What the Arizona Diamondbacks Should Do

Overview

The D’Backs came into 2010 with some hopes of contention. With some quality players forming what should be a decent core, the hoped-for-return of Brandon Webb, and some decent off-season additions, Arizona fans had some reason for optimism. It has not, however, turned out in their favor: Dan Haren has struggled; Webb remains on the DL; and the bullpen has imploded. The team sits 11 1/2 games out of first place in the National League West, and at 26-38, their playoff chances are practically nil.

Buy Or Sell?

There’s no doubt which way the D’Backs should go at the deadline, and they have enough chips to make a sell-off interesting.

Adam LaRoche is the most obvious name from the roster who will likely be moved, as he’s both productive and cheap enough to be enticing to other clubs. The Diamondbacks could hold onto him and exercise their side of the mutual option for 2011, but there’s no guarantee LaRoche would pick up his part of it, and $7.5 million for a league average first baseman isn’t exactly a bargain anyway. They’re best off moving him this summer.

Another popular target should be catcher Chris Snyder. While he’s a good enough player to be part of Arizona’s future, they also have Miguel Montero as an option behind the plate, and having two good catchers is a bit redundant. Snyder’s contract isn’t so cheap as to be a huge bargain, but he’s underpaid relative to his value, and teams looking for a several year solution to their backstop problems could be interested.

On the pitching side of things, don’t be surprised if a contender with sabermetric leanings makes a run at Chad Qualls. With an 8.46 ERA, you’d think he’d been a total disaster, but his xFIP is a respectable 3.55, and he’s been one of the best relievers in the league the last few years. His .474 BABIP will regress, and he could be a quality bullpen piece for another team down the stretch. A free agent at the end of the year, you have to think that his days in Arizona are numbered whether he’s traded or not, so Arizona will likely be happy to move him. Don’t be surprised if he’s involved in a “change of scenery” trade.

On The Farm

The presence of Brandon Allen in Triple-A makes letting go of LaRoche easier. He’s probably not going to be a star, but he could fill the job at first base well enough and do so for the league minimum once the position is opened up. Most of the rest of the talent on the farm is further away, however, and the D’Backs probably won’t be able to plug their holes internally. Expect them to target close to the majors pitching help in nearly every deal they make.

Budget

The D’Backs will have some money to play with this winter, especially if they move guys with 2011 commitments this summer. They are on the hook for about $45 million in salary for next year and have some arbitration cases with players like Stephen Drew, Miguel Montero, and Kelly Johnson that should push that number to closer to $60 million. But if they move Snyder and non-tender Conor Jackson, they’d be able to spend somewhere between $15 and $20 million while maintaining the 2010 budget number. Whether ownership will agree to spend that much again following a season where the team was a large disappointment remains to be seen.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

20 Responses to “What the Arizona Diamondbacks Should Do”

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  1. jirish says:

    I hope they don’t go all stupid and trade Haren. His kind of pitcher cannot be replaced for what they currently pay him. June is looking mighty fine for him too. No one mentions it, but I believe Edwin Jackson to be a movable piece.

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  2. Randy says:

    Hopefully the ownership will agree to spend much, much more folllowing this disappointing season. Their refrain has been the need for a smaller budget to help pay off deferred salaries and debt, but at the end of this year much has been repaid. Byrnes apparently did a pretty good job with the tiny free agent budget he had, he picked up LaRoache, Kelley Johnson, and Heilman. This team has been good defensively, offensively and in starting pitching. It’s the bullpen that has sucked, and Imagine what another $10M would have done for choices in that department.

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  3. Temo says:

    Chad Qualls is mis-cast in the high-leverage role he has with Arizona. He’ll be valuable as a middle relief guy for a contender.

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  4. Stu says:

    Please throw sabermetrics out thw window when it comes to Qualls. He isn’t helping ANYONE anytime soon, but he had a large part in making this team sellers

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    • ykw says:

      Sabremetrics actually =makes= the case against Qualls (ignoring the FIP and xFIP numbers, which make no sense whatsoever). His line-drive percentage is at a career high, as are his walk and home run rates (the latter of which actually does help a little in understanding the silly xFIP). One out of every six fly balls he surrenders is hitting the seats, while he hasn’t popped up a single hitter all season.

      Yeah, that .474 BABIP looks like it’s ripe for regression-to-mean action but, look, =everything= he throws in the strike zone is getting ripped (zContact: 90.8; SwStrike: 7.7); his BABIP is no illusion.

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  5. Dr.Rockso says:

    What should #6org do?

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  6. al says:

    Also the d-backs have below average DER so take their pitchers babip with a grain of salt their team’s grounball pitcher’s babip is around .266 so especially expect groundball pitchers to regress if traded. Also remember chase field is a home run hitting haven presumably due to the high level above sea level

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  7. skippyballer486 says:

    I’m liking this article series, but I have to say that I highly disagree with this statement: ” . . . and having two good catchers is a bit redundant.” How many players are capable of playing catcher 162 games a year? 140? 120? Why not keep Snyder and Montero, and have them be a catcher/1B platoon? Or, if either is capable of playing another position, get them time at catcher/1B/somewhere else too.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Just because you hit well enough to be a good catcher does not mean you hit well enough to be a good first baseman, and if you have two catchers capable of catching 120 quality games each, that’s 80 games of value you’re squandering. Send that out for something equivalent in return that you can deploy on a regular basis and deal with a backup catch for those last forty games.

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      • skippyballer486 says:

        That would be true if playing catcher for 120 games did not cause a player to play worse than playing catcher for 80 games and 1B (or some other position) for 40 games. My point was that it is more valuable to have two great catchers and three decent first basemen than a good catcher, a bad catcher, and a decent first basemen. Keeping both also allows you to take more advantage of platoon splits (a minor advantage) and protects against injury to either one (a big advantage).

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    • Gomez says:

      There’s more value to trading a good catcher, getting 120-140 games of value out of the one you keep, and getting value out of the return for the traded catcher than to keep two good catchers and only use both for half the plate appearances. And Kevin has a point about using one at 1B: You can get more value out of just playing a good 1B at that spot than using a catcher whose bat and defense aren’t as valuable at 1B.

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  8. CircleChange11 says:

    ARZ’s bullpen was the achilles heel last year as well.

    They let a lot of bullpen guys leave (or be traded), and mishandled the Zavada injury (i.e., he was injured at the end of last year, directed toward not getting surgery, then required TJ surgery after ST). But the BP guys they brought in *should* have been updrages.

    Can the pitching staff be THAT dependent on Branbdon Webb and his presence? I ask because they seem to be night/day all the way around when he is/isn’t there.

    I also have questions on how the team views their manager and to what degree that affects the performance. ARZ has roughly the same team that swept the Cubs in the playoffs. Another problem for the DBacks is their decreased production coincides with the rest of the division improving.

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    • DbacksSkins says:

      It’s a HUGE mistake to refer to this team as “roughly the same team that swept the Cubs in the playoffs”, and it’s patently wrong.

      Remember, that team was the first since 1918 to lead their league in wins yet be last in BA. All of the holdovers are position players — Young, Drew, Snyder, Montero, Upton for a few months, Reynolds for a few months, Ojeda, and the now-departed CoJack are the only remaining players. Drew, Snyder, Young, and Jackson are the only remaining players who were starters that whole year, and now Jackson’s been traded, and Snyder won’t be starting as often anymore with Montero back. The lineup isn’t the issue now, though. Their offense this year has generally been great — so, all those guys have grown up and matured.

      However, not a single pitcher remains from that 2007 team, unless you wanna include Webb, who hasn’t pitched an inning since Opening Day last year.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Perhaps, let’s look at them both …

        Pitching Rotation
        2007 — 2010
        BWebb — DHaren
        LHernandez — EJackson
        DDavis — RLopez
        MOwings — IKennedy

        Starting Lineup
        —————
        2007 — 2010
        CSnyder — CSnyder
        CJackson — ALaRoche
        OHudson — KJohnson
        SDrew — SDrew
        MReynolds — MReynolds
        EByrnes — CJackson
        CYoung — CYoung
        CQuentin — JUpton

        As strange as it may sound to say, the big difference seems to be Tony Clark (17 HR in a little over 200 AB) on the bench.

        Bullpen
        ————–
        2007 — 2010
        DSlaten — BBoyer
        JCruz — JGutierrez
        BLyon — EVasquez
        TPena — AHeilman
        JValverde — CQualls

        “Abilitywsie” the bullpen look comparable, however their performance is very different. 07′s BP had a W-L of 21-15 and the ’10 version is 5-13. W-L isn’t the end-all be-all of Bullpens, but it is likely an indicator of the BP both [1] protecting leads and [2] keeping the team in the game so that a comeback may occur.

        But the 2010 rotation and starting lineup is “just as good” as the 2007 version, with many of the names being the same. I think one could make the case that the 2010 offense is better than the 2007 offense, but the rotation is down a bit due to Haren underperforming. The 2010 bullpen in trash, and that’s a significant difference.

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      • DbacksSkins says:

        This might be one of the worst statistical analyses I’ve ever seen on this site. Firstly, you REALLY think that Tony Freaking Clark, he of the 0.2 WAR in 2007, is the “big difference” between the two?? Rather than just look at the names and guess about it, why don’t we check the numbers? The Dbacks hit for a disgusting 83 OPS+ in 2007, while they’ve hit for a 94 so far this season. Progression is nice. Our fielding has ALSO improved — the 07 edition had a teamwide UZR/150 of -1.4, good for 18th in the majors, while in 2010, it’s at 6.8 — good for 5th in MLB.

        However, the pitching has SIGNIFICANTLY regressed — mostly as a result of GETTING RID OF ALL OUR PITCHERS.

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  9. CircleChange11 says:

    Actually looking at WAR or both teams (just out of interest in regards to whether I should stop saying the 07 and 10 teams are similar or roughly the same) … the 10 offense is better (on pace for much greater WAR), but Webb was awesome in 07, Haren is not in 10, and the bullpen pitchers in 07 all had +WARs, this year almost all of them have -WARs.

    My main point is that ARZ should be better than they are performing, but their crappy bullpen combined with strong teams in the NLW, lead to them not being that good.

    Brandon Webb is a hige difference between the two, and Haren is not himself. But, the other 10 rotation pitchers are as good, if not better, than the 07 version.

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