Which Diamondbacks’ off-season move will have the largest impact on 2024 and beyond?

Which move did the Diamondbacks make this off-season that will have a significant impact now, as well as in their long term future?
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez allows a home run to Texas Rangers Marcus Semien in
Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez allows a home run to Texas Rangers Marcus Semien in / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

The Arizona Diamondbacks had a very active off-season. Five players are currently on the 40-man roster who weren’t part of the organization when the off-season started back in November. They’ve made a series of trades and signings this past winter, many of whom will make an immediate impact this year. But of their moves, which one will make the largest impact in 2024 and beyond?

The obvious answer is the signing of Eduardo Rodriguez. The D-Backs and Rodriguez agreed to a four-year contract with a fifth-year mutual option. Rodriguez had a quality rebound season last year, pitching to a 3.30 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP through 152.2 innings. He had a 23% strikeout and 7.7% walk rate, but his best peripheral was his 0.88 HR/9, a career-best. But do keep in mind his barrel rate was about league average at 7.5%, and his flyball nor ground ball rate drastically changed from his career averages. He also played half of his games in Comerica Park, the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in MLB.

Still, Rodriguez has been a solid starting pitcher for years now. He will likely play well in Chase Field with the Diamondbacks’ elite defense behind him. He’s going to make an immediate impact in 2024 and will probably be a rotation anchor for at least four seasons. But there is another move the D-Backs could make that could impact the team for well beyond four seasons.

One trade that may take a few years to fully assess is the trade with the Chicago White Sox that saw the D-Backs send outfield prospect Dominic Fletcher to the South Side for pitching prospect Cristian Mena. Mena just turned 21 last December and has yet to make his MLB debut. But he is ranked as the team’s 11th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline.

Mena spent most of the year with the White Sox’s Double-A team, where he pitched to a 4.66 ERA, 4.71 FIP, and 1.35 WHIP in 114 innings. His 1.34 HR/9 was slightly below the league average, though his 11.3% walk rate was solid compared to the league average 11.2% BB%. Mena backed up this up with a quality 27.9% K-rate. Mena made four starts with their Triple-A affiliate, where he pitched 19.2 innings but allowed 13 earned runs. He only gave up one home run, struck out 20, and walked nine batters.

Mena uses a four-pitch arsenal, including a fastball, curveball, slider, and change-up. He’s not a flamethrower and sits about 91-94 MPH but with decent movement. Of his two breaking pitches, his curveball is the best. It’s a potentially plus offering in the low-80s with good break. His slider occasionally looks more like another curveball than a pure slider, though it’s another potential average offering. According to MLB Pipeline, his change-up has about 13 inches of horizontal break.

Again, Mena is only 21, but he is already on the 40-man roster. You might see him have a chance to secure a spot in the D-Backs’ rotation by next year, if not earlier. While signing Rodriguez will have an immediate impact, I think that this could leave a much larger impact on the team. If Mena is a solid SP, you’re getting a good pitcher for 6-7 years.

Rodriguez will be a major contributor to the Diamondbacks’ 2024 squad, and even Mena could make an impact next year. Rodriguez will be around for the next few seasons, but Mena could become a long-term piece of the Diamondbacks. He could even establish himself in the team’s rotation this year.