Is Josh Rojas the Answer at 3rd Base for the Diamondbacks?

Atlanta Braves v Arizona Diamondbacks
Atlanta Braves v Arizona Diamondbacks / Norm Hall/GettyImages

Before Josh returned from injury, the hot corner had been lukewarm at best with Drew Ellis, Yonny Hernandez, or anyone else the Diamondbacks decided to pencil in. Rojas was basically the 3rd baseman by default. But does that mean he is the answer at 3rd base?

Josh was activated off the injury list on May 6th, and in the next 13 games he started he got on base in each of them, yet in those first 13 games of the season, Rojas did not record an extra-base hit. Then, on a Friday night in Chicago Josh launched 3 home runs in the same game. Then, the next day you may remember, Josh, struck out on a pitch that also hit him on the hand. That was his only plate appearance of the day, so the on-base streak stopped at 13. But since he joined the club from the injured list on May 6th until June 11th, he has not gone two consecutive days without a hit.

Last season he played in over 160 games. Those games were played in a variety of different positions. He played over 50 games each at second base and the outfield, 42 games at shortstop, and only 14 at third base. He has already surpassed that number this season at third with 28 games played and a single game as DH. As important as he was last season as a true utility player, he may be a guy who does better at the plate when he knows where he will play in the field. From last season to this season his strikeout % has decreased, his walk % has increased and his contact rate has also increased. In the same token, his ground ball % has dropped, and his fly ball % has gone up along with his line drive %. 

Josh Rojas
Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers / Harry How/GettyImages

Rojas will turn 28 on June 30th. He is a hometown kid born in Litchfield Park, attended high school in Goodyear, is arbitration-eligible next season, and will not be a free agent until 2027. He is a relatively young, cheap, controllable piece. But is he the answer?

As far as his defense goes this season at 3rd base, he has had 28 games with 239.2 innings where he has had 80 defensive chances. In those 80 chances, he has had 24 putouts, and 54 assists with 5 double plays and 2 errors. All that gives Rojas a .975 fielding %. As far as his overall value, it is the highest of his 3-year career at 1.2 WAR. So, he is improving. But has he hit his ceiling? 

Let's do one more comparative analysis to judge Josh Rojas. How about we compare him to the other four third basemen in the division by their WAR. Ryan McMahon of the Colorado Rockies is probably his closest competitor, with only 1 more year of service time. Last year Ryan had a breakout season and a 4.0 WAR, this year he has come back down to earth and currently has a 1.1 WAR. Justin Turner of the Dodgers is making $20MM this season and giving the LA faithful a -0.4 WAR. In San Diego Manny Machado is sporting a 3.4 WAR, but he is also making $32MM this season while Josh Rojas is making less than $1MM. Finally, the San Francisco Giants have a 15-year veteran manning their hot corner in Evan Longoria, who is also costing them $19.6MM with $5MM of that paid for by the Rays. He is giving them a -0.1 WAR.

In closing, let's sum it up in a few sentences. Josh Rojas is a good player, especially in comparison to the money he is costing the Diamondbacks. At that point, I am not arguing. I would even talk to him about a reasonable extension that would cover all his arbitration years (which gives Arizona cost control) and a couple of his free-agent years. McMahon received a contract for 6 years and $70MM. I would be perfectly fine giving Rojas 7 years and $40MM with some incentives and a big mutual number for year 8 like $10-12MM. But the real question is Josh Rojas a Bonafide third baseman or is he a utility player? I think Josh is more of the latter. The Dbacks need to spend some money and upgrade at third base and know that if an injury occurs, and usually there is one, Rojas can give you average coverage.