Arizona Diamondbacks – is Colby Rasmus an upgrade?
By Joseph Jacquez
In order to balance out the lineup, Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, wants to add a left-handed bat
Going forward for the Arizona Diamondbacks, upgrading the bullpen remains the principal priority. Despite the signing for Fernando Rodney last Friday, general manager Mike Hazen expressed interest in adding a left-handed bat to balance the Diamondbacks right-handed heavy lineup.
“I think being a little more left-handed could certainly help us,” Hazen said. “Pigeonholing it into one specific focus, I think, would be too complicated to try to pull off. I think we can be opportunistic about that.”
New manager Torey Lovullo could also use more corner outfield depth. For that reason, free agent Colby Rasmus would be a nice addition.
Last season, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta missed significant time with injuries. In 2015, Pollock (7.4 bWAR) and Peralta (3.7 bWAR) were the Diamondbacks second and fourth most valuable players respectively. The Diamondbacks are counting on Pollock and Peralta being healthy, but that may not be enough.
Last year, former manager Chip Hale was consistently forced to play infielders Chris Owings and Brandon Drury, along with catcher Chris Herrmann out of position and in the outfield.
Rasmus features an elite glove that this team desperately needs.
Gold Glove Candidate
Rasmus, along with starter Dallas Keuchel and fellow outfielder George Springer, were Rawlings Gold Glove award finalists.
Last year, in 186 total chances, Rasmus did not commit a single error. The 30-year-old played 84, 18 and 11 games in left-, center- and right-field respectively. Rasmus was tied for the third most outfield assists in the American League. Eleven of them came in left, the second highest total among A.L. left-fielders.
In addition, Rasmus measured up with advanced metrics. Among A.L. left fielders, Rasmus collected the most defensive runs saved (14) and had a 11.3 ultimate zone rating (UZR).
Included with all A.L. outfielders, the native of Columbus ,Ga. ranked fourth and fifth in DRS and UZR respectively. While he spent most of his time in left, Rasmus showed he can be effective in center and right.
In center, Rasmus saved three runs with a UZR of 1.5. In right he was even better, with a UZR of 2.1 and range runs above average (RngR) of 1.7.
Rasmus showed good poise and range. He cuts off ground balls headed for the gap, throws out runners at second and third, and makes leaping home run and/or game saving catches.
There is no question that Rasmus would be a defensive upgrade in left over Yasmany Tomas. Whether or not it would be financially feasible is a condition Hazen must decide.
Related Story: Hazen not in any hurry to deal and trade
Home Run Threat
The Diamondbacks would sacrifice the long balls that Tomas provided. After the All-Star break, “El Tanque” batted .294 and mashed 18 home runs. He drove in 49 runs, with an .913 OPS. In addition, Tomas owned southpaws to the tune of a 1.113 OPS. However, power from the left side is valuable, and Rasmus has plenty of pop in his bat.
Rasmus struggled at the plate in 2016, but he still hit 15 bombs after connecting for 25 bombs in 2015. Of his 13 homers, 15 home runs came against right-handers.
As a team, the Diamondbacks hit lefties at a .276 clip with a .830 OPS, but they batted 20 points less against right-handers. Rasmus also did well with RISP collecting 38 of his 54 RBIs in those situations with a 116 weight runs created plus (wRC+).
In Hazen’s search to upgrade, Rasmus provides skills that the Diamondbacks are lacking. Hazen wants to add a left-handed bat and inprove outfield defense. Rasmus would accomplish both those goals.
If the Diamondbacks pursue Rasmus, the outstanding issue remains the future of Yasmany Tomas in Sedona Red.
For now, the price for Rasmus maybe unrealistic. Despite some solid numbers throughout his game last season, Rasmus hit only .206 in 107 games. There could be two factors which draw concern.
First is his salary. In 2015 with Houston, Rasmus earned $8 million and nearly doubled that to $15 million last season with the Astros. In the batter’s box, he has a tendency to strike out. In 417 plate appearances last season, he fanned 121 times and that’s nearly one strikeout for every four trips to the plate.
So far this off-season, Hazen has shown a penchant for addressing economics. He did not offer a contract to Welington Castillo, who could make close to $7 million and countered with 33-year-old veteran Jeff Mathis for $1 million. He also dumped Jean Segura, who will ask for considerably more than the $2.6 million from the 2015 season.
It may be difficult for Diamondbacks to sign Rasmus for no more than $6 million. Despite a down year, he will not take a 50 percent cut or more. While Rasmus would be an upgrade defensively, his ability to strike out and a significant contract from last season may stop Hazen from further consideration.
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