Tha Sports Junkies 101

Arizona Diamondbacks: New Year, New Team

Arizona Diamondbacks: New Year, New Team Image via Sportsgraphics36


Arizona Diamondbacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks did not fare well in 2016. In fact, only five teams in all of baseball finished with a worse record than the D’Backs 69-93 mark. The San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, and Atlanta Braves all finished with 68 wins as did the Tampa Bay Rays in the Junior Circuit, while the Minnesota Twins failed to win 60 games with an abysmal showing of 59-103. The 2015 season looked to be a turn of the corner as the Snakes finished 79-83 and looked to be only a couple of pieces away from jumping back into the playoff picture.

The free agent acquisition of Zach Greinke, the trade for Jean Segura from the Milwaukee Brewers, and the trade for Shelby Miller from the Atlanta Braves (one that may go down as the worst in D’Backs history as the D’Backs sent Ender Inciarte, top prospect Dansby Swanson and highly regarded pitcher Aaron Blair to Atlanta) had D’Backs nation buzzing and excited for the 2016 season. And after a strong record and good performances in spring training, the buzz continued. That excitement and anticipation, however, would soon wear off. Losing A.J. Pollock early in the season definitely did not help, but slow starts from Paul Goldschmidt and Greinke, David Peralta having injury issues, and Shelby Miller essentially falling flat on his face, created a recipe for a miserable season for players and fans alike.

The offense wasn’t bad last year, but wasn’t as good as it could have been. The Diamondbacks have had pretty good offensive teams recently and have the benefit of playing half of their games in very hitter friendly Chase Field. The loss of A.J. Pollock early was a big blow and with David Peralta also dealing with injuries, and Paul Goldschmidt struggling to find his stroke until later in the season, attributed to the struggles.

Of course, Jean Segura was phenomenal, Yasmany Tomas was solid, and Jake Lamb put up great first half numbers. And even with the slow start, Paul Goldschmidt ended the season on a high note and put up good final numbers, but the lack of length in the lineup was a glaring problem. The team’s 752 runs were good for fifth in the NL, while their 190 homers were eighth in the NL. However, 411 of those runs were scored at home as opposed to 341 away from Chase. Along with a 113/77 (home/away) home run split. There were four other teams in baseball with bigger differentials from home to away runs (BOS, CLE, COL, KC) and three teams who also had a higher differential but they scored more on the road than in their home ballparks (STL, TEX, OAK).

Defensively, the Arizona Diamondbacks were one of the worst teams across the board. They managed -12 defensive runs saved, which came in about middle of the pack in baseball, but their team UZR (ultimate zone rating) was fourth worst in baseball at -39.9 which brought their overall defense to fifth worst in MLB at -34.9. For comparison, the best in baseball was 69.0 which belonged to the Chicago Cubs.

As big an issue as the defense was, the overall pitching for the Diamondbacks last season, was an absolute mess. From Zack Greinke’s early struggles (and injury), to Shelby Miller’s faceplant, and inconsistencies from everyone else, the pitching was one of the biggest problems facing this team last season. Their team pitching WAR of 8.5 was fifth worse in baseball right in between the Braves and Pirates. They also tied for a league worst 5.09 ERA (Minnesota Twins) and were fifth worse in baseball in FIP (4.50). They were second worse in BB/9 and third worse in strand rate. Thanks a lot in part to Robbie Ray (11.25K/9), they were 11th in baseball in K/9.

Patrick Corbin was otherwise unimpressive after a strong debut in 2015. The strikeout rate went down slightly but the walk rate more than doubled and the FIP went up 1.5. Archie Bradley’s 141.2 innings pitched resulted in an ERA over 5.00, but a respectable FIP of 4.10. That number was an improvement over the 4.96 in the 23 year old’s debut season in 2015 when he appeared in eight games (all starts).

Braden Shipley, 24, debuted last season and made 11 starts, appearing in a total of 13 games. He logged 70 innings pitched with 28 walks, and 43 strikeouts. He also struggled to a tune of a 5.27 ERA (5.76 FIP).

Rubby De La Rosa had injury issues of his own last year and only managed 13 games with 10 starts. De La Rosa had some success in his limited pen work last year. He is projected come out of the pen full-time for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017. He’s got a very live fastball and a plus breaking pitch. He lacks a plus third offering, however, making him more likely to stick in the pen. Zack Godley chipped in nine starts and 18 appearances out of the pen while Edwin Escobar and Matt Koch each logged two starts of their own.

Of course every team has struggles, even good teams, and as with any team, regardless of the ending results, there are always positives and negatives in a season. One of the bright spots was Jean Segura. Segura, of course was acquired from the Brewers along with RHP Tyler Wagner, for Chase Anderson, Aaron Hill, minor league shortstop Isan Diaz and $6.5 million following the 2015 season. Segura went on to post his best season, by far, slashing .319/.368/.499 with 126 wRC+ while racking up a 5.0 WAR (according to: FanGraphs). Segura is now a member of the Seattle Mariners after the DBacks traded him for P Taijuan Walker; more on that later.

In 2015, Jake Lamb played in 107 games with 390 PA and it was a bit of a struggle. While he did put up a respectable batting average of .263 and .331 OBP, the batting average was inflated by a high BABIP of .344 and he was below average with a 91 wRC+. The low slugging percentage of .386 was definitely an attribution to that, but last season he showed great signs of improvement in the first half of the season until fading off in the second half. He hit .291/.371./.612 with 151 wRC+ while hitting 20 homers in the first half compared to .197/.283/.380 with 68 wRC+ with 9 long balls in his disappointing second half. His final line read .242/.332/.509 with a 114 wRC+ in 594 plate appearances.

Yasmany Tomas was a nice contributor at the plate, but defensively, there’s a lot, and I mean a lot, of room for improvement. Tomas put up a slash line of .272/.313/.508 with 31 home runs last season while posting a 109 wRC+. The strikeout rate wasn’t terrible at around 25% but the low walk rate of 5.5% makes it worse. The .236 ISO makes up for it a little bit, but Tomas is no burner on the base paths, nor is he a great base runner. But the fact he was able to adjust at the plate during the course of the year, and put up good offensive numbers, could bode well for the Diamondbacks if they are looking to trade him, most likely to an American League team. His contract, however, could be an issue as he’s owed nearly $50M for the remainder of his deal.

Off-Season Moves:

The Diamondbacks began this off-season with a shake-up of personnel. Manager Chip Hale, GM Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa were all relieved of their duties, while La Russa, who was hired in 2014 to oversee the entire baseball operations department, has accepted a lesser role in the organization as Chief Analyst/Advisor. New GM, Mike Hazen, who also has the title of Executive Vice President, was hired away from the Boston Red Sox. Hazen had been in the Red Sox organization since 2006 when he was hired as director of player development before being named GM in September, 2015 by new team President Dave Dombrowski.

New manager, Torey Lovullo, who was hired recently to be the new skipper, served as Boston’s bench coach since 2013 after being brought in by manager John Farrell in October of 2012. Lovullo also served as Farrell’s bench coach in Toronto for two seasons before Farrell’s rights were traded to Boston for infielder Mike Aviles. Lovullo was previously considered for managerial consideration following the 2013 season after the Chicago Cubs fired manager Dale Sveum, but he remained with the Red Sox until taking on the reigns of the D’Backs clubhouse.

Shelby Miller was heavily shopped at the trade deadline last season, and is still someone the team would like to move, However, given the atrocious performance last year, his value has plummeted, and at this point, it looks as if they’ll have to ride it out and try to get as much production from him as they can. As it is, if something comes along, which is highly unlikely, look for GM Mike Hazen to jump at a deal to get any value for Miller, either now or at the deadline. All that depends on how Miller is able to perform this season.

Another name that was discussed in possible trades was Zack Greinke. Greinke struggled a bit in his first season with the team but showed signs of life after a slow start. The large amount of money left on Greinke’s deal makes it virtually impossible to make any deal without paying a large chunk of his remaining salary. Even if Greinke bounces back to more Greinke-like production, getting out from under that contract would leave a lot of money for this new regime to allocate elsewhere, now and in the future.

The move that will go down as the first ever by Mike Hazen as the GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks is the claim of Jeremy Hazelbaker off waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals back in November.

The biggest move this off-season made by the Arizona Diamondbacks was the acquisition of Taijuan Walker from the Seattle Mariners. Mike Hazen and the new front office saw a chance to sell high on Segura and bring back a young cost-controlled starter. Walker hasn’t quite reached his potential, but the talent is still there and he’s still young as he’ll turn 25 in August. That deal also brought shortstop Ketel Marte to the club while Arizona sent Seattle LHP Zac Curtis and out fielder Mitch Hanigar.

These are Mike Hazen and Seattle’s GM Jerry Dipoto’s comments below:

“When we looked at the pitching that’s out on the market, we felt like this was an opportunity we had to take right now,” said Hazen of the trade. “Obviously, Jean is a great fit for them and was for us, but in order for us to get a starting pitcher the caliber of Taijuan, we felt like this was the opportunity we had to take given the market. It takes a lot of starting pitching to get through the season.”

“It’s always hard when you give up talent like Taijuan,” said Dipoto. “You have to give to get and in this case we feel like we are getting a little bit more of a known commodity and we understand that Taijuan takes with him the upside to achieve something greater than we’ve seen. I know that’s real. At some point, Tai is going to put it all together and he will find himself as a pitcher.”

It remains to be seen who “won” this deal but it should have lasting effects on both organizations.

Right handed reliever Fernando Rodney, who split time between the San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins last season, was signed to a free agent deal in December. The 39-year-old has remained productive and should help solidify the bullpen after the losses of Brad Ziegler, Tyler Clippard, and Daniel Hudson last trade deadline.

After releasing Rubby De La Rosa, the Arizona Diamondbacks ended up bringing him back on a minor league deal in which he will receive $750,000 upon making the big league club. The deal is worth up to $3.5 million with incentives.

Peter O’Brien, a big time power bat, was traded to the Kansas City Royals for right-handed minor leaguer Sam Lewis in a good old fashioned prospect for prospect deal. O’Brien can definitely mash, as he has shown great numbers in the minors along with prodigious power. His short major league stint produced very high strike out totals, and he is now 26. Lewis, 25, logged 44.1 innings pitched in 2016 after coming back from a 2015 injury. He posted a 1.62 ERA but only topped out at Class-A Advanced.

There have been three free agent catchers signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks this season. The trio of Jeff Mathis, Chris Iannetta, and more recently signed Josh Thole will essentially replace Welington Castillo, Tuffy Gosewisch, with Thole most likely serving as minors depth. Chris Herrmann, who can also play the outfield, is also a catching option. Mathis and Iannetta will probably be the two primary catchers with Mathis being the more defensive minded, while Iannetta has more of an offensive track record, and even with his struggles the last couple years, probably still has something in the bat and will benefit by playing in Chase Field.

Long time San Francisco Giant, 33 year-old Gregor Blanco was added to the outfield mix via a minor league pact paying him $1 million if he makes the big league team and worth up to $2.7 milion in incentives. He’ll compete with Jeremy Hazelbaker and Socrates Brito for a fourth or fifth outfielders job in spring training and brings a strong veteran presence to the clubhouse.

J.J. Hoover had a disappointing 2016, to say the least. The Cincinnati Reds brought him in to close, and after some early season struggles, he was demoted and ended the year with a 13.50 ERA in just 18.1 innings pitched. He signed a $900,000 deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks with a possible $425,000 in incentives. He will compete in spring training for a bullpen spot.

Other signings and moves: Re-signed 28 year-old third baseman Carlos Rivero to minor league deal, added 25 year-old outfielder Reymond Fuentes from the Royals, RHP Brooks Hall, Keyvius Sampson, and Oswaldo Arcia.

Expectations For 2017:

This season will be one to watch for the Arizona Diamondbacks. This team has some quality talent with Jake Lamb, Robbie Ray, and David Peralta, not to mention the superstar talent of both Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock. The Arizona Diamondbacks could very well be a sleeper team to watch for this upcoming season. They will probably continue to try to trade Tomas, but his contract really hinders his value given his below average fielding and base running, essentially making him a sub-replacement level player. This team is pretty solid offensively, and really health is the biggest concern. Along with getting more of a 2016 first half Jake Lamb all season, and a consistent Paul Goldschmidt for six months, the health of Pollock and Peralta will play a major role but most importantly, the pitching has got to get figured out one way or another. Shelby Miller and Taijuan Walker are going to be the two on that staff to watch, and with an assumed bounce back for Greinke, and if Robbie Ray can harness his control a little, a turn around for Miller and some progression from Walker could make this team a contender.


Pitching and defense were the main problems for this Arizona Diamondbacks team in 2016. On top of poor performances and injuries, the inconsistencies of everyone doomed this team’s season. Giving up number one pick Dansby Swanson along with a pitching prospect, and fan favorite and gold glove caliber Ender Inciarte for Shelby Miller had a disastrous initial result. Zack Greinke had early struggles and also dealt with injury issues as AJ Pollock watched from the sidelines for most of the season. The abysmal season turned into jobs lost as GM Dave Stewart and Manager Chip Hale were fired following the season. Tony La Russa was retained but in the role of Chief Analyst/Advisor. The Arizona Diamondbacks will move forward with the front office they have put in place and look to get back into postseason action.