2011 NL West Offseason Review: Arizona Diamondbacks

After reviewing three teams, we have reached the end of our 2011 NL West offseason review, with the Arizona Diamondbacks. After making the NLCS in 2007 and challenging the Dodgers for the division title in 2008, the Diamondbacks have suffered through two last place finishes and 189 losses in the last two seasons. Will 2011 bring brighter fortunes in the desert?

Five Questions

Arizona Diamondbacks
2010 Record: 65-97
Division Finish:
Last Place, 27 GB
2011 All-Star Game July 12, at Chase Field
2011 at Dodger Stadium:  
May 13-15, Jul 29-31, Sep 12-14
2011 Dodgers at Chase Field: Jul 15-17, Aug 5-7, Sep 26-28
SB Nation blog: AZ Snakepit

1) How awesome is Micah Owings?

Very. He might be my favorite non-Dodger in the NL West. He is back with the D-Backs on a minor league deal, but should he make the club, they have plans to use him both as a pitcher and a hitter. In 198 career plate appearances, Owings is a .293/.323/.538 hitter, and if he can have any kind of success at the plate, he could be an extremely valuable player, with the kind of versatility that creates an extra roster spot. Then again, on the mound, he has a 5.59 ERA the last three years (a 78 ERA+), so maybe he's not much of a two-way threat. No matter, Owings will always have a special place in my heart for getting a game-winning pinch hit double for the Reds against Arizona -- the team that traded him a month and a half earlier -- in the 10th inning on September 13, 2008, as the Dodgers were fighting tooth and nail with the Diamondbacks to reach the playoffs.

2) The Arizona bullpen can't be that bad again, right?

Most likely not. Arizona's bullpen was so bad last year that both A.J. Hinch and Kirk Gibson decided at times to try to avoid it entirely, many times at their own peril, by leaving starters in too long. Diamondback relievers in 2010 were worst in the league in ERA (5.74; a full run worse than the next worse team), WHIP (1.615), walk rate (4.59 per nine innings), and strikeout to walk ratio (1.48). Boston was the only bullpen that allowed more home runs (63) than Arizona's 62 long balls given up, and the D-Backs were 28th in strikeout rate (6.8 per nine innings). Arizona hopes that J.J. Putz at closer, plus a mostly young relief corp will lead to bullpen improvement, and those hopes are well warranted.

3) Is "Barry Enright" Arizonan for "John Ely"?

In a way, yes. Enright was a nice bright spot for the Diamondbacks in the second half, beginning his career 6-2 with a 2.45 ERA through 12 starts. Then, like Ely for the Dodgers, Enright hit the click in the roller coaster, and fell back to Earth, losing his final five starts, giving up 23 runs and 12 home runs (!!!) in 25 2/3 innings. On the season, Enright posted a 3.91 ERA that belied his 4.5 strikeouts per nine innings and 20 home runs allowed in 99 innings. Enright's 5.62 FIP and 5.19 xFIP suggest Enright might have further to fall.

4) Will Justin Upton bounce back?

Bet on it. While we in Los Angeles were occupied with Matt Kemp's subpar 2010, another NL West outfielder suffered a fall from grace last year, too. One year after hitting .300/.366/.532, Upton slid to .273/.356/.442 last year, a 100-point drop in raw OPS. Interestingly, Upton signed a six-year extension last winter worth $51.25 million (a cool $8.75 million less than the first six years of Carlos Gonzalez's deal with Colorado, for instance), then suffered a drop off in performance in year one. I still think there is too much talent in Upton to think he won't improve in 2011, and it's important to note that Upton is a mere 23 years old.

5) How many times has Kevin Towers acquired Geoff Blum?

Three. Towers signed Blum to the Padres in 2005, then traded him midseason to the White Sox, with whom Blum won a World Series. Towers signed Blum again in 2006 in San Diego (and technically, again in 2007, though Blum simply stayed with the same team this time), and then again this winter with Arizona.

Offseason Moves

Diamondbacks Trades This Winter
Team Traded Acquired
Pirates Cesar Valdez rhp Zach Duke lhp
Yankees Scottie Allen rhp Juan Miranda 1b
Orioles Mark Reynolds 3b David Hernandez rhp
Kam Mickolio rhp
Tigers
Kevin Eichhorn rhp
Ryan Robowski lhp
Armando Galarraga rhp

The big trade was the dumping of Mark Reynolds, who fell victim to his propensity to strikeout. He hit .198, but to put that in perspective his 98 OPS+ was indistinguishable from the 99 OPS+ put up by both Dodgers cornermen, James Loney and Casey Blake last year.

Diamondbacks Contracts Signed This Winter
Pos Player Type Total Contract 2011 Salary
OF/IF Willie Bloomquist FA 1 year, $900,000 (+option) $750,000
P Aaron Heilman FA 1 year, $2 million $2,000,000
3B Melvin Mora FA 1 year, $2 million $2,000,000
CL J.J. Putz FA 2 years, $10 million (+option) $4,000,000
OF/1B Xavier Nady FA 1 year, $1.75 million $1,750,000
C Henry Blanco FA 1 year, $1.25 million (+option) $1,000,000
IF Geoff Blum FA 2 years, $2.7 million $1,350,000
SP Joe Saunders Arb 1 year, $5.5 million $5,500,000
SS Stephen Drew Arb 2 years, $15.75 million (+option) $4,650,000
SP Zach Duke Arb 1 year, $4.25 million (+option) $3,500,000
C Miguel Montero Arb 1 year, $3.2 million $3,200,000
2B Kelly Johnson Arb Hasn't signed yet; filed for arb ($4.7m / $6.5m)

Mike Hampton, Wily Mo Pena, and Micah's brother Chris Owings are among the non-roster invitees to spring training.

 

Diamondbacks Players Lost
Pos Player New Team
SP Brandon Webb Rangers
1B Adam LaRoche Nationals
SP Rodrigo Lopez Braves*
SP Kris Benson retired
P Roque Mercedes Brewers
OF Ryan Church still out there
RP Blaine Boyer Mets*
IF Augie Ojeda Cubs*
RP D.J. Carrasco Mets
IF Rusty Ryal Japan
*Minor league deal

 

Here's my guess as to the Diamondbacks' 25-man roster, with a few assumptions mixed in, especially on the pitching staff:

2011 Diamondbacks Under Contract
Pos Player 2011 Age* 2011 Salary
C Miguel Montero 27 $3,200,000
1B Brandon Allen 25 team control
2B Kelly Johnson 29 $5,600,000^
3B Melvin Mora 39 $2,000,000
SS Stephen Drew 28 $4,650,000
LF Xavier Nady 32 $1,750,000
CF Chris Young 27 $5,000,000
RF Justin Upton 23 $4,250,000
IF Geoff Blum 38 $1,350,000
IF/OF Willie Bloomquist 33 $750,000
IF Tony Abreu 26 team control
OF Gerardo Parra 24 team control
C Henry Blanco 39 $1,000,000
SP Joe Saunders 30 $5,500,000
SP Zach Duke 28 $3,500,000
SP Dan Hudson
24 team control
SP Ian Kennedy 26 team control
SP Barry Enright 25 team control
CL J.J. Putz 34 $4,000,000
RHP Aaron Heilman 32 $2,000,000
RHP Esmerling Vazquez 27 team control
RHP Juan Gutierrez 27 team control
RHP David Hernandez 26 team control
RHP Armando Galarraga 29 $2,300,000
RHP Sam Demel 25 team control
Totals (15 players)
$46,850,000
*Age as of June 30, 2011 
^midpoint of Johnson's arb figures

Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com and Cot's Baseball Contracts.

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