more and at least Dejong has a small glimmer of hope of improving as a hitter. This guy doesn’t stand a chance. I know shortstop defense is very important but would anyone really want this guy at over $9 million a year? You can probably get something not that much worse for less than a million AAV. Glove only shortstops pop up on minor league deals every season.
The Diamondbacks traded Justin Upton in his young .300/30 home run prime for Martin Prado and this guy? I heard about the Shelby Miller trade. I didn’t realize the Braves fleeced Arizona twice.
I could see the Astros making a play if Correa and Story land elsewhere. They have a potent lineup as it is, he’s affordable, and Ahmed gives them elite defense for 2 years. What’s not clear is the asking price, though it shouldn’t be anywhere near a top 10 prospect.
Could be a partial stop gap for the Yankees as the article suggests. With the Yankees below average infield defense up the middle a player with Ahmed’s defensive prowess would be welcome even as a utility player after hopefully recalling Oswaldo Peraza during the second half of 2022. In a perfect scenario Volpe will be ready next year. Volpe’s is potentially a better offensive player than defensive so, having a good glove backup would still be a plus.
However, there are better solutions for the Yankees still available. There’s the trade market for players like DeJong from St. Louis or Villar or Iglesias on the free agent market. Still Ahmed would be a step up from what they currently have. Will be interesting to see how many trades are made within a couple of days of the labor dispute being settled. It is my understanding that GMs are not restricted during the lockout from discussing trades.
I’d seriously doubt Ahmed is the answer with his $9M+ per year salary. The Yankees would’ve had more flexibility by keeping Andrew Velasquez. Ahmed is another question mark with Torres. Their sizeable ’22 salaries combined offer no certainties.
I say keep him unless they think perdomo can offer similar play. They have some really nice guys in the minors that could turn this terrible team into a potential wildcard competitor. Alek Thomas/ Seth beer/ Corbin Carroll/ Jordan Lawlar all grade out as potentially great players even tho you probably won’t see Carroll till 23 and lawlar until 2024. Assuming these guys are 3ish WAR or better type of players, a few trades/ FA acquisitions for the rotation and bullpen could be beneficial.
IMO 2 years for $18.25M is pretty steep of an ask to absorb Ahmed. Granted if he brought some of his 2018 or 2019 offensive numbers then maybe, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and defensive first guys like Simmons should be had much cheaper.
I imagine AZ will eat part of the contract to move him. Hopefully he can make an impact with a contender.
Angels written all over
Funny they don’t mention the Angels. The Angels NEED a shortstop. They can’t open the season with Fletcher.
Nick Ahmed helped bring Chris Johnson to the Braves. He could do the same to your favorite team…you’ve been warned.
Johnson won a batting title. What more do you want?
Pretty sure he finished second behind Cuddyer. I would have preferred he wasn’t signed to a three year extension after that obvious fluke year. But that’s not his fault.
Thank Frank Wren. That extension came around the same time he paid $158.5 million for Derek Lowe, BJ Upton and Kenshin Kawakami. Don’t forget he traded Charlie Morton for Nate McClouth at the same time. Straight up. Not even a kicker in exchange for Morton.
@Steve Nebraska What happened to deleting your account?
Why would anyone trade for Ahmed and his current contract when they could just sign Andrelton Simmons for dirt cheap???
What makes you think that Andrelton Simmons will get less than $9 million per season?
I think Simmons will get over $10 million but on a one-year deal.
Manny. You are insane. The $10 million one year deal thing for Simba was attempted last season by the Twins. No one will pay him that. It has already been proven to be a mistake. Simmons will be lucky to get $4 million. At most $5 million if a big market team gets desperate for a stopgap. He sucks now.
Simmons couldn’t hit even if he played for the Trashtros. Steve has the right idea
Writers have too much time on their hands. Who cares about this 76 OPS dude anyway?
I don’t think Angels will allow Simmons back on the team when he walked out on them a couple of years ago. For every other team you are correct. As an Angels fan, I’d welcome Simba back.
Simmons quit while the team was still statistically alive in the playoff race, i just can’t see anyone on that team even suggesting bringing him back after that.
I wonder if Arte will throw himself into the mix for Correa/Story or if the Angels would actually go into the season with an Andrew Velazquez/Tyler Wade platoon at SS
It’s weird that the Angels weren’t listed as a suitor.
Baseball teams go at least twenty-five players deep and this MLBTR reader is interested in more than the stars.
Gregorius will not be the Phillies starting SS absent great improvement on defense according to Dombrowski. Didi will be either DH, a utility player, shifted to another position or traded.
I’d expect a bounce back season from Didi. Maybe not defensively but certainly at the plate. The Phillies have other holes to fill besides SS so one option for them is to go cheap at the SS position (Iglesias, Simmons, etc) and then spend their remaining funds elsewhere, like the bullpen and CF.
They could also make the decision that SS is a blackhole for them and if they don’t have any decent prospects in the system, they could decide to go big and make a play for Correa.
Ahmed doesn’t fit in either category (cheap route or superstar route) so it doesn’t make sense to me that they would consider dealing for him.
Stoot is likely to take over at SS sometime this season. Philly should be out on any shortstops. Didi becomes the UIF.
If Dombrowski thought he could trade Didi he would have done so before the lockout. He could DH but i doubt he changes positions. The Phillies are already awful defensively and that certainly wouldn’t help matters
Gotta figure every team in the league would jump at the chance to sign Corea or Story for “six figures”.
Zencka strikes again. Hire an editor.
That’s just TC style. Type a bunch of nonsense and watch everyone else eat it up. Why are you hating? You know you wish you had it like that. There is only enough room in this world for one TC Zencka. Facts are facts.
Tough crowd, but you are correct. Eight figures per year would mean $10 million or more per year. Nine figures would mean $100 million or more.
Nonetheless, it is an interesting article and discussion.
Astros would be taking a huge gamble with Ahmed/Maldonado hitting 8th/9th. It would almost be like going back to their NL days. That said, depending on who is in CF the defense up the middle would be superb
Realistically what would Phillies want to bring Didi back to New York
I would think Gio Urshela and maybe Domingo German. Phillies would probably kick in some salary as well
Rsox, are you joking, I assume so.
Urshela 6.4 WAR over past three years, Gregorius 0.8 over past three years.
Gregorious $15 million for 2022, Urshula roughly $15 million under arbitration for 2022 and 2023.
Phillies would send Gregorius and five million in cash for Raimfer Salinas, a 21 year old prospect (roughly team prospect #30 with the Yankees) from Venezuela.
But I think neither team wants Didi at this point.
Realistically, if the Yankees called and said they’d take on Didi’s contract, the Phillies would want nothing more than the salary relief. By the rules, the Yankees would have to kick in some player, but it wouldn’t be anyone of value.
No matter. The Yankees at minimum would want a plus defender at SS if they’re not targeting a top hitting SS. Sadly, that’s no longer Didi. His fielding started to trend down his last season with the Yankees and has only gotten worse. Add in some health issues and his age and Didi’s value is almost nonexistent at this stage. He’s going to need a rebound in 2022 on some level, meaning with either his glove or bat; otherwise, I’m not sure he’d ever be rosterable as a bench piece in 2023.
Ducky Buckin Fent
Didi would cost nothing.
& though I loved him as a Yankee he is decidedly not the answer. He was actually one of the few shortstops who was actually *worse* defensively than Gleyber was. Combining with his atrocious fielding, he also had an OPS of .639 to put up a negative WAR season. Ooof.
We got the best out of Gregorius.
Sonny gray and Kyle farmer(who played a real solid SS this year) to the angels for a young outfielder – marsh?
And makes room for reds Uber prospect Jose Barrero
Would love to see East Longmeadow’s own come home to the Red Sox!!!
He averaged well over 4 rWAR per year for three seasons from 2018-20 (prorating the 2020). Noting since the article used fWAR. Probably should give both flavors when there’s a large enough discrepancy during a player review.
The issue is he dropped to 0.7 in 2021 despite regular playing time. His offense tumbled and his defense ticked down from elite to very good. Not unusual as he’s now in his 30s. Defense, particularly up the middle, is a younger man’s game.
If this is his new level, that’s not worth a $9M AAV guaranteed over two seasons.
I know there’s talk of the Red Sox sliding Bogaerts to second before he in all likelihood opts out at the end of this coming season. I’m not really sure if they should/would do that…but if they do, Ahmed would be a nice bridge to Jeter Downs or eventually Marcelo Mayer if he progresses quickly. Ahmed would greatly improve a terrible Red Sox defense, and gives him a chance to play for his hometown team.
I’ve lived in Arizona for 4 years, it’s shocking how bad the DBACKS are, they won’t win 50 games this year