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Note from the editor: When Baseball Digest first started in 1944, the magazine gathered writers from all across the country to provide insight to the teams that they covered on a regular basis. This provided content and coverage that was in depth and more insightful than having national writers cover teams and players that they barely knew.
Our featured bloggers that provided us with the in depth Report Card series that has just concluded are back to give everyone an in depth look at what the off season holds for the major league teams they cover. A look at what each team needs, what each team has already gained and lost, and some of the youth in each team’s system will be examined in these articles. You can find all of the author’s information at the bottom of the article.
The Diamondbacks should have a quiet off-season – not because they’re hamstrung by bad contracts, ownership changes or small-market dollars, but because they’ve done a good job locking up players and shopping the value section of the free-agent marketplace. They’d love a starting pitcher, some more offense at third base, and possibly a more offensively consistent CF, but if they can’t find it those a reasonable price, they’ve got some decent in-house options with which to try and repeat as NL West champions.
Key Free Agents Leaving The Team
The Diamondbacks rid themselves of most of their free agents long before the 2011 season ended, jettisoning 1B Russell Branyan, RHP Aaron Heilman and 3B Melvin Mora. OF/1B Xavier Nady ended the year on the DL and is unlikely to return. Frequent pinch-hitter Sean Burroughs could leave if another team thinks they could make more use of him, as could Lyle Overbay, who played just 18 games after being released by the Pirates.
Key Areas Needing Improvement
The tattooed Ryan Roberts appears to be the starter at 3B, but his offensive numbers leave a bit to be desired. There’s no questioning his work ethic and energy, but should a better bat come along, the D-backs would be foolish not to consider it.
Likewise, CF Chris Young is under contract through 2013 with a club option in 2014, but given his off-and-on performance, there has to be some speculation how long his offensive inconsistencies will be tolerated, despite being an above average defender.
Pieces That Are In Place
The majority of Arizona’s roster seems set for 2012: RF Justin Upton is locked up through 2015, and could prove to be one of the best bargains in baseball. He’s signed for just under $7MM in 2012, with his salary maxed out at $14.7MM in 2015. LF Gerardo Parra will be around league minimum as he isn’t arbitration eligible until 2013, and could evolve into a solid player when he puts all his tools together. CF Chris Young will also be back, unless the concerns mentioned earlier result in a new player coming in.
Likewise, the majority of the infield from 2011 will return: SS Stephen Drew is locked up at $7.75MM, though he’ll be coming back from surgery on both a broken ankle and a sports hernia. 1B Paul Goldschmidt and 3B Ryan Roberts will be back, while the club resigned UT Willie Bloomquist, 2B Aaron Hill and SS John McDonald.
The starting rotation will have RHPs Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter back for near league minimum, and could end up delivering some of the best bang for the buck. Wade Miley is also under team control, and after seven decent starts in 2011, could be the 5th starter. Several in-house prospects could also make a case for a starting gig: the potential battle between Jarrod Parker, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin should make spring training very interesting.
The bullpen has closer J.J. Putz in the second year of his two-year deal, earning $4.5MM with a club option for 2013 or a $1.5MM buyout. Setup man RHP David Hernandez and LHP Joe Paterson are under team control, while Juan Gutierrez missed most of 2011 with a right shoulder injury but could become the 7th inning guy the D-backs need. RHP Brad Ziegler should also be back, though he struggled at times to be the effective reliever the D-backs expected when they traded for him in 2011. RHP Micah Owings could be the long-man out of the bullpen, as well as a spot starter and pinch-hitter. RHP Sam Demel is questionable after a rough 2011, but will be in the mix. A number of pitchers that split time between Triple-A Reno and Phoenix could make the roster, including Ryan Cook, Bryan Shaw and Zack Kroenke, Each has shown some potential, but if and how they fit into the bullpen will be determined during spring training.
The catchers are also set, with Miguel Montero eligible for arbitration. He wants a long-term deal and the D-backs would like to keep him around, thought there’s been disagreement on terms. Backup Henry Blanco signed a one-year deal for $1.2MM, while Konrad Schmidt waits behind them at Triple-A.
Possible Trade Pieces Within The Organization
LHP Joe Saunders is up for arbitration, and the D-backs are in a dilemma with him – while he’d be welcomed back at a reasonable salary, an arbitration decision could turn him into an overpaid pitcher. The D-backs will likely need a starter; the question is whether they can find a better deal than Saunders on the open market or in-house.
3B/1B Geoff Blum has a $1.35MM deal for 2012, though after an injury-plagued 2011 his outlook is questionable.
The minor league outfielders may have the hardest time cracking the big leagues, given the defensive prowess and youth of Upton, Young and Parra, plus the versatility of Roberts and Bloomquist to backup those spots. If a deal needed to be made, Collin Cowgill, Cole Gillespie and David Winfree could certainly be included without straining the organization.
Any Moves Already Completed
The Diamondbacks inked SS John McDonald to a two-year, $3MM deal on Nov. 2, then utility man Willie Bloomquist accepted his invitation to return the team after some communication problems seemed to indicate he wouldn’t be back. Henry Blanco signed a one-year deal two days after electing free agency, while 2B Aaron Hill cashed in on a offensive resurgence after being traded to Arizona in August, agreeing to a two-year, $11MM deal.
One young player in the minors to see time in 2012.
Jarrod Parker would be the most likely player to see a fair amount of time in a D-backs uniform in 2012. The 23-year-old got one start on Sept. 27 against the Dodgers as a taste of the big leagues to keep him motivated in the off-season. He made a steady progression through the minors, posting an 11-8 mark with a 3.79 ERA in 26 starts at Double-A Mobile in 2011, offering a four-pitch mix of low 90s fastballs, curves and sliders around 80 mph and a slow curve that will hover around 70 mph. He’ll have competition from several other minor league pitchers as the D-backs have stocked up on starting pitching, so don’t be surprised to see several fresh faces on the mound in 2012.
Topics: Aaron Heilman, Arizona Diamondbacks, Baseball Digest, Free Agents, Lyle Overbay, Melvin Mora, National Writers, NL West, Offensive Numbers, Ownership Changes, Pinch Hitter, Rhp, Russell Branyan, Ryan Roberts, S System, Sean Burroughs, Season Outlook, Starting Pitcher, Work Ethic, xavier nady