On the heels of another promising season ending in disappointment, the Arizona Diamondbacks are at a crossroads and their best chance to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011 is to hit the reset button.
Arizona is poised to lose two of their best player, A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin, to free agency this winter. Additionally, 14 players are arbitration eligible and MLB Trade Rumors projects their Opening Day Salary to be $119.13 million, a hefty sum for a mid-market club who has only entered the season with a nine-figure payroll two other times in franchise history. Pitcher Zack Greinke will earn $34.5 million in 2019, easily the highest paid player on the team.
While Greinke is a very good player, Arizona is snakebitten by the awful deal given to Yasmany Tomas, who will earn $15 million despite being demoted to the minor leagues last season and playing in just 47 games the year before. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt has a club option for $14.5 million that is a no-brainer to be exercised.
For bigger clubs, like the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers, Tomas’ deal would not be as bad because they have the money to just pay someone else and bury the underperforming player, but Tomas represents 12.6 percent of the Diamondbacks projected payroll, an amount that can close a window of competitiveness even faster for smaller market clubs and since three players combine for more than half of the team’s payroll, they have almost no flexibility to get salary relief.
Arizona’s farm system is also pretty bare. Only two prospects rank in MLB’s top 100, right handed pitchers Jon Duplantier (No. 80) and Taylor Widener (No. 97) and Bleacher Report has their system ranked No. 19 overall. Help can come in the form of compensatory picks for losing Pollock and Corbin, but even so, a prospect takes years to develop.
The final issue for Arizona is the Goldschmidt situation. The 30-year-old made his sixth consecutive All-Star team in 2018 and hit .290/.389/.533 with 33 home runs. He has finished top three in MVP voting three times, but the club option represents the final year of his deal and his salary only figures to increase. Arizona may have to shop him in December at the owner’s meetings or he could ultimately be deal at the trade deadline next July, but with Arizona struggling to compete, it would be wise to move their biggest asset for the highest possible return, like Baltimore did with Manny Machado.
If Goldschmidt is traded, however, that is the point of no return for Arizona and the rest of their assets should be targeted by opposing teams via trade, including reliever Archie Bradley and starters Robbie Ray (who will enter free agency in 2021) and Zach Godley if he rebounds in 2019.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow for Arizona fans, but with the team not fit to win a World Series now and their window of opportunity quickly closing, it’s time to focus more on the future.