No. 14 D'backs: Pressing on without Justin Upton
Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
MLB Springboards: No. 30 Astros | No. 29 Marlins | No. 28 Mets | No. 27 Rockies | No. 26 Twins | No. 25 Pirates | No. 24 Indians | No. 23 Mariners | No. 22 Padres | No. 21 Cubs | No. 20 Brewers | No. 19 Red Sox | No. 18 White Sox | No. 17 Royals | No. 16 Orioles | No. 15 Phillies
2012 record: 81-81
Finish: Third, NL West
2012 final payroll: $77.2 million
Estimated 2013 opening day payroll: $89 million
Yahoo! Sports offseason rank: 14
Hashtags: #uptonabbey #theuptonslinger #bauerless #gibbyball #desertbloomquist #eightmenoutfield #ross4less #didican #seeyacy
The Diamondbacks picked up an astounding 29 wins and an NL West title in the first full season in the desert for general manager Kevin Towers and field manager Kirk Gibson. Sustaining 94-win seasons proved a challenge, however, and by this winter Towers was working back from an 81-81 record and a new division dynamic.
The San Francisco Giants are again World Series champions. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the game's latest trust-fund kids. That leaves the Diamondbacks to operate in their middle class, and to find ways to win in Towers' cleverness, Gibson's standards and a roster's resourcefulness.
So Towers, everyone's favorite gunslinger, lowered his brim and drew. The World Series hadn't started before he traded away center fielder Chris Young (getting major-league shortstop Cliff Pennington and minor-league shortstop Yordy Cabrera from the Oakland A's) and traded for reliever Heath Bell, who wore out his welcome in Miami even before Ozzie Guillen did.
By Christmas he'd traded for Colorado Rockies reliever Matt Reynolds, signed outfielder Cody Ross, third baseman Eric Chavez, outfielder Eric Hinske and starter Brandon McCarthy and, in one of the bigger moves of the offseason, traded away Trevor Bauer, the third overall pick from 18 months before. The Bauer deal involved the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds and brought, yes, another shortstop, along with lefty Tony Sipp. (Stephen Drew, once the future at shortstop, had been off-loaded to the Oakland A's in August.)
Towers struck the big deal on Thursday, dealing Justin Upton to the Braves, along with Chris Johnson, for All-Star Martin Prado, and minor leaguers Randall Delgado (right-hander), Zeke Spruill (right-hander), Nick Ahmed (shortstop) and Brandon Drury (first base).
[Related: Cincinnati to host 2015 All-Star Game]
With a little more than two weeks before camp opens, the Diamondbacks carry enough outfielders – six – to cover most of downtown Phoenix: Ross, Hinske, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock. Kubel still could be traded. Otherwise, Eaton, along with Pollock, would start the season in Triple-A Reno.
The Giants and Dodgers are formidable and yet the Diamondbacks are far from being in over their heads in the NL West.
In 2012, they scored more runs than anyone in the division not playing at ridiculous elevation. Granted, a good deal of their damage came at Chase Field, one of the better hitters' parks in the league (a fact reflected equally in their own pitchers' ERA's.)
Still, maturing hitters at catcher (Miguel Montero), first base (Paul Goldschmidt), and somewhere in the outfield (Parra), bode well for the offense. Second baseman Aaron Hill hit 26 home runs and twice hit for the cycle. The strikeout-happy days of the past decade (Mark Reynolds, Adam LaRoche, Kelly Johnson and Chris Young) appear behind the Diamondbacks.
The most improvement should come from the pitching staff, and the starting rotation in particular. The Diamondbacks got only 21 starts from pitchers who were 30 or older, all of them from left-hander Joe Saunders. The rest came from a developing staff of Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Rookie-of-the-Year runner-up Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin, Josh Collmenter, Daniel Hudson, Tyler Skaggs and Bauer. To that, Towers added McCarthy, himself not yet 30.
Bauer and his idiosyncrasies are gone, likely leaving the fifth starter to a competition between Corbin and Skaggs. Hudson, the 16-game winner in 2011, underwent Tommy John surgery in July and should return in the second half of '13.
In a division known primarily for its spacious parks and shutdown innings, the Diamondbacks will first have to pitch. That means Kennedy and Cahill.
The bullpen appears sturdy enough. The rotation seems deep enough. And Kennedy and Cahill were, for the most part, good. The Diamondbacks need better. Kennedy won 21 games and pitched to a 2.88 ERA in '11. A year later, he'd slid to 15 wins and a 4.02 ERA. Cahill won 18 games as a 22-year-old in the American League. He's 25-26 over two seasons since.
The NL West could go to Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Or, to Matt Cain and whomever (Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito) follows him. Unless, of course, it goes to Kennedy and Cahill.
Known as gunslinger
There's a new sheriff in town
He draws, Justin case
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