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2017 MLB Offseason Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

After making the playoffs for the first time since 2011, what will the Diamondbacks do to take the next step this offseason?

MLB: NL Wildcard-Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69), 2nd in NL West

Free agents: Gregor Blanco, Jorge de la Rosa, David Hernandez, Chris Iannetta, J.D. Martinez, Fernando Rodney, Adam Rosales

The Arizona Diamondbacks put together one of the most impressive one-year turnarounds in recent memory this past season, earning the top NL Wild Card spot and advancing to the NLDS after winning 69 games and finishing in fourth place in 2016. As they try to establish themselves as a long-term contender in the NL West rather than just a one-year wonder, they’ll have some work to do this offseason.

GM Mike Hazen engineered a quick and inexpensive fix of the Diamondbacks’ already talented roster last offseason, and Arizona won 93 games despite having a payroll that ranked 20th in the league, even after the nearly $5 million remaining on J.D. Martinez’s contract was added just before the trade deadline. The one downside to Hazen’s approach, though, is that he signed quite a few veterans to one-year “prove it” contracts last offseason, and after many of those players found success in 2017, they’re now free agents again. Thus, the Diamondbacks will now be faced with decisions on whether to try and bring those players back at higher salaries this offseason or to take the same approach, finding cheaper players coming off down seasons who can be rehabilitated in 2018.

The biggest storyline surrounding Arizona’s offseason will be whether they can bring back Martinez, who was arguably the biggest game-changer in the National League after being acquired from the Tigers on July 18. The 30-year-old slugger hit .302/.366/.741 with 29 homers in 257 plate appearances for the D-backs, and he followed that up by hitting a homer off Clayton Kershaw in the NLDS.

If all things were ideal for the Diamondbacks, Martinez would return to Arizona and combine with Paul Goldschmidt as part of a dominant one-two punch. But with agent Scott Boras trying to get Martinez a contract worth at least $200 million according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the Diamondbacks may not have the necessary funds to bring him back, especially since they need to have some wiggle room available to try to sign Goldschmidt when he becomes a free agent after the 2019 season (or to give him a long-term extension before then).

If the D-backs aren’t able to bring back Martinez, they don’t necessarily have to look elsewhere to fill the spot he’ll vacate. Yasmany Tomas—who was Arizona’s regular left fielder before suffering a season-ending core injury—could step back into that role, with David Peralta moving back to right field. While Tomas isn’t much of a defender and isn’t as dynamic of a hitter as Martinez, he’s still an intimidating power threat who makes a real impact when healthy. With Ketel Marte likely having nailed down Arizona’s starting shortstop job with an impressive performance after the All-Star break and in the postseason, the Diamondbacks will also be free to use Chris Owings in the outfield more frequently.

If the D-backs do look to add to their outfield mix, though, affordable alternatives to Martinez could include Jose Bautista, Carlos Gonzalez, and Melky Cabrera among others.

After Chris Iannetta had his best offensive season since 2008, posting an .865 OPS as part of a platoon with Jeff Mathis and Chris Herrmann, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Diamondbacks try to bring him back this offseason. He’ll have the opportunity to earn a much more substantial salary than the $1.5 million he was paid in 2017, though, and with teams like the Athletics and Orioles looking for catchers this offseason, Iannetta could be in line to earn more elsewhere. With Mathis, Herrmann, and experienced big-league backup John Ryan Murphy on the 40-man roster, Arizona doesn’t necessarily need to replace Iannetta if he departs, but if they want to add another catcher, potential fits on the free-agent market include Jonathan Lucroy, Miguel Montero, Alex Avila, Nick Hundley, and Rene Rivera.

While Arizona has a few nice bullpen pieces to build around in Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin, and Jimmy Sherfy, they’ll have to put some work into reshaping their bullpen this offseason with Jorge de la Rosa, David Hernandez, and Fernando Rodney hitting free agency. Bradley would be a logical candidate to take over ninth-inning duties if Rodney isn’t re-signed (and maybe even if he is), though Arizona’s front office may be uneasy about pigeonholing him into the closer’s role when he’s durable enough to pitch day after day and be effective for multiple innings.

Hazen revamped Arizona’s bullpen last winter by bringing in a multitude of veterans—including de la Rosa, Rodney, J.J. Hoover, T.J. McFarland, and Tom Wilhelmsen—on inexpensive deals. He had success with that strategy, and he’ll likely do more of the same this offseason. While Arizona could pursue more highly-regarded relievers like Addison Reed, Pat Neshek, and Brandon Morrow, they’re probably most likely to search for guys like Joaquin Benoit, Boone Logan, Luke Gregerson, and Tyler Clippard who are coming off down seasons but could end up being great value pickups if they return to form in 2018.

With guys like Nick Ahmed, Daniel Descalso, Christian Walker, and Jeremy Hazelbaker already on the roster, Arizona theoretically has enough position player depth that they could do without any bench additions this winter. But Hazen had a lot of success last winter by adding low-cost veterans like Descalso, Hazelbaker, and Gregor Blanco to the mix, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the D-backs pursue a few veteran bench players, especially if they’re willing to attend spring training as non-roster invitees and battle for jobs. Blanco, who posted a decent .246/.337/.357 slash line while playing all three outfield positions in 2017, may be a candidate to return in a reserve role.