While the big spending teams have made big news signing many of the stars of the game to mega contracts, the Diamondbacks have been quietly upgrading their roster. When we last took a snapshot of where the team was at, we estimated approximately $99 million in payroll with a WAR win total of 84 wins. Both those numbers have increased since then.
Dan Szymborski recently published his ZIPS projections for the Diamondbacks. It should be noted that when Szymborski ran his projections through a simulator 1000 times he also came up with a median win total of 83 for the Diamondbacks. But that was prior to winter meetings and all the big signings and trades that have occurred. One presumes that if he were to rerun it today, his D-backs win projection would decrease a win or two.
What I’m doing is simply adding up the WAR and adding that to replacement level to come up with a win total. But it’s not “relative” to what the other teams in the league have done. But this does allow us to gauge what the D-backs have done relative to their own roster. I’ve combined and averaged ZIPS and Steamer projections and applied my own playing time inputs to create a more focused output. This is the top line result.
The wins increase comes from the pitching side. ZIPS really likes the young Diamondbacks starters, especially Brandon Pfaadt, Drey Jameson, and Ryne Nelson. At the same time the front office has been working creatively to find affordable power arms with swing and miss stuff. Recently signed free agents Miguel Castro and Scott McGough are both projected to get plenty of innings at the back end of the bullpen. They both throw hard and have good secondaries.
Depth has been added with the trade for prospect Carlos Vargas and the addition of Justin Martinez to the 40 man roster. While neither of these players project prolifically in MLB at this time, it’s possible either of them could emerge on the basis of terrific raw stuff. A number of minor league signings have also added additional depth as we recently reported.
Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly are showing lower projections than they produced last year, but that is the nature of projection systems that regress to the mean. Players coming off career years are always going to project lower the next season until they repeat that career year at least once or twice. I don’t project Madison Bumgarner to complete a full season with the Diamondbacks in 2023. He’ll need to exceed both last year’s and his projected performance quite a bit for the team to run him out there 30 times.
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On the position player side of things the only major addition so far is right handed DH/Outfielder Kyle Lewis. If healthy, Lewis should help provide some right handed balance and options for Torey Lovullo, providing both power and on base percentage.
I’ve also made some substantial changes to the playing time projections from the previous iteration. This was done after having numerous discussions with Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo. It should be noted however neither Hazen or Lovullo have been specific about playing time. That said, based on their comments both public and private and the opinions of knowledgable “insiders” I was able to crowd source with, I made a number of revisions. These are still just my best educated guesses. Playing time is impossible to project accurately. However changes in playing time impacts the projections. In this case, they actually went down slightly.
The outfield is a difficult puzzle to solve. Mike Hazen emphasized they don’t NEED to trade an outfielder and will only do so if it improves the team. So it’s still possible that he holds on to all of them for now. There have been numerous trade discussions centered around the team’s stable of excellent young outfielders. However the Diamondbacks appear to be holding the line in their quest for controllable major league players that would upgrade their major league roster in other areas. They are not looking for prospects. So far, it appears their price remains high, making consummation of any trades difficult.
Hazen also reminded us that all of the outfielders have options. In this scenario then I show Alek Thomas spending time in the minor leagues again. As of right now it looks like when Thomas is not on the roster, the outfield will align with Corbin Carroll in left field, Daulton Varsho in center, and Jake McCarthy in right. When Thomas is on the roster, he will play centerfield, with Varsho shifting to right field and McCarthy getting DH at bats. When Pavin Smith is on the roster, the bulk of his time is likely to come at DH and backing up Christian Walker at first base.
Obviously health and performance will dictate whatever changes there are to the above chart. As will any further changes to the roster of course. The team is far from finished making moves this off season. While Hazen said no trades were close as of this past Thursday, I still expect at least two or three impact deals to happen before spring training.
The team is still in search of at least one more reliever, another right handed bat, as well as starting pitching and catching depth. Stay tuned throughout the off season. When moves happen, Inside the Diamondbacks will continue to break it all down for you, giving you the best inside analysis available.