With two of their best players, A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin, set to hit free agency while other key players like Paul Goldschmidt and Robbie Ray inch closer to the open market, the D-backs will at least gauge trade interest in their roster early in the offseason before plotting a course, GM Mike Hazen tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.
Around the league, there’s an expectation that the Snakes could oversee a full-throated rebuild, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggests on Twitter. Within the organization, Hazen says the front office has already met with owner Ken Kendrick and CEO Derrick Hall, calling Kendrick “open-minded” as the offseason gets underway.
“I think one of the takeaways for us was just to get a feel for what the trade market would be for various guys, evaluate the free-agent market as it comes out and see what happens, and reconvene,” adds Hazen.
There’s been plenty of speculation about a rebuild in Phoenix, where the D-backs stand to lose both Pollock and Corbin this winter and will see Goldschmidt reach free agency following the 2019 season. Ray, meanwhile, is set to hit the open market after the 2020 season, as is outfielder David Peralta. The Arizona farm system is not considered to be particularly strong, and the team’s long-term payroll is weighed down by Zack Greinke’s record contract and the albatross deal for Yasmany Tomas — two remnants from the previous front office regime around which Hazen & Co. will need to navigate.
The D-backs also have a whopping 14 players eligible for arbitration this winter, including several key players who are up for sizable raises — as projected by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz earlier today. Peralta ($7.7MM), Ray ($6.1MM), Brad Boxberger ($4.9MM), Taijuan Walker ($4.825MM), Jake Lamb ($4.7MM), Steven Souza Jr. ($4MM), Nick Ahmed ($3.1MM), Archie Bradley ($2MM), Andrew Chafin ($1.8MM), T.J. McFarland ($1.4MM) and Matt Andriese ($1.1MM) all figure to be tendered contracts.
Add in Goldschmidt’s no-brainer club option and guaranteed salaries for Greinke, Tomas, Alex Avila, Jarrod Dyson and Ketel Marte, and the tab reaches $119.125MM — a hefty sum for a D-backs club that has only twice opened the season with more than $100MM in guaranteed contracts on the books. Even rounding out the roster with league-minimum players would push the Diamondbacks within a few million dollars of the franchise-record $131.5MM payroll they carried on Opening Day 2018. And if the team decides to tender contracts to any of Shelby Miller ($4.9MM projection), Chris Owings ($3.6MM) or John Ryan Murphy ($1.1MM), that financial outlook would only be further muddied.
With little help on the way from the farm, two of their best players hitting free agency, the face of a franchise a year from the open market, a near-record payroll and a miserable finish to the season, it’s not hard to see why the D-backs are at least considering a look to the future. A full tear-down wouldn’t even be necessary, as they could gauge interest in flipping some stars who are controlled for a relatively short period of time in exchange for some more controllable assets that could help at the MLB level either immediately or in the near future.
Goldschmidt would be the biggest piece they could put on the market, as the perennial MVP candidate rebounded from an awful start to post a characteristically brilliant .290/.389/.533 slash with 33 homers in 690 plate appearances. But Ray would also be one of the most in-demand assets on the offseason market for starting pitching, with few quality arms expected to be available in trades. The 27-year-old missed time with an oblique strain in 2018 and a concussion in 2017, but he’s averaged better than 12 strikeouts per nine innings over the past two seasons and a 3.34 ERA in his past 285 1/3 innings in that time. Peralta is only two years from free agency himself and posted a .293/.352/.516 line with a career-high 30 homers.
Certainly, there are avenues to additional payroll capacity down the line. The team inked a television deal reportedly worth more than $1.5 billion in Feb. 2015, but they’re only in year three of a contract that was said to be as long as two decades in length and included gradual increases in year-over-year television revenue. The Diamondbacks are also in the process of seeking alternatives to Chase Field, but a new stadium wouldn’t be a possibility until at least the 2022 season.