By Mike Hallihan | March 11th, 2013
After a mediocre 81-81 season, the Diamondbacks were clearly unsatisfied with most members of their young core, as they exhiled some of them in separate trades. Insiders are skeptical about whether the team received equal value back. Looks like GM Kevin Towers has swapped “upside” for “grit.”
Some of the young talent on this team is undeniable, but the D-Backs are a team in transition. After breaking up some of the young players they were so high on just a couple of seasons ago, they’ve resorted to bringing in some leadership for this season. I feel like them finishing with a .500 record was almost an overachievement, given how poorly some of them played (looking at you Chris Young).
The Diamondbacks really blew things up this offseason. In three independent deals, they shipped out three of their “future cornerstone” players in Juston Upton, Trevor Bauer and Chris Young, to be replaced by established but risky veterans like Brandon McCarthy and Heath Bell.
Upton was dealt to Atlanta in January (where he coincedently joined his brother), with Arizona taking back Martin Prado and Randall Delgado, among some other prospects. Bauer, a very high-ceiling starting pitcher, was moved to Cleveland in December in a 6-player deal, with Bauer easily being the biggest name. Young, who struggled all season, was ousted to Oakland, where the D-Backs acquired Cliff Pennington, who’s slated to be their starting shortstop come opening day. They also received infield prospect Yordy Cabrera in the deal, who they then flipped to Miami for closer/relief pitcher Bell.
Arizona also brought in veterans like Cody Ross to play right field and McCarthy to shore up the back of the starting rotation. McCarthy is two years removed from a very fine season, so the D-Backs are hoping to restore some of that magic.
This lineup, being aided by one of the friendliest hitting ballparks in baseball, will score some runs, many via the long ball. Almost inexplicably, Aaron Hill (.302, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 14 SB) became one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League last season and got paid handsomely this offseason for it. Jason Kubel had a very underrated season with 30 HR and 90 RBI. Miguel Montero (15 HR, 88 RBI) continues to be one of the game’s most productive hitters from the catcher position, though you certainly don’t hear anything flashy about him.
Paul Goldschmidt (.286, 20 HR, 82 RBI, 18 SB) and Cody Ross (22 HR, 81 RBI) also provide 20+ home run power from opposite sides of the plate. Overall, this Arizona lineup will score some runs.
NL Rookie of the Year runner up Wade Miley stepped into the spotlight last season, winning 16 games and securing his spot at the top of the rotation. Had it not been for Ian Kennedy’s 20-win season in 2011, he’d likely be getting the ball on opening day. For now, they’ll trust Kennedy is the man (he did win 15 more games in 2012).
Trevor Cahill, an effective starter the past few seasons (13-12, 3.78 ERA) and former 18-game winner himself, is back and figures to be the third or fourth starter at worst. Tyler Skaggs had a tough start to his career in only 6 starts, but he figures to compete for the fifth spot.
J.J. Putz had another solid season in 2012 as closer, so he’s locked in. He’ll actually have a reliable crew in front of him as well. If Heath Bell can bounce back, we’ve seen what he can do. David Hernandez is a fireballer (98 K’s in 68.1 IP) and Brad Ziegler (2.49 ERA) is extremely tough as well. The pen is in good shape.
It’s been only two seasons so far, but Kirk Gibson has certainly tasted success. In his “rookie” season as manager, he nabbed the NL Manager of the year honors for an NL West-winning season. Last year, he finished a respectable 81-81, giving him an overall record in two seasons of 209-198. After shuffling the roster this offseason, one can only guess at this point, exactly how his new gritty style of personnel will gel together. I expect another season much like 2012.
The Diamondbacks are a Major League franchise without a superstar, or really, without that one “character” guy. I mean, Gibson might be that guy himself. They have some young talent, but nobody that stands out. The fact that their ballpark has the swimming pool in the outfield is neat, but when talking on-the-field reasons to watch, they are few and far between.
Best case scenario
The starters all revert back to the near 20-game winning form they all shared in the past couple of seasons and they prove to be an outstanding staff with plenty of run support. Hill, Kubel and Goldschmidt carry the momentum from their 2012 campaigns into successful ’13 seasons. Best case is that this team competes for a wild card spot in the NL.
Worst case scenario
The offense can’t duplicate the power numbers they produced last year and instead of getting run support, the rotation are grinding out close games. This means more work for the bullpen as well. If things go south, they could be looking at battling the Padres/Rockies for NL West basement territory.
Paul Goldschmidt, the next guy in line, being thrust into the spotlight after the lineup lost a few of its young players. Goldschmidt will respond to the challenge by hitting over .300, with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI.
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