clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Arizona Diamondbacks 2016 offseason review

New, comments
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Our National League West offseason reviews now turn to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who had quite an offseason to remember. The only question is whether that will translate into a postseason run immediately in the desert.

Snapshot

2015 record: 79-83, third place NL West

2016 Diamondbacks games in LA: April 12-14, July 29-31, September 5-7
2016 Dodgers games in Arizona: June 13-15, July 15-17, September 15-18

More info: AZ Snake Pit

Beat writers to follow: @nickpiecoro@stevegilbertmlb@jackmagruder

Free agents

Just two major league free agents were signed by the Diamondbacks, but Arizona made the big one count by swooping in and stealing Zack Greinke away from the pursuing Dodgers and Giants. Greinke got $206.5 million from the D-backs over six years, a record average annual value of $34.4 million.

Even factoring in the deferred salary the total deal is valued at roughly $194 million, still beating the Dodgers' reported offer of five years and between $155 and $160 million. At the very least, adding Greinke to the mix gives Arizona a seat at the big boy table in the National League West.

Tyler Clippard has averaged 73 games, 77 innings, 86 strikeouts a 2.67 ERA and 3.40 FIP in the last six seasons, and signed a two-year, $12.25 million deal, adding stability to the back end of Arizona's bullpen. He was one of several free agent relievers this offseason to have signed for at least $6 million per year.

Trades/waivers

Nov. 10: Acquired first baseman Daniel Palka from the Twins for catcher Chris Herrmann.

Nov. 14: Traded Jeremy Hellickson to Phillies for pitcher Sam McWilliams.

Nov. 25: Traded pitcher Allen Webster to the Pirates for cash.

Dec. 11: Acquired pitchers Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier from the Braves in exchange for outfielder Ender Inciarte, pitcher Aaron Blair and shortstop Dansby Swanson.

Dec. 16: Lost pitcher A.J. Schugel off waivers to Mariners.

Jan. 13: Acquired pitcher Cody Hill from the Giants for a player to be named later.

Jan. 30: Acquired infielder Jean Segura and pitcher Tyler Wagner from the Brewers for infielder Aaron Hill, pitcher Chase Anderson, infielder Isan Diaz and $6.5 million.

The two big trades were to get Miller and Segura, but not so much for what the Diamondbacks got, but rather for the industry-wide speculation that Arizona overpaid in the deals.

"Worst trade I've ever seen," an executive told Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports in December about the Miller trade, which included 2015 No. 1 overall draft pick Dansby Swanson leading the haul going to Atlanta.

At least in the Miller trade, the Diamondbacks got three years of a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher coming their way. The trade with Milwaukee seemed more about saving $5.5 million of Hill's salary, and giving up highly-touted infield prospect Isan Diaz to do so, than it did about acquiring shortstop Jean Segura, who will turn 26 in March but has hit just .252/.285/.311 combined in the last two seasons.

Notable NRIs

A trio of old friends are in big league camp with Arizona — outfielder Kyle Jensen and left-handed relief pitchers Scott Rice and Wesley Wright.

Winning the offseason

With the additions of Greinke and Miller in December, it was hard to avoid discussion about the baseball offseason that didn't include the Diamondbacks among the "winners" of the offseason, and contenders if not among the favorites in the National League West.

It sounded familiar to the Dodgers.

"Last year we were talking about the Padres being so good," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "You're obviously going to have certain teams that so-called experts will say can do this or that."

"If you look at last year with the Padres, they got huge pieces that everybody thought was going to make them a huge team, and that didn't work out very well," said outfielder Scott Van Slyke.

"The free agent market when you look back over time hasn't necessarly resulted in helping teams win in October. There's just not that high of a correlation between them," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in December before Greinke chose Arizona. "On one hand by making a big splash you might win the winter headlines, but more often than not you aren't having a parade at the end of October."

(Yas)many outfielders

Part of the massive package sent to the Braves in the Shelby Miller trade was outfielder Ender Inciarte, entering his age-25 season and with five seasons before eligible for free agency. Inciarte hit .303/.338/.408 in 2015, but the disparity in his Wins Above Replacement had to do with Baseball-Reference (5.3 WAR) loving his defense in right field much more than FanGraphs (3.3 WAR).

Still, Inciarte was a valuable player with whom to part, but Arizona felt they have the outfield depth to withstand the loss.

A.J. Pollock is becoming a star in his own right in center field, and they still have David Peralta in left field, who quietly hit .312/.371/.522 with 53 extra-base hits in 149 games in 2015. Peralta in the second half hit .360/.401/.577 with nine home runs, 11th in baseball with a 162 wRC+ after the All-Star break and second only to Joey Votto in batting average (.362).

But the trade freed up an outfield spot for Yasmany Tomas, who struggled in his first season in MLB after signing a six-year, $68.5 million deal last offseason as a free agent out of Cuba. He hit just .273/.305/.401 with nine home runs in 426 plate appearances, and after the All-Star break hit just .208/.228/.335.

But the Diamondbacks are betting on Tomas, entering his age-25 season in 2016, to break out, one of many things Arizona needs to go right in order to contend in the National League West.

Rotational alignment

Funny how adding one of the very best pitchers in baseball does wonders in improving a starting rotation. But it wasn't just Greinke who was added to the D-backs' starting staff for 2016. Arizona surrounded Greinke with a bevy of young pitchers, namely adding Miller to an impressive top three that includes Patrick Corbin.

Corbin was solid in the second half of 2015, coming back from Tommy John surgery to post a 3.60 ERA and 3.27 FIP in 16 starts, with 78 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 85 innings. If Corbin can get anywhere close to his 2013 form when he averaged 6.51 innings per start, he'd team with Greinke (6.96 innings per start in 2015) and Miller (6.22) to give Arizona a windfall of innings for a starting staff that averaged just 5.48 innings per start, second-lowest in the majors to the Rockies.

That trio will be surrounded by 27-year-old old friend Rubby De La Rosa, who looked pretty good when he wasn't facing the Dodgers last year, 24-year-old Robbie Ray, and 23-year-old Archie Bradley, the latter a former upper-echelon prospect who made only six minor league starts in 2015 after taking a line drive off his face in June.

All in all, Bradley was relatively lucky in that he wasn't more seriously injured by the line drive, though it produced one of the most striking baseball images of the year.

Feeling a draft

Outlook

There is no question that the Diamondbacks improved over last season, but then again they also had to. There is still a step between improvement and division favorites, and I think Arizona doesn't quite have the depth to overtake the Dodgers or Giants in 2016. But they aren't that far off.