- While playing in the Arizona Fall League, Diamondbacks prospect Seth Beer is focusing on answering questions about his defensive future by improving his first base glovework, Baseball America’s Bill Mitchell writes. The Astros selected Beer with the 28th overall pick of the 2018 draft, though he is best known for being part of the prospect package Houston sent to Arizona in the Zack Greinke trade deadline blockbuster. Beer has carried the hitting prowess he displayed at Clemson into his pro career, but since sticking as an outfielder may not be feasible, Beer has seen a good deal of first base time in order to establish a position for himself. Playing in an NL organization, he also doesn’t have the future comfort of a designated hitter spot. On the plus side, Beer is “excited” to have a clearer path to the big leagues with the D’Backs than he did in Houston, calling the trade “a great opportunity for me in my career.”
5:08pm: In another move now acknowledged by the team, Luis Urueta will move into the bench coach role for 2020. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported that decision on Twitter.
That decision pushes Jerry Narron out of the seat he had occupied since early in the 2017 season. He’s expected to remain on the staff in an as-yet-undefined capacity.
3:12pm: The Diamondbacks have announced that they will not retain pitching coach Mike Butcher. Ken Rosenthal and Robert Murray of The Athletic first tweeted the news.
Butcher had been in his role since the start of the 2016 campaign, so he pre-dated manager Torey Lovullo and the organization’s primary front office leadership. He has previously served as the pitching coach for the Rays and Angels.
Though he was able to survive the major 2016-17 organizational shakeup, and help a few notable pitchers turn in quality campaigns, Butcher evidently wasn’t seen as the right voice moving forward. His departure isn’t part of a broader wave of change, as the remainder of the 2019 coaching staff is expected to return for 2020.
- Nick Ahmed enjoys playing for the Diamondbacks, but when it comes to the possibility of a contract extension, the shortstop tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that “I want to sign a fair deal. I’ve played long enough to realize that. I want to be able to take advantage of what I’ve got to this point in my career.” A September slump has dropped Ahmed’s slash line to .255/.318/.442 over 621 PA this season, though his 93 wRC+ still represents the best offensive production of his six-year career, and his glovework has continued to be excellent. Ahmed has one year of arbitration remaining before he hits free agency in the 2020-21 offseason, and he’ll be 31 on Opening Day 2021. It makes for something of a tricky extension case, as Piecoro notes, since there aren’t many shortstop comps that would serve as a model for a potential multi-year contract. There also hasn’t been any word from the D’Backs if they’d be interested in extending Ahmed, though Piecoro observes that GM Mike Hazen “does not speculate on such topics.”
Righty Taijuan Walker may not have returned in time to make a meaningful impact for the Diamondbacks this year, but he’ll throw at least one inning on the season. The club announced today that he’ll take the ball for a single-frame start on Sunday, as Zach Buchanan of The Athletic was among those to cover on Twitter.
Walker was expected to return much earlier after rehabbing nearly the way back from Tommy John surgery. But a shoulder injury put a halt to his progress — and raised yet more significant questions about his long-term outlook.
The brief outing represents a nice reward for the 27-year-old’s grinding recovery efforts. It’ll be his first time taking the big league hill since mid-April of last year. Walker had turned in a highly promising 2017 season, working to a 3.49 ERA in 157 1/3 innings, but only made it three starts into the ensuing campaign.
This appearance won’t change the immediate salary situation for Walker, who earned just over $5MM in 2019. He’s certain to receive a repeat salary in his final season of arbitration eligibility, with free agency beckoning at the tail end of the 2020 campaign. The stakes are high for player and team. With a healthy Walker, the D-Backs could have a strong rotation made up almost entirely of traded-for hurlers. And the talented righty will be looking to set the stage for free agency.
The Diamondbacks will take steps to try and keep Ketel Marte healthier in 2020, GM Mike Hazen told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, including “getting him off his feet at various points in time” during the season, and investigating “offseason/spring training type of regimens, physically, that we can help him strengthen to put himself in a better position coming into the season.” Something that doesn’t appear to be on the table is moving Marte back to second base, as while Hazen didn’t entirely rule out the idea, “I think how he fits onto the major-league team is a tremendous luxury.” Marte’s transition to regular center field duty went swimmingly from a defensive standpoint, as he posted an excellent +7 Defensive Runs Saved and +10.8 UZR/150 over 687 2/3 innings at the position. He also saw significant action at second base and a bit of time at shortstop, so between that versatility and a huge offensive performance (32 homers and a .329/.389/.592 slash line), Marte was one of the most valuable players of 2019 —- his 7.1 fWAR ranks sixth in all of baseball.
There was a bit of an injury cost, however, as Marte was shut down last week due to a stress reaction in his back. While the stress reaction wasn’t terribly serious, keeping the superstar healthy is of the utmost importance for the D’Backs. Hazen said the Diamondbacks won’t be “closing ourselves off to what the offseason will bring,” so Marte’s positional usage could perhaps be altered again should Arizona have the chance to acquire another regular center fielder (or second baseman). Marte seems like the best bet to be in center on Opening Day, however, given that landing a center fielder would likely come at a significant financial or trade cost to the D’Backs.
- The Diamondbacks have shut right-handers Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen down for the season, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Weaver sat out all of June, July, August and most of September with forearm and UCL injuries, but he made a successful two-inning return last weekend to cap off his 2019. He and Gallen, whom the D-backs acquired at the trade deadline, figure to slot in near the top of the club’s rotation in 2020. Fellow righty Taijuan Walker could join them if he overcomes the arm problems that have essentially shelved him for two straight seasons. Walker could, however, take the ball for the first and only time of the season in Arizona’s finale on Sunday, Piecoro relays.
The Diamondbacks recently extended GM Mike Hazen in hopes of staying off of the upcoming offseason’s hiring carousel. But prying eyes are still scanning an Arizona front office that has performed quite well over the past several seasons.
Assistant general managers Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter are among the execs around the game that figure to draw interest from other teams. But neither will be easy to poach, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.
As it turns out, both Sawdaye and Porter received new deals long before Hazen’s new contract was hammered out. They are each now a full season into extensions, the details of which remain unknown. Both originally landed with the club along with Hazen, in advance of the 2017 season.
The new contracts may not fully protect the club from a front-office raid, as D-Backs CEO Derrick Hall acknowledges. He says that the team “tried to give [Sawdaye and Porter] a little more security” with those deals. But that’s likely just a temporary protection.
“We are going to try to do all we can to keep them happy, but we know realistically that the point will come when one or both will move on for a higher position. They both are deserving and will get that chance.”
The expectation in Arizona is that Porter and Sawdaye will remain in place unless there’s an opportunity at a clear promotion. As Piecoro understands it, a position serving as a GM beneath a president of baseball operations would likely not qualify. At the same time, there’s obviously some room for interpretation. And Hall says the organization isn’t taking a black-and-white view of the matter. He expects the duo will mostly be interested in exploring outside possibilities that represent “an advancement,” but the club will consider interview requests on a case-by-case basis.
At the moment, there’s only one major opening in baseball — but it’s a big one, and a notable one for these particular executives. The Red Sox are in need of a new baseball ops chief. Both Sawdaye and Porter have deep roots in the Boston organization, which has continued to make baseball ops moves after parting ways with Dave Dombrowski — perhaps suggesting an internal or old-friend hiring is most likely. At this point, though, it’s mostly conjecture. It remains to be seen what other front office opportunities may present themselves.
- With the offseason approaching, there will be no shortage of questions surrounding Diamondbacks infielder Jake Lamb, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Lamb has struggled through a second consecutive disappointing year after an All-Star campaign in 2017. He’ll be eligible for arbitration this winter, and the organization may opt to non-tender Lamb in favor of more affordable, less risky investments. Injuries to his shoulder and quad have robbed Lamb of regular at-bats, making it difficult to regain the swing that produced 30 home runs just two years ago. Unfortunately for Lamb, those injuries have opened doors for others in the organization, and he may now find himself squeezed out of the D-Backs’ plans.
Diamondbacks right-hander Luke Weaver will return from the injured list Saturday to start in San Diego, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com tweets. Because he’s on the 60-day IL, the D-backs will need to re-add Weaver to their 40-man roster, though they currently have an opening.
Saturday’s outing will be the first since May 26 for Weaver, whom forearm and UCL issues have kept out of action for almost four months. The 26-year-old was outstanding up to that point, as he notched a 3.03 ERA/3.10 FIP with 9.82 K/9 and 2.02 BB/9 over 62 1/3 innings. That was undoubtedly the type of production the Diamondbacks had in mind when they acquired Weaver from the Cardinals last offseason as part of their return for first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
The fact that Weaver’s on his way back this year won’t impact the Diamondbacks’ playoff chances, as the 78-75 club has all but fallen out of contention. But if Weaver can end the season on a healthy note, it would give the team something to hang its hat on going into the winter. Weaver, Zac Gallen (who has thrived since joining Arizona at this year’s trade deadline), Robbie Ray (if the D-backs don’t deal him), Taijuan Walker (who should be back from Tommy John surgery and shoulder issues) and Merrill Kelly ought to give the Snakes’ rotation a solid foundation entering 2020.
A dream season for the Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte has come to a premature end. The club has shut down the second baseman/outfielder on account of a stress reaction in his back, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. The injury doesn’t figure to affect Marte going forward, as general manager Mike Hazen said he won’t need surgery and should be ready for a full spring training.
At 78-75, the Diamondbacks have put up a valiant fight this year, but it’s clear a playoff berth won’t be in the cards. As such, it likely wasn’t an overly difficult decision for the team to shut down Marte, who has emerged as a franchise-caliber player this season.
Marte, who joined the D-backs in a whopper of a trade with the Mariners in 2016, turned into one of baseball’s elite all-around players in 2019. Not only did the switch-hitting 25-year-old slash an exemplary .329/.389/.592 with 32 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 628 plate appearances, but he was an asset on the defensive end. Marte combined for 5 Defensive Runs Saved and a 4.5 Ultimate Zone Rating among second, shortstop and center field (primarily the latter). His overall output was worth a jaw-dropping 7.1 fWAR/6.9 bWAR.
Back in 2018, Marte signed a team-friendly extension that could possibly run through 2024. The deal has gone about as well as possible for the club thus far, and it appears Marte’s on his way to being one of the faces of the Arizona organization for the foreseeable future.