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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Vote: How many wins for D-Backs in 2013?

By David Schoenfield

No team has had a more interesting offseason than the Arizona Diamondbacks. General manager Kevin Towers has traded away two starting outfielders, traded for two shortstops, signed one free agent outfielder, traded for a third baseman, signed a free agent third baseman, traded away the third pick from the 2011 draft, signed a pitcher who had surgery on a fractured skull in September, and traded for a reliever who had a 5.09 ERA in 2012.

He's been like one of those guys in your fantasy league who just likes to make trades for the sake of making trades.

But are the Diamondbacks any better? Or did they just get rid of guys Kirk Gibson and/or the front office didn't like, particularly Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer? Let's use Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections (when available) to compare the ex-Diamondbacks with the new ones:

Old Diamondbacks
Justin Upton: 3.4
Chris Young: 2.3
Chris Johnson: 0.6
Trevor Bauer: 1.2 (fans at FanGraphs)
Ryan Wheeler: 1.1
Total: 8.6

New Diamondbacks
Martin Prado: 4.7 (fans)
Brandon McCarthy: 2.3
Cliff Pennington/Didi Gregorious: Both 1.9
Randall Delgado: 1.4 (fans)
Cody Ross: 1.4
Matt Reynolds: 0.7
Heath Bell: 0.7
Eric Chavez: 0.6
Tony Sipp: 0.5
Total: 14.2

On paper, it looks like Towers had a strong offseason, at least in terms of building a better club for 2013 and ignoring the future value of Upton and Bauer beyond 2013. You can also factor in rookie center fielder Adam Eaton (projected WAR: 2.8) and maybe rookie starter Tyler Skaggs (1.2). There's no doubt that Arizona will be a deeper team in 2013.

The Diamondbacks went 81-81 last year, although with a projected record of 86-76 after outscoring their opponents by 46 runs.

What were the club's weaknesses? Here are their National League ranks by position in terms of wRC+ for hitters:

Catcher: 5th
First base: 4th
Second base: 1st
Third base: 15th
Shortstop: 11th
Left field: 7th
Center field: 8th
Right field: 10th

Rotation: 4th in FanGraphs WAR
Bullpen: 4th in FanGraphs WAR

Third base, with Ryan Roberts having a terrible half season and then Johnson providing only a small upgrade, was a disaster offensively. Prado promises to be a big upgrade. Shortstop may improve defensively -- Pennington and the rookie Gregorious are both solid there, although neither would be expected to produce much at the plate. But did they improve anywhere else? Ross won't be better than even the 2012 version of Upton and Gerardo Parra/Eaton probably isn't much different than Parra/Young. They also have to be concerned that Aaron Hill won't repeat his big 2012 season.

The pitching staff was already pretty good, even with Ian Kennedy unable to replicate his 2011 and Daniel Hudson going down with Tommy John surgery. There is potential for improvement, however. Patrick Corbin, Josh Collmenter, Hudson, Bauer and Skaggs combined for a 5.60 ERA in 47 starts. In theory, let's say McCarthy replaces Joe Saunders' 21 starts and everybody replaces those bad 47 starts. That gives us this rotation:

Wade Miley
Trevor Cahill

You have to like that depth, especially if Hudson can bounce back at midseason. Odds are you will see improvement over those 47 starts, no matter how they're handed out. Even if Miley regresses a bit from his outstanding rookie campaign, the rotation should be a couple wins better and maybe more. (Of course, I said the same thing last year, when Arizona traded for Cahill to replace a lot of bad starts from the likes of Barry Enright, Zach Duke and Armando Galarraga. As always with pitching: You just don't know.)

Meanwhile, the bullpen certainly has more depth with lefties Sipp and Reynolds joining the mix. Bell is a wild card, but the big key is better performance in tight games: J.J. Putz blew fives and he and Bryan Shaw combined to go 2-11. The D-backs lost nine games when leading entering the eighth inning and 12 when leading entering the seventh; the NL averages were 6.5 and 8.5.

As much as losing Upton stings, and as seemingly frenetic as the offseason has been, I do see an improved Arizona club. They should compete with the Giants and Dodgers in what shapes up to be a terrific NL West race, with all three teams around 90 wins. What do you think?