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Offseason report card: Diamondbacks

2/8/2013

2012 in review

Record: 81-81 (86-76 Pythagorean)

734 runs scored (4th in NL)

688 runs allowed (9th in NL)

Big Offseason Moves

In three-team deal, traded Chris Young and acquired Cliff Pennington and Heath Bell. Traded Ryan Wheeler to the Rockies for Matt Reynolds. Signed free agents Brandon McCarthy, Cody Ross, Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske. Picked up option on J.J. Putz and signed to one-year extension. Traded Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw in three-team deal and acquired Didi Gregorius and Tony Sipp. Oh, yeah, traded Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to Atlanta for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado and three minor leaguers. Signed Prado to four-year contract.

OK, it was a bit of an ADD offseason by GM Kevin Towers, first trading center fielder Young for a shortstop the club needed in Pennington, then later trading prospect Bauer for another shortstop. Then, after trading Young, he signed another outfielder in Ross ... but that allowed him to finally ship out Upton, who finished fourth in the MVP balloting in 2011. Oh, and he picked up a quality starter in McCarthy (albeit one more likely to pitch 150 innings than 200).

So ... how to take it all in? While most people panned the Upton and Bauer trades, it could be that those two are overrated. We don't know if Upton has improvement left in his game or whether Bauer will develop. But Prado is a good player, and Towers believes Gregorius will hit enough (nobody questions his ability with the glove). The McCarthy deal could be one of the better contracts of the offseason, even with his durability. The bullpen is deeper with Sipp and Reynolds, and the bench should be improved with Chavez and Pennington/Gregorious. I'm not giving this an A, since I think Towers gave Young away too cheaply and the consensus seems to be Upton should have brought more in return. But overall, I still like the offseason as a whole.

Position Players

Towers and Kirk Gibson said they want a lineup with versatility. They have that, especially if rookie center fielder Adam Eaton proves his .381/.456/.539 line at Reno wasn't completely just PCL inflation. Gerardo Parra is an excellent defender at all three outfield positions, Prado is a good glove at third base or left, they have multiple options at shortstop and Chavez is around to back up at third and first. Gibson can mix and match and platoon at several positions.

What this lineup lacks, however, is the Man. Now, as I wrote here, you don't necessarily need a superstar to build a playoff team around. It just makes it a little easier. The other issue: Who is the real Aaron Hill? The guy who hit .302 with 26 home runs in 2012 or the guy who hit .205 in 2010 and .246 in 2011?

Pitching Staff

Maybe this staff lacks a legitimate No. 1 -- Ian Kennedy had such results in 2011, but his 2012 performance (4.02 ERA) is probably closer to what to expect in 2013 -- but it has quality depth. Trevor Cahill gives Gibson a second reliable -- if unspectacular -- 200-inning guy. Wade Miley had an outstanding rookie campaign, walking just 37 batters in 194.2 innings; his walk rate of 4.6 percent tied for sixth-best among all starters, and he has better stuff than the Tom Milones and Bronson Arroyos of the world. McCarthy comes over from Oakland, where he should be recovered from surgery after getting hit in the head by a line drive last September.

At the bottom of the staff, you have Tyler Skaggs, one of the best pitching prospects in the game, who had a six-start cup of coffee late in the season. The results weren't great (5.83 ERA), but the stuff was, and he's just 21. Delgado had a decent campaign with Atlanta, posting a 4.37 ERA in 17 starts; he's not a potential 1 or 2 like Skaggs, but if he improves his command, he has the stuff to be a solid back-end guy.

The bullpen is led not by closer J.J. Putz, but setup man extraordinaire David Hernandez and his deadly slider -- batters hit just .088 off it. Putz needs to be better than a 1-5 record with five blown saves.

I think it's an underrated rotation, especially once you factor in Arizona's home park. Miley gives the club the potential for a third 200-inning guy and if Skaggs is ready out of spring training, it could be a rotation that rivals the Giants and Dodgers for best in the division.

Heat Map to Watch

Hill had a monster 2012 season with 76 extra-base hits, the 13th-most by a second baseman since 1990. (Hill also had 73 with the Blue Jays in 2009). As you can see from the heat map, he feasted off high pitches, both hard stuff and soft stuff.

Overall Grade

A lot of people are going to be down on the Diamondbacks after trading a potential MVP candidate in Upton, but I like the construction of this roster, especially if rookies Eaton and Skaggs perform well (and I believe they will).

But the Diamondbacks don't need those guys to be stars right now, and that's why I like this team. I think the depth will play out, and Arizona battles San Francisco and Los Angeles for the NL West crown. What do you think?