It’s an extensive process – creating a shopping list that is. I live in a town of a little over 3,000 people and there are exactly two grocery stores in town.
Both offer something a little different than the other. One is cheaper on some groceries and the other is cheaper in other groceries. So in an attempt to maximize our groceries and minimize our spending, my wife and I create two separate shopping lists – one with groceries that are usually cheaper at one store and another for groceries that are cheaper at the other. It’s our own personal “Moneyball” if you will. Billy Beane has nothing on us.
Okay, so we’re spending $200 instead of $60 million, but the idea is the same. We’re trying to maximum the value of our dollar.
Each season, every MLB team tries to do the same thing – maximize the value for their dollar. For teams like Beane’s A’s, the Rays and the D-backs, that means being only able to spend half, or less, the money that teams like the Dodgers, Yankees and Tigers can. So every dollar counts.
With that in mind, I’ve taken a quick look at what the D-backs will be shopping for this offseason. Using Baseball Reference and Cot’s Contracts, I was able to compile the D-backs guaranteed contracts in 2013, arbitration eligible players and pre-arbitration eligible players.
To start, the D-backs used a 13 position player, 12 pitcher composition of their 25-man roster for most of the season. The D-backs have 10 players with guaranteed contracts in 2013 (numbers in parenthesis are in millions): Miguel Montero ($10), Justin Upton ($9.75), Jason Kubel ($7.5), Aaron Hill ($5.5), Willie Bloomquist ($1.9), John McDonald ($1.5), Heath Bell ($9), J.J. Putz ($6.5), Trevor Cahill ($5.5) and David Hernandez ($1.25). That fills six position player spots, one starting pitcher spot and three bullpen spots for a total of $58.4 million (minus $4 million that the Marlins will be paying of Bell’s contract).
Parra, Kennedy, Ziegler and Albers are all arbitration eligible while Goldschmidt, Eaton, Pennington, Collmenter and Miley are all pre-arbitration. The exact numbers for each of these players’ salaries for next year is volatile so I won’t even pretend to guess at that number. However, the number will likely take the D-backs close to a $70 million cap number.
In addition, the D-backs have options on catcher Henry Blanco (club option for $1.24) and Matt Lindstrom (mutual option for $4). The D-backs seem unlikely to pick up Lindstrom’s option now with Bell, Ziegler, Putz, Hernandez, Collmenter and Albers already in the pen.
The option on Blanco is up in the air at this point.
Now that we’re all caught up with the details, it looks like the D-backs will have six spots on their grocery list to fill the 25-man roster: 3B, a back-up catcher, a bench corner infielder, two starting pitchers and one more relief pitcher.
The two starting spots seem to be the easiest to fill from within. Patrick Corbin probably is being considered a strong candidate for one of the two starting spots available. Corbin pitched well for the D-backs in stretches last season but did finish the season badly and ended with a 4.54 ERA. Corbin may be destined for the bullpen at some point. Last season as a reliever he had a 1.54 ERA, and as a starter, he had a 4.91 ERA.
Trevor Bauer struggled mightily in his stint with the D-backs last season but has to be a favorite to fill one of the two starting spots. Bauer, by pretty much all accounts, was stubborn in his approach and never wanted to challenge hitters by throwing strikes. Basically, he tried to get major league hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone. Well, they’re major league hitters for a reason and wouldn’t give in to Bauer. Because of that, he had a 6.06 ERA and walked 13 batters in 16.1 innings of work.
The frustrating part is that Bauer has plus stuff and could challenge all hitters in the strike zone and get results. If he is able to learn that lesson and throw strikes, he could be the top of the rotation pitcher the D-backs thought they were drafting.
However, the pitcher I think should and will end up in one of the starting spots is Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs threw 29.1 innings in 2012 and compiled a mediocre at best 5.83 ERA. But I for one came away from his outings impressed. He wasn’t wild and has a repertoire that should be able to miss bats at the major league level. He’s spent four seasons in the minor leagues compiling a 2.98 ERA and appears to be ready to make the next step.
That fifth spot will either be Bauer or Corbin but signing a veteran free agent to a one-year deal worth $5 million or so isn’t outside of the realm of possibility, either.
The next biggest priority for the D-backs should be a starting third baseman. Chris Johnson took the D-backs by storm after his acquisition from the Astros last season but slowed down quickly. He is arbitration eligible this season for the first time and if the D-backs choose to sign him, he will undoubtedly be the starting third baseman. I think this might be the best option for the D-backs at this point. However, there are other options if the D-backs decide to go another way.
Ryan Wheeler played for the D-backs regularly after his call up in late July last season. However, he failed to impress. He had a .294 OBP and a .339 Slugging in 109 at bats. Now, that’s still a small sample size and the D-backs may believe in Wheeler enough to give him the starting spot, but I think that would be a mistake. Wheeler has always been strike out prone and his defense is suspect at best.
The problem the D-backs face, if they don’t believe in Wheeler or Johnson, is the free agent class at third, though. The class is mediocre with Kevin Youkilis probably the best option. The D-backs would likely only want a short-term contract to serve as a stop gap until prospect Matt Davidson is ready (most likely the 2013 season).
Yet another possibility is trading for a third baseman, which GM Kevin Towers has shown he is not afraid to do. Still, I think the most likely option, out of the few mediocre options, is signing Johnson.
That leaves a backup catcher and one more bench player. Montero played a league leading 141 games at catcher last season. That left a paltry 21 games for backup Blanco for the entire season. Montero’s durability is part of the reason the D-backs signed him to a six-year, $65.9 million deal during the season. However, that contract is also a big reason to make sure Montero stays healthy by sitting him a few more games.
They should take his starts down to a more manageable 125-130 per year. That’s still quite a bit but it also makes a decent backup catcher a bit more valuable. Blanco probably is not the answer at 41 years old. A good right-hand hitting catcher to allow Montero to sit against tough lefties is probably the goal. Perhaps a guy like Kelly Shoppach at one year and $1.5 million would be a good fit. Shoppach has a career .868 OPS against lefties and a .658 OPS against righties.
Having that extra bat to come off the bench against lefties can be very valuable to the D-backs.
To fill the last bench spot, the D-backs should look at a left-handed hitter that can fill in at first to give Goldschmidt some help against tough righties. (Side note: as much as Goldy is known for absolutely owning Tim Lincecum, he has actually struggled against righties and killing left-handed pitching. He has a 200 point difference in OPS from lefties to righties.)
A guy like Adam Laroche, if his option is not picked up by the Nationals, should strongly be considered by the D-backs.
To round out the shopping list, the D-backs will need one more relief pitcher to fill out the bullpen. That will almost assuredly come from with the organization. Guys like Bryan Shaw and Sam Demel will probably be the front runners for that slot. I’d like to see the D-backs give Shaw another shot.
All-in-all, here is the 25-man roster that is most likely (plus a few things I would personally like to see) going into 2013:
BN- LH Power Bat (e.g. Laroche)
Topics: Aaron Hill, Adam Eaton, Adam Laroche, Billy Beane, Brad Ziegler, Bryan Shaw, Chris Johnson, Cliff Pennington, David Hernandez, Gerardo Parra, Heath Bell, Henry Blanco, Ian Kennedy, J.J. Putz, Jason Kubel, John McDonald, Josh Collmenter, Justin Upton, Kelly Shoppach, Kevin Youkilis, Matt Albers, Matt Davidson, Matt Lindstrom, Miguel Montero, Patrick Corbin, Paul Goldschmidt, Ryan Wheeler, Sam Demel, Tim Lincecum, Trevor Bauer, Trevor Cahill, Tyler Skaggs, Wade Miley, Willie Bloomquist