Are you an able-bodied human with all of your limbs who does a reasonable job of exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide? Then you might be starting for the Diamondbacks next season.
After losing staff ace Patrick Corbin and catcher Jeff Mathis to free agency, the D-Backs pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal, sending Paul Goldschmidt to St. Louis for young right-hander Luke Weaver, promising catching prospect Carson Kelly, minor-league infielder Andy Young and a Competitive Balance Round B draft pick.
- 2018 Result: 82-80, third place in NL West
- Key free agents: Patrick Corbin, A.J. Pollock, Clay Buchholz, Chris Owings, Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay, Shelby Miller, Brad Boxberger, Jake Diekman, Randall Delgado, Jeff Mathis
- Needs: Outfield, Starting pitching, Relief pitching
Before we get to the implications of what might end up becoming baseball's most overhauled roster, let's pay our proper respects to Goldschmidt. The best prospect ever developed by the Diamondbacks, Goldschmidt wasn't initially expected to become a star. He was an eighth-round pick out of Texas State University, a promising slugger with pop but also someone who skeptics didn't think would hit right-handers all that well, let alone become a plus defender, an agile and dangerous base-runner, and one of the most complete hitters of his generation. Check out where he ended up ranking among Diamondbacks hitters in franchise history (minimum 500 plate appearances):
Wins Above Replacement: 1st (40.1)
Slugging: 1st (.532)
On-Base Percentage: 1st (.398)
Home Runs: 2nd (209)
Runs: 2nd (709)
Runs Batted In: 2nd (710)
Stolen Bases: 2nd (124)
Goldy's big bat could hold the key to the Cardinals breaking their three-year playoff drought. Whether or not that happens, though, he'll be missed in the desert.
Now let's go back to that free-agent list. Yup, you read that right. Add Goldschmidt, and that's basically half the 25-man roster set free on the open market, with Mathis landing in Texas and Corbin painfully bolting for $140 million from the Nationals. Given that state of affairs, combined with a lack of major league-ready high-upside prospects, the time is right for a rebuild.
That's just what GM Mike Hazen and company have set out to do. With Goldschmidt gone, they're continuing to market Zack Greinke, who offers three years of team control but doesn't make sense as a keeper given that he's entering his mid-30s and making $35 million a year.
Those potential moves make plenty of sense. Neither Goldschmidt (because of contract status) nor Greinke (because of his age, and how far the Diamondbacks are from entering the ranks of the league's elite) were/are likely to be key contributors for Arizona the next time the team makes a serious run at an NL West crown. The question instead becomes this: How far do the D-Backs go in their rebuilding process?
Recently, the Cubs and Astros have looked like the prototypes for turning a franchise's fortunes around.
Chicago made as many aggressive trades as possible, in some cases hitting home runs (Andrew Cashner for Anthony Rizzo, Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop), in other cases not getting much help (Starlin Castro for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan), and in still other cases getting mixed results (Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for a package headed by Addison Russell, which looked great when Russell was one of the most dynamic rising shortstops in the league, less so coming off two lousy seasons, plus a suspension for violating the league's domestic violence policy). They also willingly lost a boatload of games, enabling them to draft standout players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber as top-five picks in the draft.
Houston was even more aggressive, unloading any and all veterans within a 1,000-mile radius. The result was one of the worst three-year stretches in baseball history, with the 2011-2013 seasons netting 106, 107, and 111 losses, and local interest bottoming out with TV ratings so low, they were effectively zero.
Do the Diamondbacks go the Cubs route, or even full Astros?
On the field, that tack makes all kinds of sense. The team's best hitter and best pitcher from last season are gone, with A.J. Pollock and so many others poised to follow, so it makes little sense to cling to other veterans still under team control. David Peralta just hit his 30s, is coming off a career year, and has two years to go until free agency. Robbie Ray's one of the most prolific strikeout artists in the game, but he too can bolt after 2020. Key relievers like Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano are window dressing on a team that's an early favorite to finish last next season. Trading anyone and anything of value can help speed up the process of ushering in the next contending D-Backs team.
Off the field could be a different story. Earlier this year, the Diamondbacks received permission from a judge to start searching for a new stadium deal. The problem is that Phoenix-area government has been (rightfully!) reluctant to rush out and finance new play palaces for local sports teams, most notably via an ongoing impasse with the NHL's Coyotes. It's not at all clear that any local city or county -- be it Phoenix or somewhere nearby -- will foot the bill for a new D-Backs stadium. Would a string of hellaciously ugly 100-loss seasons like Houston's from a few years ago turn off fans and city councils to the point that the stadium search could be further thrown into jeopardy? That decision will likely lie with owner Ken Kendrick, as opposed to anyone else on the baseball side of the organization.
Nabbing Kelly plus a buy-low on Weaver in exchange for one season of Goldschmidt is exactly the kind of move that Hazen should be empowered to make with the rest of the current roster. If D-Backs fans want to see winning baseball again relatively soon, they should root for more of the same with just about everyone who's still left.
Jonah on the MLB offseason
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Nationals: What will the Nats do if Harper leaves?
Cubs: Keys to a Cubs rebound in 2019
Reds: Can Cincy revamp its pitching staff?
Brewers: Why Milwaukee should dig deeper in its war chest
Pirates: How Buccos can get aggressive
Cardinals: St. Louis can close the NL Central gap