The Diamondbacks expectations and the resulting 69-93 record led to the departure of General Manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale. The struggles of Miller and Greinke (4.37 ERA and just 26 starts due to time missed because of injury) and the spring training injury to star center fielder AJ Pollack had a lot to do with the team's disappointing play. Call it a series of unfortunate events, but the final results are what they are. A lot more was expected of them last season and the Stewart and Hale have to feel the same way. The D'Backs hired Boston Red Sox GM Mike Hazen as their new President of Baseball Operations. He brought in a couple of Boston executives to join him and also brought in Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo as the new field manager.
The Diamondbacks off season centered around a trade made with the Seattle Mariners. The team's 2016 most valuable player Jean Segura (.319 batting average, 20 home runs, 64 runs batted in, 203 hits, 102 runs scored, 41 doubles, 33 stolen bases) was sent to the Mariners in exchange for 24 year old starting pitcher Taijuan Walker. Walker provides some depth to a rotation that could use it, especially with Miller's struggles. Thought is, though Segura had a breakout season, he may have peaked. Because of that, his trade value may be as high as it will ever be. The Diamondbacks also replaced free agent catcher Wellington Castillo (non-tendered) with journeymen Chris Iannetta and Jeff Mathis. Fernando Rodney comes in to be the closer and with it, his reputation for shooting arrows in the first half of the season and shooting blanks in the second half.
Not having Pollack really set the Diamondbacks back in 2016. His 2015 season eerily matched Segura's 2016 (.315, 20, 76, 192, 111, 39, 39). Outside of Segura, the highlight of Arizona's 2016 was the major league development of third baseman Jake Lamb (29 HR, 91 RBI) and left fielder Yasmany Tomas (30, 83). Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt had a typical season and remains their best overall player. Outfielder Brandon Drury will be the team's starting second baseman with David Peralta coming back to play right field after only appearing in 48 games last season. Peralta hit .312 in 2015 with 10 triples, 17 HR and 78 RBI. If shortstop Nick Ahmed cannot show he is a better offensive player, I would consider moving Chris Owings back to shortstop in spite of his inferior defense. The lineup I would give the Diamondbacks opening day is Peralta RF, Pollack CF, Goldschmidt 1B, Tomas LF, Lamb 3B, Drury 2B, Iannetta C, Ahmed SS.
Hope is that 23 year-old Ketel Marte is ready to become a legitimate all around shortstop. He has the ability to be a superior defender and perhaps can hit for a solid average and moderate power. If he does, he will make the Walker/ Segura trade a victory for the D'Backs regardless of what they get out of Walker, the more significant piece of the trade. Owings will be a super utility player with Gregor Blanco, Chris Herrmann, Daniel Descalso, and Mathis rounding out the Arizona bench. Hank Conger and Josh Thole are also vying for a spot in the catching mix.
Left handed pitcher Robbie Ray gained some MLB experience in 2016, making 32 starts, and pitched to a 4.90 ERA but struck out 218 batters in just over 174 innings pitched. Some of Ray's struggles were part of growing pains as the Diamondbacks were well out of the playoffs by the All Star break. Greinke will be better this season, his track record dictates it and he is expected to be fully healthy in 2017. Walker and Miller will be very instrumental in the pitching staff's success. Walker is the Diamondbacks version of Michael Pineda, his stuff can be so dominant that he could be an ace, but it seems to all fall apart at once for the former Mariners prospect (just like Pineda). Miller has to be better than he was last season, right? If the pitching of the prior two puts Ray in the number four spot in the team's rotation, the Diamondbacks will be in good shape. Patrick Corbin, a former All Star who has yet to return to form after Tommy John surgery in 2014, gets the first shot at the number five spot in the starting rotation. Young pitching prospects Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley will be better off pitching in Triple- A, but they could emerge as important depth pieces as the season goes on. Hopefully, the Diamondbacks can use this as a luxury, not a necessity. Once again, Walker and Miller will be the difference between being a playoff team and being a middle of the road team. Veteran Jorge DeLaRosa can perhaps be an insurance policy against an early season injury.
Rodney has a matter of always signing with a team looking for a closer and is usually good in his first year in a new home. I am less concerned with Rodney as I am with those that build up to him. Randall Delgado, Jake Barrett, and Enrique Burgos all produced mixed results with all three looking very good at their best. Perhaps Shipley or Bradley can fill in as an eighth inning option if nobody emerges out of the prior three mentioned. Right handed pitchers Zack Godley and Silvino Bracho and lefty Andrew Chafin all put up awful numbers last season. If the Diamondbacks are in a good pennant race this season, they owe it to their fans to make a trade for a reliever or two. Other in house options include veterans Kevin Jepsen, Tom Wilhelmsen, JJ Hoover, and Brian Matusz.
Outfielder Socrates Brito remains a player that should be watched as he possesses all the talent to be a very good all around major league player. In a time where all that seems to matter is velocity when it comes to pitching, the development of left handed pitcher Anthony Banda is a breath of fresh air. He is a pitcher first and he made some very good strides, mainly making his command his biggest strength.
Having Pollack and Peralta back in the lineup for a full season should be enough to give the Diamondbacks a significant improvement from a year ago. The Diamondbacks lineup should be able to produce a lot of runs and having Pollack in center field should prevent a good amount as well. The idea of bringing in two catcher first backstops should help both defensively and with the pitching staff. I am taking a shot on the Diamondbacks starting pitching staff. It will start with Greinke, who I think will be back to pre- 2016 form. I also believe the Shelby Miller of 2016 will be a thought of the past and I think a change of scenery will bring out the best in Walker. 2017 will be a very productive year for the Arizona Diamondbacks. While Las Vegas predicted a vast improvement (9.5 wins over last season), I am willing to go another 9.5 wins ahead of the Reno number of 78.5. I have the Diamondbacks at 88-74, second place in the National League West Division. Their record will also put them in the National League Wild Card Game, the sixth postseason appearance in the history of the franchise and the first since 2011.