With the Hot Stove League underway, the Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be staying put. The team will have a quiet winter as it wants to focus on pitching rather than hitting at this time. Although the team will not discuss which pitchers they are targeting, they need to focus on rebuilding the bullpen and making this team as good as it can be.
Last place Finish in 2020
After a surprising last place finish in the 2020 abbreviated season, the team cut their total payroll to $90-95 million for 2021 after trades and non-tendering contracts. That is about $30 million down from last year and over $42 million less than their peak payroll of 2018.
What their budget really will be remains to be seen. We know the team lost a lot of money in 2020. With uncertainty of what attendance will look like for the 2021 season, don’t expect them to spend a lot of money during the Hot Stove time.
2020 was disappointing as the team struggled early with hitting followed by lack of the starters to go more than 5 innings and an overused bullpen, something that has become a “theme” under manager Torey Lovullo. By July the team was out of the running and started trading away a core of their pitchers for more prospects.
Yes, we can say the whole team struggled, but the disappointment of the 2020 season started early with Madison Bumgarner. When he struggled at the beginning of the season, the whole team seemed to follow, struggling right along with him. This led to that fifth-place finish. Bumgarner’s struggles started with a 4 mph decrease on his average fastball from the 2019 season. He followed that up with a stint on the IL. That led this team to losing 18 times in 20 tries.
Players Traded Away
The Diamondbacks did most of their would-be offseason trimming within the 2020 trade deadline, which is good. It was better to get something for players in the August trade deadline rather than letting them go for nothing in return in after-season trades, etc.
Pitchers Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin, and Robbie Ray were all traded away. So was outfielder Starling Marté, whom the team had just acquired for the 2020 season. And, later in September, Jake Lamb was released.
On October 28, 2020, the Diamondbacks declined the option on Mike Leake and his $18 million contract for the 2021 season, instead paying him a $5 million buyout. They also declined the options on Héctor Rondón and Junior Guerra. In addition, they non-tendered Silvino Bracho. While it’s still possible the club brings Guerra and Leake back, each would have to take a significant pay cut.
Most Players Return for 2021
Other than bullpen needs, the team is unlikely to make any other significant changes to the roster by opening day. Everyday players from 2020 will be back with Daulton Varsho and Tim Locastro taking over for Starling Marté in the outfield. Their starting staff appears to be set with Bumgarner, Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver, Merrill Kelly, and either Caleb Smith, Taylor Clarke, or Alex Young.
If any Moves
The only area that will look significantly different is the bullpen. Stefan Crichton will probably go in as the closer with Yoan López, Kevin Ginkel, and Taylor Widener returning as the main relievers. They did make one move when they claimed 27-year-old left-hander Taylor Guilbeau off waivers from the Mariners, and he will be given a chance to earn a spot.
We might see other moves but nothing flashy. The team is trying to compete with a reduced payroll, so only a few adjustments will be made.
Farm System Can help
If they cannot find any relievers, then their farm system will play a large role in whatever decision this team makes. We know the last two years they have acquired talent to rebuild it into a top-ten system.
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