The Arizona Diamondbacks had a dismal season last year suffering through a 52-110 season that saw them finish the year 55 games behind the first place Giants. That is not something that one superstar sign is going to fix. But, the team does have an above average rotation and a few nice pieces on the offensive side of the ball. Therefore I would suggest signing several smaller 1 year contracts. And even if you sign let's say 5 different players to these sort of contracts and 3 of them do well, and you are not in contention for the play-offs at or around the trade deadline, you simply trade them for other useful pieces. Granted, those pieces will more than likely be from double A, but that will help you build a team in 2 to 3 years, and we all know that is when, if done right, we will be competitive again. They also need a center fielder and a third baseman. Therefore, this article will look at free agent center field options.
Bret Gardner will be signing up for his 15th season in MLB. All the previous 14 seasons with the Yankees. I like his leadership and think that with all the younger players the Diamondbacks have he would almost be like a player manager. He is durable, of his 14 seasons he has played at least 140 games in 10 of them. But, there are some bad stats too. In the last 2 seasons he has batted .223 and .222 with a combined 54 RBI's. Last season he got 86 hits with 16 doubles, 4 triples and 10 home runs. He has also seemingly lost his speed as he only stole 4 bases last year, 3 in 2020 and 10 in 2019. Since 2019 Gardner has only made 8 errors in the outfield in both left field and center field. In 234 chances in center field in 2020 and 2021 his fielding percentage is 1.000. He could also get some DH at bats in the National League now. The Yankees paid Gardner $2.85MM in 2021 with a $2.50MM buyout, and another $1.15 buyout in 2022. I would say if Bret Gardner would accept a reduced role and platoon with Daulton Varsho (but he bats left as does Gardner) and is willing to sign a 1 year contract for $2-4MM I would take a chance on him.
Then there is Albert Almora who was a former first round pick that seemingly everyone has forgotten about. He is much younger than Gardner at age 27. He just fell off in his last 3 years offensively, his batting average by year in his career was .277, .298, .286 then .236, .167 and .115. Now the last two seasons, to be fair, were small sample sizes at 28 and 47 at bats. In 2017-2019 he averaged 143 total bases per season with 20 doubles in the same three year span. As far as defensively in his 6 seasons he has a .990 fielding percentage with only 8 total errors in 773 chances and 755 total putouts. The earliest he can be a free agent is 2024 and for his career he has made $3.4MM. I would take a chance on the kid who would be a good right handed compliment to the lefty Varsho. He, in my opinion would be a great little contract with a possible big upside. I would give him a minor league contract with an invite to Spring training and see if he could surprise and make the team.
I had a third option but the Phillies stole him from me as I was writing this in Buckeye Arizona native Odubel Herrera. He would have been the most expensive of the three, but depending on the price, could have been worth it. According to MLB Trade Rumors it is a one year deal worth a guaranteed $1.75MM with $750K in incentives.