Key D-Back nearing return, which means tough decision on horizon for Arizona

Miami Marlins v Arizona Diamondbacks
Miami Marlins v Arizona Diamondbacks / Norm Hall/GettyImages

The Diamondbacks' injured list is quite long at the moment - six players from the team's '24 Opening Day roster are currently out - but it will get shorter soon. Shortstop Geraldo Perdomo is nearing a return to the team after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee less than a week into this season versus the Yankees. The 24-year-old successfully underwent surgery to repair the injury and then completed the first step in his rehab assignment earlier this week, playing two games in the Arizona Complex League. Perdomo is now playing in Triple-A Reno as the final stage of his rehab assignment, but manager Torey Lovullo has not specified exactly when Perdomo would get activated.

Coming off a season that earned him an N.L. All-Star nod, Perdomo's callup is highly anticipated for the club, though it will come at a cost. Arizona faces a tough decision on who he'll replace on the 26-man roster. There has not been any indication - like usual - on who'll have to pack their bag, but there looks to be four logical candidates in Blaze Alexander, Kevin Newman, Pavin Smith and Eugenio Suarez. Here are the cases for them all to depart.

Which Diamondbacks player should lose their roster spot for Geraldo Perdomo?

Heading into last offseason, upgrading the third base setup looked like it a priority for General Manager Mike Hazen. The team ran without a regular third basemen for the entire '23 season, using a mix of Josh Rojas, Emmanuel Rivera and Evan Longoria - all whom are no longer with the team. The position slashed a meager .230/.299/.344 for the fourth-worst wRC+ in MLB at a 75 wRC+ (25% below league average production). Quickly after losing the World Series to the Rangers, Hazen addressed the lineup's weak spot by acquiring third basemen Eugenio Suarez from the Mariners, though his performance at the plate so far this season has been disappointing.

Suarez has consistently struggled this season, slashing .198/.262/.320 for a 66 wRC+ (34% below league average), tied for the worst among 21 qualified third basemen this year. Designating Suarez for assignment, at which point he'll likely get claimed by another team, might sound like a drastic move considering he is earning $11 million this season for the third-highest contract on the team. Hazen has shown a willingness before to cut an expensive player if that means improving the team, though, as he did with veteran pitcher Madison Bumgarner one month into last season in the penultimate year of a five-year, $85 million contract with the club.

Few would've expected Pavin Smith to be the third-best hitter (in terms of wRC+) on the team behind Joc Pederson and Ketel Marte this season. Smith's improvement this season has been one of the most impressive in the bigs. Among the 186 batters with at least 55 at-bats this season and at least 1,000 total at-bats across the three prior seasons (2021-'23), only nine of them (<5%) have exhibited a greater increase in their wRC+, as Smith went from a 91 wRC+ (9% below league average) in the three-season span to a 130 wRC+ this season. Smith has hit well when he's gotten the opportunity, but those moments have been few and far between - no hitter on the current roster has logged fewer plate appearances than he has. That's largely due to how well Jake McCarthy and Randal Grichuk have done at splitting right field this season. And with 32-year-old Joc Pederson having a career-like year in the desert as the team's DH, it's been hard for manager Torey Lovullo to pencil Smith into the lineup. This season has been Smith's most promising since debuting in 2019, though Arizona's outfield holds a lot depth, which he eternally sits at the bottom of. His playing time will dry out even more once center fielder Alek Thomas returns from his hamstring injury. Smith does have a minor-league option left, so the Diamondbacks could option him to Triple-A Reno.

Signed to a minor-league deal this offseason, there was a good chance Kevin Newman wouldn't make the big-league roster. But after an impressive spring training, Newman was awarded one of the final roster spots on the team, beating out Emmanuel Rivera for a backup infield role.Newman's spot on the team became secured once Perdomo got hurt shortly into this season.

Newman had some big shoes to fill, as Perdomo began this season on a good note, batting .250 with a .269 xBA (expected batting average) and a microscopic 4.8% whiff rate. Newman greatly struggled to match Perdomo's offense for awhile, but he's come around lately. Through May 10, Newman slashed a dismal .179/.203/.299 for a 39 wRC+, which ranked 285th out of 303 batters - in the bottom 10 percent of the league. Since then, Newman is slashing .333/.370/.472 for a 131 wRC+ in 94 plate appearances. However, a lot of Newman's success is attributed to his sky-high .392 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which suggests he's been quite lucky in that stretch.

In a team filled with up-and-coming players, perhaps Blaze Alexander has shown the most potential in just his first stint in the bigs. Alexander has just a few weeks of big-league experience under his belt, and he's already displayed well above-average power, speed and arm strength. He has the tools of a dynamic infielder, but his offensive game has some holes in it that might need polishing in the minors. In the last 30 days, Alexander's 0.06 BB/K ratio ranks fifth lowest among 293 qualified (min. 50 PA's) batters. He has also struggled a lot to produce quality contact in same-handedness matchups, as he's posted a high 60% groundball rate and low 15% line-drive rate versus right-handed pitching this season.