Mar 17, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Big Question: Can the Diamondbacks withstand the injury to Patrick Corbin and get over the .500 mark?
The Diamondbacks won 94 games in 2011, the first year that general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson were paired together, but the team has underperformed expectations since. Towers attempted to remake the team in the (gritty) image of his manager last offseason, most notably by dealing Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to the Braves for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and a trio of prospects. However, his bold moves didn’t make much of a difference in the standings, as the club finished at 81-81 for a second straight year.
While Towers attempted to make a splash on the free agent market this winter, most of his moves were once again made through significant trades. The big one was a three-team deal that brought Mark Trumbo to Arizona and sent Tyler Skaggs to the Angels and Adam Eaton to the White Sox. He later made another deal with Chicago, this time dealing third base prospect Matt Davidson in exchange for closer Addison Reed. After trying to acquire a frontline starting pitcher for most of the winter, the club added Bronson Arroyo on a two-year, $19 million contract last month.
Will these moves be enough to challenge the rival Dodgers for the NL West crown? Realistically, no. And let’s face it, they probably wouldn’t have been favored even if they did land Masahiro Tanaka, David Price, or Jeff Samardzija. However, Towers’ inability to acquire a frontline starter this offseason stands out even more now that Patrick Corbin has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, setting up the possibility of season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Without Corbin, the Diamondbacks project to begin the year with a rotation of Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, Bronson Arroyo, and Randall Delgado. Decent, but it doesn’t exactly scream playoffs. As for the lineup, Trumbo and last year’s NL MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt should provide plenty of thump in the middle of the order. Trumbo still has his flaws, as he doesn’t get on base often and figures to be a poor defender in the outfield. Fortunately for Arizona’s pitchers, A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra can cover a lot of ground. Martin Prado continues to fly under the radar on both sides of the ball while Aaron Hill should be an asset if he’s healthy and Miguel Montero should be a pretty good bet for a rebound. This is an interesting team, but make no mistake, the Corbin injury takes some wind out of their sails.
What else is going on?
- Top pitching prospect Archie Bradley has been the talk of camp this spring and Corbin’s injury makes it more likely that he’ll see significant time in the majors this year. The 21-year-old right-hander posted a 1.84 ERA and 162 strikeouts over 152 innings last season between High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile and was recently ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the game by Baseball America. His command is said to be a work in progress, but it might not be long before we see him in the majors. My guess is it could happen as soon as the end of April.
- The Diamondbacks are currently holding a competition between Didi Gregorius and prospect Chris Owings for the starting shortstop job. Gregorius, who was acquired from the Reds last winter in a three-team trade, hit .252/.332/.373 with seven home runs and 28 RBI in 103 games as a rookie last year and provided solid defense at shortstop. Owings, who is more known for his bat, is reportedly the favorite at this time. Whoever loses the battle could begin the season in the minors, though it’s possible one of them could be traded. The Mets and Tigers are among the teams who could inquire.
- Arizona’s bullpen was in a state of flux for much of last season, as they used three different pitchers (J.J. Putz, Heath Bell, and Brad Ziegler) out of the closer role and their relievers tied for the major league lead with 29 blown saves. Ziegler actually enjoyed success as the closer despite a low strikeout rate, but Towers acquired a more traditional swing-and-miss option over the winter in Addison Reed. While some worry about Reed’s fly ball rate in the desert, he has survived in a hitter-friendly ballpark before and the Diamondbacks are better off having Ziegler available for high-leverage situations in the seventh and eighth innings when they really need a ground ball.
- The Diamondbacks declined their 2015 options on Towers and Gibson after last season, which effectively set them up for lame duck status this year. Team brass apparently wasn’t comfortable with the perception and possible distractions involved, as they had a change of heart and extended the contracts for both of them. Exact terms weren’t announced, but we’ll likely hear more speculation about their job status if they miss the playoffs or take a step back this year.
Prediction: The offense should be there, but the rotation isn’t anything special and you can’t count on Bradley to be a savior. Fourth place, NL West.
Apr 21, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT
But, like everything else having to do with their treatment of him, there’s a thread of cynicism to it.
Triples Machine: After a decade in the minors Royals rookie Paulo Orlando is demolishing triples records
Apr 21, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Seven games later he’s made history.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT
A writer who once ripped Barry Bonds for 400 pages or so talked with Bonds’ son about the nature of celebrity and celebrity villains.
Apr 21, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Off-balance, running the other way, across his body, deep in the hole and he STILL got the speedy Brett Gardner.
Apr 21, 2015, 8:44 AM EDT
The F-bombs were hilarious, but the substance of Price’s rant was far more telling.
Apr 21, 2015, 12:40 AM EDT
The future is now in Chicago.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT
Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy landed on the disabled list after exiting his season debut on April 9 with a mild left hamstring strain, but he’s on track to return Saturday against the Dodgers.
Apr 20, 2015, 10:35 PM EDT
Things are quickly going from bad to worse for the Brewers.
Apr 20, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT
This from Reds manager Bryan Price is not a good look at all.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:49 PM EDT
Tonight’s Cubs-Pirates game was delayed for 23 minutes after a woman was hit in the back of the head by a foul ball in the top of the second inning.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT
The Rockies are calling him day-to-day.
Apr 20, 2015, 8:55 PM EDT
Ben Zobrist left Sunday’s game due to left knee soreness and he’s now slated to miss at least another couple of days after receiving a cortisone shot.
Apr 20, 2015, 7:29 PM EDT
Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander had to cut a simulated game short last Wednesday and he’s currently in shutdown mode due to continued soreness in his throwing arm.
Apr 20, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT
The Mets won their eighth straight game Sunday against the Marlins to improve to 10-3 on the year, but it came as a cost, as catcher Travis d’Arnaud and left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins were forced to leave the game due to injuries. Today we learned a little bit more about how long they’ll be sidelined.
Apr 20, 2015, 4:50 PM EDT
It’s been a facility in flux since the Dodgers left in 2008, but it has a new life under new management.
Apr 20, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
It was bad enough that he needed stitches.
Apr 20, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT
Last season he threw 184 innings with a 4.11 ERA and 139/67 K/BB ratio.
Apr 20, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
And he actually owns up to taking stuff. None of that “I have no idea how that got in my system” rebop from him.
Apr 20, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
People from El Paso are still mad about that. Oh well.
- Triples Machine: After a decade in the minors Royals rookie Paulo Orlando is demolishing triples records 2
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 19
- Report: Cubs calling up prospect infielder Addison Russell 26
- Jonathan Lucroy headed to disabled list with broken toe 9
- Reds manager Bryan Price goes on profanity-laden tirade against media 67
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 75
- Report: Marlins manager Mike Redmond is on the hot seat 41
- Five Royals ejected in Sunday’s series finale against the Athletics 88
- The Commissioner’s Office thinks that the Angels could indeed go after Josh Hamilton under his contract (153)
- “We no longer need the terrorists. We’re now so good at terrorizing ourselves.” (143)
- Another argument in favor of making the DH universal (129)
- When it comes to Josh Hamilton, Arte Moreno is a craven opportunist, not a “smart businessman” (116)
- Joe Buck has a truly awful suggestion about how to improve MLB broadcasts (111)