Arizona Diamondbacks 2017 Season Preview
2016 was not a good year for the Diamondbacks to say the least. After winning the off-season in terms of acquisitions through trades and free agency, they had expectations of making a run at the World Series. Due to some poor performances, injuries, and other factors, the Diamondbacks finished with the sixth worst record in baseball. Not only that, they depleted their already thin farm system to get these players they thought would help them win their division. While people within the Diamondbacks believe they can get back on track, other feel that they should start a rebuilding effort. Here are three keys to look out for in 2017.
How Effective is the Starting Rotation?
Last year’s off-season saw the Diamondbacks spend the most money they ever have on a player, $206.5 million for 6 years. That mammoth contract went to Zack Greinke, who at the time was already 32 years old. While he may have deserved the contract, Arizona does not have enough payroll flexibility to spend that much money and still have enough for other top players. 2016 was not good to Greinke either, only pitching 158.2 innings and playing hurt throughout most of the year. For someone with that amount of money, they should be able to pitch 200 or more innings every single year.
Another miscue was the trade for Shelby Miller. This trade ultimately led to a Dave Stewart firing. 2015 was Miller’s best season as a pro with the Atlanta Braves. He threw 205.1 innings, had a 3.02 ERA, and made 171 strikeouts; all while only being 24 years old. It looked like things were starting click for Miller so Stewart pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair, and Dansby Swanson to Atlanta for Miller and Gabe Speier. These three players include the starting center fielder and shortstop, in addition to solid starting rotation piece for years to come.
What Arizona thought they were getting and what they got were two different things completely. In 2016, Miller pitched to a 6.15 ERA in only 101 innings. He got send down to Triple-A during the season as well, to try to fix the issues he was having. Arizona is hoping and praying that this off-season has helped, and Miller can get back on track along with the rest of the underperforming rotation in 2017. How this rotation fairs will be a huge indicator of how well the 2017 season is going.
Arizona had a good outfield in 2015 with David Peralta, Ender Inciarte, and A.J. Pollock. Last year saw Inciarte traded, while Pollock and Peralta only saw 60 games combined due to injuries. This was a complete disaster in terms of turnover on a year to year basis. 2017 is expected to see a much more stable outfield, however now Arizona might possibly have too many outfielders. Pollock and Peralta have spots, along with Yasmany Tomas, who is scheduled to make $9.5 million. The problem is that last year, Chris Owings played well, hitting .277 along with a career high 11 home runs. Also, Arizona signed Jeremy Hazelbaker to compete for an outfield spot. Many teams only carry four outfielders on a nightly basis, causing a logjam. Only three can play at a time, and all five have proven they can perform at the major-league level.
Whether one is traded, cut, or moved to another position remains to be seen. Tomas is the most likely player to be traded, mainly due to his salary. In addition, his fielding needs to improve. Defensive deficiencies cause him to play left field, right field, third base, and first base in his short two year career. While improving, he truly is a DH and occasional position player, belting 31 home runs in 2016. The Diamondbacks can get a substantially higher return on Tomas than the likes of Owings or Hazelbaker, making him a likely departure if the front office decides to go that route.
What Will the Front Office Decide?
As mentioned earlier, the firing of General Manager Dave Stewart was needed. He made many questionable decisions over the years, but none as egregious as the Shelby Miller trade. After only being one year removed, people are calling this the worst trade in baseball history. Mike Hazen and the new regime have some serious decisions to make however.
The first being whether to continue with the current roster construction and try to compete now, or whether to tear everything down and rebuild their farm system. According to Keith Law, Arizona has the worst farm system in all of baseball. The amount of talent that just the Braves alone have taken in the past two years is outrageous. The 2014 and 2015 first rounds picks are now with the Braves, among many others. With that, Arizona has some good, young talent in the majors already, many that would command some highly-regarded prospects. The problem with trading players away such as Pollock, Goldschmidt, or Lamb, is that they are fan favorites. No fan wants to watch a losing team night in and night out. By trading these players, Hazen is conceding defeat in many fan’s eyes.
Another decision the front office is making is contract extensions and signing free agents. No team wants to overpay for somebody, but oftentimes in free agency that is what happens. Keeping your current players is often the smarter route to go, and Arizona has many young players they can build around if they choose to extend their contracts. They have already made smarter deals this off-season with the addition of players like Taijuan Walker, Ketel Marte, and Fernando Rodney, just to name a few. These acquisitions free up their salary while still allowing them to compete in 2017.
There are many different storylines to pay attention to if you are rooting for the Diamondbacks. The starting rotation, outfield, and front office are a few that really have a significant impact on the performance in 2017 as well as the years to come. The draft offers new, young players that can help in the coming years; however, many players want to win now.