2023 Diamondbacks: 3 surprising roster moves heading into opening day

Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Mets
Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Mets / Christopher Pasatieri/GettyImages

I don’t imagine it is easy being an MLB GM.  Watching players perform well, and then realizing that there is no room for them on the roster.  GMs are then faced with three options; trade them, release them, or send them to the minors.  None of these would be an easy pill to swallow for the players, knowing that they are not “good enough” to make the team come opening day.  Opening day is something all players dreamed of as a kid; can you imagine how crushing it is for them to hear that they won’t get to experience that?  Here are 3 Diamondbacks players from spring training that deserve an opening-day roster spot, but will be spending it somewhere other than LA…

Sending RP Kyle Nelson to Reno

When I heard the news that Nelson will begin the season in triple-A Reno, my mouth literally dropped open.  I was in utter disbelief.  I am still trying to process and understand why, but I think I now know.

Most MLB teams carry a max of two lefties in their bullpen.  The Diamondbacks currently have two lefties in Andrew Chafin and 2022 All-Star Joe Mantiply.  Chafin was an automatic lock for one of the lefty spots as the Diamondbacks went out and signed him to a 1 year / $6,250,000 deal this offseason (Not to mention that he also has a 2.29 ERA in 126 innings pitched the last two seasons).  The tough decision came down to Mantiply and Nelson.

Nelson was terrific a season ago.  In 37 innings, he posted a 2.19 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP.  Mantiply was selected to play in his first all-star game last season.  He pitched one inning in that game, gave up no runs, and struck out 1.  For the Diamondbacks, Matniply posted a 2.85 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP over the course of 60 innings in 2022.  He also posted an absurd BB/9 ratio of 0.90 last season, along with a 9.15 K/9 ratio.

Sending a pitcher down to the minors that a season ago posted a 2.19 ERA cannot be easy.  But when you have two elite lefties like Chafin and Mantiply, it makes sense.  Sending Nelson down to triple-A shows how much pitching depth this Arizona team will have for their bullpen; if someone goes down, Nelson will most likely be the next man up.

Releasing RP Jeurys Familia

It is always good to have a couple of veteran guys in the bullpen.  Jeurys Familia has been pitching in the bigs since 2012 and this spring, he was lights out for Arizona; in 6.2 innings pitched, he posted a 1.35 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP.  Making his release a little surprising.

Granted, it is a small sample size, but it should be an indication to everyone in the MLB that this 33-year-old vet can still sling it.  I am sure the decision to release Familia had to do with Mike Hazen feeling a little weary about how Famila has performed over the last 3 seasons.  Since 2020, Familia owns a 4.63 ERA with a 1.56 WHIP and a 4.7 BB/9 ratio.  Walks come back to haunt, and Familia has really struggled with his command over the years. 

I am sure Jeurys was sad to be let go, but he quickly found a new home with the A’s.  He performed well this spring with the Diamondbacks but maybe it is a good thing he was released because his lack of command would give all Diamondbacks fans, players, and coaches a headache.

Sending IF Emmanuel Rivera to Reno

Having Rivera starting the season in triple-A is another case of there being no room for him.  The D-backs will likely carry 4 position players on their bench to begin the season.  Catcher Jose Herrera, SS Geraldo Perdomo, 3B Evan Longoria, and OF Kyle Lewis.  No room for Rivera.

It is sad that there will be no room for Rivera because he is a very solid piece to the team.  Last season he came over from the Royals in the Luke Weaver trade and proceeded to hit 14 extra-base hits in 39 games.  He also fielded the hot corner very well posting a 7 OAA.  Don’t be surprised if Rivera shows out in AAA, and is called up before the month of April ends.