The Increasingly Crowded Arizona Diamondbacks’ Outfield
By Thomas Lynch
Will Mark Trumbo be a part of the D’backs’ outfield in 2015? Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
A great deal of talk this season has centered around the glut of players in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ infield. Once third baseman Jake Lamb was called up to the Majors at the beginning of August and Chris Owings came off the disabled list at the beginning of September, the situation became even more muddled. However, the same type of playing time issues are starting to bubble to the surface in the outfield now that Cody Ross seems all the way back from his gruesome hip injury from a year ago.
The injuries that crippled the D’backs’ have opened the door for a couple rookie outfielders to get extended playing time. While David Peralta has been excellent since the day he arrived, it has taken Ender Inciarte a while to get going. Since August 1st, he has posted an on-base percentage of .343. He also has shown a little more extra base hit pop with eight doubles over the past six weeks as opposed to seven in the first three months of the season. Peralta is having a tremendous season, hitting close to .300 all year and among the league leaders in triples with nine. However, his back injury which has kept him out since September 5th, has allowed Ross to finally receive regular extended playing time. He has nine hits in his last 28 at-bats with four runs scored and two doubles. Paul Goldschmidt‘s injury has forced Mark Trumbo to get his at-bats while playing first base. In 2015, Trumbo will go back to being a full-time left fielder. A.J. Pollock has resumed his All-Star caliber season after spending three months on the disabled list. He has eight RBI’s month with two doubles, a triple and a home run.
So where does this leave Arizona as it heads into the offseason? Clearly, it would be nearly impossible for all five players to receive any kind of consistent playing time if the status quo remains and the injury bug stays away next year. Ross’ contract calls for him to be paid $9.5 million dollars plus an option for $9.5 million in 2016 or a $1 million dollar buyout. If the team doesn’t move him, it will be hard to picture him riding the bench for very long. While Inciarte has played very well, he may be best-suited for a fourth outfielder role, getting 350-400 at-bats a year. I have already advocated for Pollock to be given a five-year extension. He deserves to start every day in center. Do the Snakes believe Peralta is a flash in the pan or, at age 27, is he just a late-bloomer? Kevin Towers traded for Trumbo less than a year ago. However, since he is no longer the general manager, Tony LaRussa may not have the same attachment toward him.
If a player or two is on the move, here is what could happen. In my opinion, Pollock should not go anywhere. I think he is the best all-around player in the outfield and the second-best player on the team after Goldschmidt. If the thought is dealing Peralta or Inciarte, the return would have to be a player or players that are Major League-ready. The two of them have shown themselves to be capable, every day players and are under club control for the next five years. The D’backs would be trading a surplus for a need. Ross would be more of a salary dump. The return is not as important as clearing off the salary. Of course, Arizona may have take on some of the money, as much as $3 million. That extra $6 million could go a long way in addressing a pressing need like a starting pitcher. Dealing Trumbo might actually make the most sense. He is about to hit arbitration and therefore see his salary skyrocket. While the team would miss his power, the defense in the outfield would be much stronger. Ross in left, Pollock in center and Peralta with Inciarte in the backup role for all three would make the D’backs a more balanced group.
It is a cliche, but this is a very important offseason for the franchise. The outfield situation needs to be cleaned up by Spring Training. If Mr. LaRussa needs a sounding board, he should feel free to give me a call.