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No. 15 Diamondbacks: More changes in an effort to rise above .500

David Brown
Yahoo Sports
Washington Nationals v Arizona Diamondbacks
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Paul Goldschmidt has emerged as one of baseball's best hitters. (Getty Images)

Editor's note: Yahoo Sports will rank every team in Major League Baseball from 30th to 1st before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

2013 record: 81-81
Finish: 2nd place, NL West
2013 final payroll: $90,204,915 (20th of 30)
Estimated 2014 opening day payroll: $108,800,000 (13th of 30)
Yahoo Sports offseason rank: 15th
Diamondbacks in six words: In constant quest for more grit.

OFFSEASON ACTION
The lasting impression of the 2013 Arizona Diamondbacks won’t be anything they did on the field. Instead, it was what an opponent did in the pool at Chase Field when the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated clinching the NL West by (allegedly) soiling it. The Diamondbacks seethed but at least the Dodgers handed them the perfect focus to motivate themselves for 2014. Not literally, of course, though the pool certainly needed a good scrubbing. And like pool cleaner Morris Buttermaker in “The Bad News Bears,” general manager Kevin Towers got to work and opened tanks of chlorine and poured it all over the Diamondbacks' roster – just as he did the offseason before.

After his club finished .500 in 2012, manager Kirk Gibson was not entirely comfortable with the kind of players the Diamondbacks had on their roster. Gibson wanted more grinders, so Towers brought them in. The Diamondbacks signed Cody Ross to play the outfield. They traded away slugger Justin Upton and traded for Martin Prado. They awarded scrappy rookie Adam Eaton the starting center field spot. They brought in Heath Bell, an old Towers favorite, and he became the closer (for a while) after J.J. Putz got hurt. Rookie Didi Gregorious covered shortstop better than any tarp could.

[Also: No. 16 Giants: With the core set, only minor tweaks made ]

What happened? Ross and Eaton got hurt, along with Aaron Hill. Prado had perhaps the worst first half of his career. Bell was replaced by submariner Brad Ziegler. Gregorious couldn’t maintain a hot start and, in fact, went too cold to play every day. Catcher Miguel Montero, after signing a big contract extension, had the worst offensive season of his career. Meanwhile, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt became one of the top sluggers in the majors, but his production was wasted. The starting pitching was worse than expected, as was the bullpen, and the D-backs finished 81-81 for the second consecutive year. No progress, no regress. This offseason, Towers kept on tinkering, giving up on Eaton, power prospect Matt Davidson and left-hander Tyler Skaggs for slugger Mark Trumbo and closer Addison Reed.

It’s a bit of a stretch but, in a way, guys like Prado, Hill and Ross are like new additions after they weren’t around (each in his own way) in the first half of 2013. If Gregorious can’t reclaim short, then rookie Chris Owings will and the Diamondbacks might be better off for it. Montero figures to bounce back, though he has turned 30.

Trumbo gets criticized plenty for what he isn’t – a high-contact, selective hitter. But he ought to remind Diamondbacks fans of free-swinging Mark Reynolds, who is the same kind of strikeout-prone hitter. You like that in left field? Then you’ll like Trumbo. He might be able to lead the league in home runs playing half his games at Chase Field.

Reed probably is going to be a really, really good closer. He seemed on the verge of breaking through to elite status with the White Sox. He throws hard and the movement he gets can be ridiculous. The rest of the bullpen, at least the right-handers, should be decent. Putz is healthy and Ziegler’s always been a good reliever. Josh Collmenter came through with a good season as a long guy. It would be nice if Matt Reynolds could return and show the form he did in 2013 before getting hurt.

Gerardo Parra isn’t a classic power right fielder, but few play the position better. The Diamondbacks have kind of a strange defense set up in the outfield. A.J. Pollock and Parra got it covered. Trumbo ought to be an adventure in left, and not in a good way.

REALITY CHECK

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Arizona needs a return to form from Brandon McCarthy this season. (Getty Images)

Pollock can go get it in center field, but he won’t get on base as much as Eaton was supposed to, or probably will with the White Sox. But he’s a grinder just the same, and Gibson will love him.

Towers has made a lot of changes, but the starting pitching is much the same. Lefty Patrick Corbin had a 5.19 ERA in the second half after making the All-Star team. It’s going to be four years since Trevor Cahill made the All-Star team for the A’s, and though his stats were better in the second half of 2013, a closer look suggests it was just luck. Brandon McCarthy showed a lot of improvement in the second half, and he’s really due for some good luck. Wade Miley might be on his way to a Mark Buehrle-like career, but guys who are able to pitch like that consistently are pretty rare. Still just 24 years old, we’re waiting to see if Randall Delgado can hack it every five days in the majors. Is there an ace among these guys? Each of them, save Delgado, has pitched like an ace (small “a”) at one time or another. It’s probably McCarthy, baseball gods willing.

Unless it’s Archie Bradley.

SAVIOR
It’s silly to call Goldschmidt the team’s savior because look at what he did in 2013 – he led the league in home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and adjusted OPS – and they finished .500.

It would be silly to say Trumbo is the savior, because those odds are too risky. He could hit 50 homers, but he can’t pitch for them.

Archie Bradley might be the guy, because the Diamondbacks need their starting pitchers to step beyond mediocrity, and he’s got more talent than any of them. Bradley has been invited to camp, and there’s no guarantee he’ll go north for opening day, but if there’s a long-term vacancy the D-backs will let him fill the spot. He posted ERAs of 1.97 at Class AA and 1.26 at high Class A in ’13, but his walk rate says he’s not ready to dominate at the major league level. He’s got a “plus” fastball and curve, the scouts say. And he’s got a great name – Archie Bradley. Sounds like a star. Big personality with a lot of confidence. He’s going to be good. But probably not until 2015.

HAIKU
Eighty-two or bust
Keep L.A. out of the pool
Grow up quick, Archie

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No. 16 Giants
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