clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Would the Diamondbacks already hit CTRL-Z on their dramatic offseason?

The Diamondbacks made big, splashy moves for two pitchers this winter. They haven't worked out as expected. Would they do it all over if they could?

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Before writing the postmortem for the 2016 Diamondbacks, note that the 2015 Rangers were nine games out in May, too. They were nine games out in July. There is still 75 percent of a baseball season left to play, and 75 percent of a whole lot of nonsense is still a whole lot of nonsense. The math checks out.

Before writing the postmortem for the 2016 Diamondbacks, note all of the things that have gone right for them. They were counting on Welington Castillo to continue his inexplicable metamorphosis into a slugging catcher, and he did. They were counting on Yasmany Tomas to take a developmental leap forward with his bat, and he did. They were counting on Jake Lamb to blossom, and, boy, has he. They were counting on Jean Segura still having that keystone cornerstone-type potential, and so far, so good. Just imagine if all of their stars showed up as convincingly.

A team that's waiting for its stars to come around is much more dangerous than a team waiting for mediocre players and random minor leaguers to assert themselves. Be wary of the Diamondbacks.

That's not to say that everything is hunky dory. The Diamondbacks are seven games under .500 and nine games out of first. They traded away their farm to get a pitcher who's been among baseball's worst. They spent most of their television windfall on a pitcher who has been pretty uncomfortably underwhelming, and that's putting it charitably. As soon as they put together a modest stretch of winning, a losing streak kicks them right in the face.

The question is this, then: Would the Diamondbacks already push the do-over button on their offseason? Please note that I, myself, am a command-Z guy, but I'm speaking to the masses, here.

This was, sadly, a question that could have been asked in March. The whole idea of the Diamondbacks being a win-now team was predicated on their faith that they had two of the very best players in baseball, Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. With that kind of head start, it's almost criminal to not build a dynamic roster around them. That's when baseball reminded us that it's an unfeeling sociopath, and Pollock was lost for the year. With one MVP candidate instead of two, the argument for an all-in offseason was a little less convincing.

But considering all of the positive developments in the second paragraph up there, combined with solid hitting and defense in center from Chris Owings (!), it seems clear that the Diamondbacks were right to bet on themselves, even with Pollock not here. Kind of. Maybe.

I'm confused, too! So we'll work it out with words.

The argument for hitting the do-over button on the offseason

Start with the obvious, that the Diamondbacks have a 4.4-percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus. That means in the simulated universe, there are four Diamondbacks teams out of every 100 that would remorselessly tinkle on an article like this. Fair enough.

But a 4.4-percent chance isn't what the Diamondbacks paid for. I'm not privy to their internal finances, but it would surprise me if they had one more Greinke-sized contract still in them over the next five years. They might spend money on extensions for Goldschmidt or Pollock, sure, but they probably aren't going to be in the middle of the Clayton Kershaw market if he opts out, either. Greinke is it for the foreseeable future.

It's May 27, and he's eight earned runs away from matching his 2015 total.


Get all kinds of MLB stories, rumors, game coverage, and Vines of dudes getting hit in the beans in your inbox every day.

It was silly to expect a repeat of his 2015, but it wasn't silly to expect ace-like consistency from him. And now he's 32 and pitching better than he was in the first couple weeks of the season, but still not particularly well. His seven-run start on April 4 was his worst in four years; he followed it up with a seven-run start three weeks later.

And that brings us to Shelby Miller, who was placed on the disabled list within about three seconds of me typing "that brings us to Shelby Miller." The Diamondbacks traded their two best prospects for him, and he's been unambiguously awful. His strikeouts are way down, his walks are way up, and he's allowed two home runs for every nine innings he's pitched. While it wasn't logical to expect a repeat of his first half last year, no one expected this.

Meanwhile, Dansby Swanson has a 900 OPS with more walks than strikeouts, and he's already been promoted to Double-A. There's a chance that he makes his debut this year and never sees the inside of a minor league ballpark again. Even before they consider the rest of the trade, that should make the Diamondbacks wince.

Long argument short: They sure could have been under .500 without dealing last summer's first-overall pick or committing to a $206.5 million contract. Now they're stuck with the big contract, and they don't have the same ammunition to trade for help at the deadline.

The argument against hitting the do-over button on the offseason

There ain't no more pitchers to buy, sucker, so you might as well cross your fingers with Greinke.

With the best pitcher on the free agent market possibly being James Shields or Scott Kazmir, there wasn't going to be an opportunity to use that TV fortune as a blunt object. It's possible that several pitchers will slip through a hole in the contract-extension fishing net before the 2017-2018 offseason, but do the Diamondbacks want to wait that long? You can't just assume that Goldschmidt/Pollock are indefinite superstars and adopt a carpe whenever philosophy.

There's no talking your way into the Miller deal at this point. It was panned at the time, and it looks about 50-times worse than expected, which is mighty impressive. But Greinke just might be fine. The FIP suggests he's mostly the same guy, and the xFIP suggests he's almost certainly the same guy. He's just adjusting to his new digs, perhaps, pitching primarily in a hitter's ballpark for the first time since Milwaukee. He'll make the adjustments, I'm guessing.

Which means my answer is no, the Diamondbacks would have their Greinke and pay him, too. They have regrets about one very visible, daring trade, but their strategy now is simple. Wait for Paul Goldschmidt to hit more. Wait for David Peralta to get healthy and hit more. Wait for Patrick Corbin and Greinke to pitch better. Those are not unrealistic hopes. Those are eminently realistic hopes. They need to happen, like, yesterday, but they're not absurd.

And they'll need to wait for Pollock to get healthy, which isn't going to happen this season. But when it does happen, they'll have an expensive, likely still excellent starting pitcher, which isn't a creature that's going to exist on the open market in the winter. There's still hope for the Diamondbacks this year, but it's the additional hope for next season that makes them a little worried, but still okay with the risks they took in the offseason.