The Diamondbacks spent the offseason spending big and trying to take the next step. Why's PECOTA such a downer about their chances?
Earlier this month a strange feeling came over me: I began to be intrigued by the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s hard to say exactly why, in retrospect. Possibly it’s because, when a team decides to spend an amount equivalent to 2 percent of its home-state budget (yes, really) on a single starting pitcher, you begin to get the sense that it’s trying to say something.
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In the career trajectories of seven (or eight) young(ish) shortstops, we see the volatility of baseball careers at this level.
This is an interesting phenomenon, though one that (for various reasons) has gone largely unnoticed: There were seven (or eight, if you’re feeling generous) regular big-league shortstops in 2015 who were born in the seven months between early September 1989 and late March 1990. I’ve been tracking their progress for years, wondering when one or another edged ahead of the field as the most valuable, trying to gauge their relative market standings. It was always hard to tell, though, because for each player, development has been anything but linear, and their values have seemed to be very volatile. The group even flexed in size and membership over the years, reaching (probably) its maximum size in 2015.
This winter, we finally got a little clarity (though only a little). Four of these shortstops changed teams this winter, all via trade. At least two permanently moved on from being shortstops. From here on out, the careers of these seven (or eight) players with so much in common might seem thoroughly disparate, even though (perhaps most remarkably, of all the interesting things about them) their paths to this point in their careers have often crossed—and in some cases, have even altered one another. Thus, I want to take a moment to consider their respective situations, weigh them against each other, and revel in the entropy that defines baseball, an entropy this group embodies as well as anyone.
When we take the weather into account for DRA, how big a swing are we talking about?
One of the most important components of DRA is the awareness of external factors on pitching performance. Obvious things like the parks each player is pitching in, and the defense behind him, clearly affect performance. So too, does temperature.
Derek Holland quite literally brings the heat. Sure, he threw a 94 mph fastball in 2015, but he also pitched in some of the highest average temperature games among all pitchers who recorded at least 162 outs last season. Holland started 10 games for the Rangers, the average temperature of which was over 81 degrees. That’s nearly 8 degrees warmer than the average gametime temperature last season.
According to John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, extension talks with Reddick will commence shortly, and at the very least, there appears to be mutual interest in a long-term relationship. At the club’s weekend Fan Fest, Reddick told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he was “thrilled” to hear the A’s wanted to keep him in Oakland beyond the 2016 season, his final year of arbitration. The question now is whether the sides can agree on dollars and years.
Arizona and A.J. Pollock aren't on an extension path, while Cespedes is a possibility in Houston--or, at least, an unlikely possibility.
D’backs table extension talks with A.J. Pollock
Few players did better for themselves heading into their first tour of arbitration than A.J. Pollock, who delivered a 5.4 WARP campaign on the strength of 39 doubles, 20 homers, and 39 stolen bags. The 28-year-old bloomed late but has established himself as a star-level contributor, the sort of player teams are eager to lock up as free agency draws nearer. Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, while they’ve accomplished a lot this offseason, locking Pollock up long term may have to wait.
Like ballplayers, owners make decisions based on their own needs. Unlike ballplayers, owners are already soooooooooooo rich.
Free agency does a lot to clarify what matters to players. Some will opt for the highest average annual contract or biggest guarantee; others will take slightly less so they might preserve another bite at free agency down the road, before time completely diminishes their stars. Some are able to command both, because of savvy negotiating or some team’s desperate craving for a generational talent. Each outcome is revealing. Mega contracts make for surprisingly boring tales in this regard. The would-be lottery winner in all of us can imagine the satisfaction a nice, round number like $200 million might have as it rolls off the tongue. Many a player will take all the chips ownership will push into the pile and cash out, considering themselves satiated. It’s when those max contracts hit the tape only to be pushed aside by deals with virtues like flexibility or longevity or the promise of a World Series appearance, that we get to say something more interesting about what matters. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with the top of the pyramid drawn in bespoke terms, assuming the shape of the complicated mix of ingredients and tiebreakers that make up happiness. As Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh discussed on Episode 774 of Effectively Wild, those ingredients can be personal and perhaps a bit eccentric.
Johnny Cueto turns down $120 million, while the Mets chase Zobrist.
D’backs offer $120 million; Johnny Cueto says “no thanks”
Hours after the Tigers took Jordan Zimmermann off the market with a five-year, $110 million deal, we learned that the Diamondbacks did their best to snag the offseason’s other second-tier starter, Johnny Cueto. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reported Sunday night that general manager Dave Stewart put a six-year, $120 million proposal on the right-hander’s desk, only to find that even that lofty sum wouldn’t be enough to secure his services.
Diamondbacks interested in Yovani Gallardo
The desert was ripe with rumors over the weekend, one that came to fruition and others that might take time to unfold. After exporting Jeremy Hellickson to Philadelphia, the D’backs are said to be in the market for free-agent pitchers, but it’s not yet clear which starters could fit into general manager Dave Stewart’s budget.
Arizona's Robbie Ray is quietly putting together an impressive breakout campaign.
Ever since his arrival in the desert, Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray has morphed into a flamethrower, with a propensity to pepper the outer edges of the strike zone, virtually overnight. It may have something to do with his Grizzly Adams-style beard, but it has a lot more to do with a staggering increase in fastball velocity, which has propelled him from a fringe fantasy prospect into one of the more intriguing young southpaws in the game today.