With a focus on roster construction, Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, briefly delved into team needs
It appears the Arizona Diamondbacks will not make a splash this winter. After signing Zack Greinke to a $206 million deal during the last off-season, the long term future of the franchise could be up in the air.
With a new regime in place, General Manager Mike Hazen is taking time to reach out to existing players and ascertain team needs.
“Starting from scratch” likely does not characterize the current situation. The Diamondbacks would like to contend next season for the National League West division title, and, at the same time, secure moves for the future.
“It is a little early to make those assumptions, determinations” Hazen said. “I think right now we are able to just listen more than talk, hear what other teams have to say, what agents have to say.”
Hazen endorses the current mix of position players and believes the starting rotation will rebound. He identified outfield defense as an area that must improve.
Impact of Defense
In 2015, Ender Inciarte, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta saved 37 runs, the second best mark in baseball. Compare that number with a -19 DRS in 2016, the worst mark in the National League. In that regard, Hazen noted, “we want to make sure we are maximizing each players’ potential by putting them on the right spot on the field.”
Before last season began, the Diamondbacks underwent a rather dramatic transformation. Dave Stewart, the previous general manager, traded Inciarte to the Atlanta Braves in a high-profile deal. Then in early April, and during an exhibition game with the Kansas City Royals at Chase Field, Pollock fractured his right elbow and played in 12 games. After suffering a wrist injury in April, Peralta, who went on the disabled list three times, eventually played in only 48 games.
As a result, infielders were moved to the outfield on the fly. Most notably, Brandon Drury and Chris Owings. ended in the gardens. In addition, backup catcher Chris Herrmann played four games in right-field, three in left and two in center.
“That’s where you need to go back to the talent level of the player, knowing that some of the outcomes probably were influenced by the defense,” Hazen said. “We’re planning a fix that will help in those areas.”
Future of Tomas
As a principal priority coming into this off-season, pitching is the main issue for this club. Last season, Diamondbacks starters complied a 5.19 ERA, and the relievers surrendered 311 earned runs in 567 innings.
However, defensive woes, more specifically Yasmany Tomas as a corner outfielder, contributed to their demise. Among N.L. outfielders, only Matt Kemp (-18) and Andrew McCutchen (-28) had a lower DRS than Tomas (-16).
This decline in defensive performance had a substantial effect. During the past season, compared to 2015, the Diamondbacks surrendered an additional 16 unearned runs (69/53). Moreover, the gap of 0.59 between Arizona’s actual ERA and their Fielding Independent Pitching or FIP (4.50) was the largest in the majors.
For Tomas specifically, his future in Arizona is in question.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports recently reported that Hazen and company, at least for now, will hold on to the Cuban slugger.
Unless ownership increases payroll, finances will become an issue in the near future. Arizona currently has around $60 million committed to four players. As a mid-market team, this could not be sustainable.
Over the next four seasons, Tomas is guaranteed $48.5 million. He provided offensive value, and at the same time, showed he was a defensive liability. In the second half, he hit .294 with 18 home runs in 258 plate appearances.
Yet, his low on-base percentage and poor defense explained his -0.4 WAR. Tomas represents a logical fit for American League teams in need of a DH, at a lower cost.
The Diamondbacks would bite off a significant portion of his salary, but in the long run, moving on from the 26-year-old would provide added flexibility.
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If outfield defense is important, Mitch Haniger, Socrates Brito and Jeremy Hazelbaker, representing a small sample size, but have proven capable of playing corner outfield spots.