Rebuilding But Not Regressing: The Impressive Second-Half Story of the Arizona Diamondbacks

When the Arizona Diamondbacks decided to trade Paul Goldschmidt this previous offseason, many fans in the desert were shocked to see their homegrown superstar first baseman leave town. Goldschmidt, 31, was heading into the final year of an extremely team-friendly contract with the Diamondbacks, as he was slated to earn $14 million in the 2019 season.

The writing was on the wall in the case of the Paul Goldschmidt trade, due to his age and expiring contract. However, the man they called “Goldy” was not the last big piece that would be leaving the franchise.

Fast forward to July 31. The Diamondbacks are 54-55 and find themselves 16 games back in the National League West, and now the Houston Astros come calling about Zack Greinke. Unlike Goldschmidt, Greinke was only on the penultimate year of his contract with Arizona. That said, his 2019 performance elevated his stock to the point where Arizona’s general manager, Mike Hazen, knew that this was the right time to trade the ace.

At the time of the trade (July 31), Greinke held a 10-4 record with an impressive 2.90 ERA and a WHIP of just 0.90. The breakdown of the deal with Houston went as follows:

Diamondbacks receive: 1B Seth Beer, RHP J.B. Bukauskas, RHP Corbin Martin, INF/OF Josh Rojas

Astros receive: RHP Zack Greinke, $24 million in cash

The Astros also agreed to pay the remaining $53 million that Greinke was owed on his contract.

The package that Arizona received for Greinke is impressive, as they acquired four players who were all ranked as top-30 prospects in Houston’s farm system. Not only did the Greinke trade provide the team with financial relief, but it also allowed them to actively rebuild their farm system with four players whom, according to most scouts and evaluators, are all projected to become impactful major-league players.

Many believed that the Greinke trade was the beginning of the end of the Diamondbacks’ season, but the team obviously didn’t feel the same way. Arizona went 16-11 in August and finished the month by ripping off six consecutive wins, three of which came against the vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers. As a result, the Diamondbacks rapidly played themselves into playoff contention and now find themselves just three and a half games out of the second NL Wild Card spot.

Goldschmidt and Greinke may have departed the desert, but the Diamondbacks still have a lot of talent on their roster that has fueled their second-half success. Arizona’s offense ranks fifth in the NL in scoring and home runs, led by several new additions from the previous offseason.

Eduardo Escobar, who signed a three-year, $21 million deal with Arizona this past offseason, is slashing .271/.323/.533 with a team-leading 33 home runs and 110 runs driven in. Under an extremely team-friendly contract, Escobar has arguably been Arizona’s best player in 2019, and he will still be locked in for another two seasons after this year.

Ketel Marte has also had an impressive season. He was acquired along with starting pitcher Taijuan Walker last offseason for Jean Segura, who was eventually flipped to the Philadelphia Phillies, and Mitch Haniger. Marte, 25, has had a breakout season in 2019, sporting an extremely strong .328/.387/.591 slash line with 30 home runs and a team-leading 92 runs. The Diamondbacks wasted no time locking up Marte for the long haul, signing him to a five-year extension prior to the regular season. Marte, much like Escobar, is an emerging superstar who the Diamondbacks have under an affordable, team-friendly contract.

The Diamondbacks have also received major contributions from Christian Walker and Carson Kelly, two players who they snagged from other organizations in separate moves. Kelly, 24, was a highly touted catcher in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization for many years, but, understandably, was blocked by future Hall-of-Famer Yadier Molina. The Diamondbacks acquired Kelly as part of the Goldschmidt trade, and he has made the most of his regular season playing time, hitting .257 with 18 home runs in 97 games.

Walker, a former fourth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles, has been somewhat of a journeyman who has always been known for his power, but he was never really given a chance to play every day until this year with the Diamondbacks. Walker’s patience has paid off in a big way, as he too has had a breakout 2019 campaign, mashing 25 home runs in 132 games.

The combination of timely trades, foresight, and smart free-agent signings have put the Diamondbacks in a good position, as the 2019 season winds down. They’ve a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, which many around baseball might not have suspected given the departure of two of their biggest stars. Regardless of how the 2019 season ends, the Diamondbacks are set up for a bright future, and their ability to rebuild while still contending is a model that more teams should follow.

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