Offseason Report: D-Backs Attack

Major League Baseball is a league with many storied franchises and huge fan bases. The Arizona Diamondbacks aren’t quite as storied or admired. Established in the 1990s, the D-Backs are in baseball’s desert, usually staying off the radar while the big name teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, and Red Sox fill the headlines. Fourteen long summers have passed since the lone bright spot of the club’s history, the thrilling World Series win over the Yankees, and Arizona hasn’t come close to repeating that feat.
2015 comes and the Diamondbacks, a year removed from the worst record in the majors, improve to an average 79-83. The team’s front office includes Hall of Famer Tony La Russa and manager Chip Hale, who does a solid job in his first year on the job. The lineup, led by MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt and up-and-coming stars A.J. Pollack and David Peralta, ranks second in offense in the National League. The problem is the pitching staff, which is at the bottom of the majors. In a division with contenders in the Giants and Dodgers, two established contenders, battling for the top spots and title hopefuls in the Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals firmly in the wild card race, Arizona’s playoff odds looked slim.
The Hot Stove starts. One month in, no trades or signings have fueled the flames and burned up the headlines. Four ace pitchers and a bunch of star outfielders are available in free agency and big names are on the trading block, but the baseball world stays silent. When David Price, the best pitcher available, signs a mega-deal with Boston, it stands alone as the only notable transaction.
One day in early December, the Diamondbacks make the news by unveiling new uniforms. The nine uniforms include faded diamonds on the shoulders and introduce teal to their modern color scheme of red and black. The uniforms are meant to give the team a new identity, one that signals an era of winning.
Hours later, the new identity really arrives. News breaks that Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, who earned one of the best ERAs in modern history, opts to sign a massive contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The move adds an ace pitcher to a lackluster rotation but also takes away one of the best weapons of the rival Dodgers. With a total of 200 million dollars going to a pitcher in his 30s, the move is a risk, but it also shows commitment to contention.
Arizona wasn’t done. Days later, they complete a blockbuster trade with Atlanta. The Diamondbacks receive another ace in Shelby Miller, one of the brightest young players in the majors and a strong 2nd pitcher aside Greinke. The price is steep- shortstop Dansby Swanson, the 1st overall pick of the draft, along with other top tier prospect, effectively draining the Diamondbacks of premier prospects.
The Diamondbacks, now in the forefront of the winter hype, are reexamined as playoff contenders. Don’t assume that Arizona is the class of the NL West. History shows that a huge offseason haul can bring wins, but there are a handful of embarrassing examples of failure.
Of the small market teams that go all in with big signings, many fall short of expectations and serve as a tale of caution for ambitious Arizona. Look no further than a division rival last year.
The San Diego Padres, another team known for staying out of the spotlight, made a flurry of moves under new GM A.J. Preller, adding closer Craig Kimbrel, starter James Shields, and a new outfield with the Upton brothers and Wil Myers. Suddenly, the Padres were in the playoff hunt. 2015 in San Diego- one of the most miserable seasons a team could have and a record way below expectations. Now that team is blown up, with Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel leaving the club. Back to the cellar, San Diego.
I see a lot more potential and a lot less risk in Arizona. Greinke is a superstar and Miller is rapidly improving. Unlike San Diego, the Diamondbacks already had talent in place and then used two big additions to improve the weaknesses. Because the players in the Miller trade are Minor Leaguers, the product on field won’t suffer. The result of this winter is a balanced roster (another difference) that is loaded with talent and expectation.
Right now, I wouldn’t bet my money on an Arizona run in October. The National League is too crowded at the top for Arizona, especially for a team in the NL West. I’m sure that unlike past years, the Diamondbacks are a team to watch. And not only because of their diamond-studded threads.


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