The Diamondbacks have listed three areas that the organization feels are necessary upgrades heading into the 2013 season: shortstop, third base, and a left-handed reliever. While the Dbacks have multiple options at both short and third base on their current roster, none of the players have been able to step up and own the starting role. Willie Bloomquist was excellent all season finishing with a .302 average but back issues virtually ended his season at the beginning of August. From April through July the 35 year old recorded 314 at bats but he was only able to play in three games adding 10 more at bats during the final two months. John McDonald is 38 years old and has never been a force at the plate but is one of the best defenders at his position in the game- he’s a great guy to have as a bench player and mentor.
Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta. Peralta will turn 31 years old next May and actually had a down year from his 2011 campaign finishing with a .239 average after hitting .299 in 2011- this could help the case for Peralta actually hitting the free agent market. His defense is top notch as he committed just seven errors in 149 games in 2012 after committing just seven in his 146 games in 2011. He’s played in at least 141 games in each of the last eight years and offers decent pop at the plate averaging 62 runs, 29 doubles, 16 homeruns and 77 RBI’s. He has a $6 million club option with the Detroit Tigers that includes a $500,000 buyout. If the Tigers opted out of this contract-and that’s probably a big IF- this would be a great addition for the Dbacks solidifying their starting shortstop for the coming years and probably at a more affordable price than what they expected from Stephen Drew (Scott Boras client).
Third Base: This position is rather bleak this off season on the free agent market with either a) veterans past their prime and creeping up on their late 30’s (Brandon Inge, Mark DeRosa, Ty Wigginton) or b) out of the Dbacks’ price range (David Wright, Kevin Youkilis). Judging by the market I would say it’s best to have both Ryan Wheeler-24 years old- and Chris Johnson-28 years old- have it in spring training and let the better player win his spot. Both have shown success at times and are younger than most other free agent options. The key for Johnson will be consistency at the plate and better defense. Wheeler was unable to find his swing as a major leaguer in 2012 but perhaps by playing every day it would allow the rookie the stability he needs to be an effective third baseman. I would suspect that the only way you’ll see a new third baseman next season is via trade.
Left-handed Reliever: Sean Burnett has hinted that he will decline his team option with the Washington Nationals of $3.5 million in hopes of inking a multi-year deal- possibly to test his market value. Burnett will be 30 years old for the 2013 season and has pitched in 73, 69, and 70 games over the last three seasons. He has a low 90’s fastball and averaged 9 K’s per 9 innings in 2012 and posted a career best 2.38 ERA. Even if Burnett were looking for a 2yr/$9million deal or 3yr/$12 million, the Dbacks could afford his contract and more importantly, could use some stability from a left hander after the debacle that was Mike Zagurski the entire 2012 season. One reason to be wary would be Burnett having elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in his throwing arm following the season (although he is expected to 100% by spring training).
Free agents can be a tough acquisition to gauge during the off season as their current team could very well decline their team option only to sign the player to either a lower one year deal or take on a totally different multi-year deal. While acquiring a left handed reliever is important for late inning match-ups, perhaps following the Heath Bell signing on Saturday Towers feels comfortable looking into the farm system or at a player in the $600k to $1 million a year range. One thing is for sure, the Dbacks need to acquire a shortstop. I believe that their experiences at both shortstop and third base this season will make GM Kevin Towers that much more adamant about securing a starter at these spots before the season as opposed to just letting them play themselves out.