The Diamondbacks are in agreement with free-agent utility infielder Wilmer Flores on a one-year deal worth $4.75 million guaranteed. It includes with a $6 million club option or a $500,000 buyout for the 2020 season, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported on Wednesday:
Free agent infielder Wilmer Flores is in agreement with the Arizona Diamondbacks on a one-year deal with a club option, pending physical, league sources tell ESPN. My man @pedrogomezESPN said Flores was nearing a deal with an NL West club.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 16, 2019
Wilmer Flores’ one-year deal with the Diamondbacks will guarantee him $4.25 million, league sources tell ESPN. He’ll make a base of $3.75 million with a $500,000 buyout on a club option in 2020 worth $6 million.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 16, 2019
Flores, 27, is a versatile infielder who provides some surprising power (double-digit homers in four straight seasons, including a career-high 18 in 2017) and up until 2018 had been a solid lefty-masher. From 2015-2017, the right-handed hitting infielder had an OPS of .850 or better against left-handed pitchers each year, including a ridiculous 1.093 through 107 PAs against lefties in 2016. But last year, his splits inexplicably reversed, as he slashed .283/.338/.466 with 10 homers in 281 plate appearances against righties, compared to .237/.284/.326 with one homer in 148 PAs against lefties.
He’s the biggest addition of the offseason to date (and that’s not saying much) for the Diamondbacks, who are seemingly taking a step or three backward after determining that their World Series window had closed. They dealt franchise icon Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals in December and seem content to let longtime center fielder A.J. Pollock walk in free agency. To their credit, they signed trade-deadline acquisition Eduardo Escobar to a three-year extension in October, and they made an under-the-radar move in December, signing former Arizona State star Merrill Kelly to a major-league deal after three seasons in South Korea, perhaps hoping to capture the same magic the Cardinals did when they brought Miles Mikolas back from Japan last offseason. They were also able to add a couple of young major-leaguers, righty Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly, in the Goldschmidt trade, but they’ve come up empty in terms of adding exceptionally notable pieces this offseason.
Flores should serve as a replacement of sorts for Daniel Descalso, who joined the Cubs as a free agent after posting a career-high .789 OPS with 13 homers in 2018. A natural shortstop, Flores is capable of filling in at all four infield positions, and though he doesn’t play elite defense at any position, he should be capable of giving Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed breaks here and there. The Mets most commonly used him as a third baseman in recent years, but with Escobar coming back and the team still having righty-masher Jake Lamb as a potential option at that position, Flores may not see too much action at the hot corner for the foreseeable future. With Chris Owings also being non-tendered and later joining the Royals, Flores brings some versatility back to Arizona’s bench, which is largely an unknown quantity aside from Lamb.
If Pacific Coast League legend Christian Walker struggles with the everyday first base job (or, perhaps more significantly, if the D-Backs don’t go out and sign one of the many first basemen remaining on the market), it’s possible that Flores could end up as a full-time starter at first base as the season goes on.