Outfield Depth a Major Concern for Diamondbacks

Outfield depth is a huge concern right now for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With only 11 days until the team’s first full-team workout, the D-backs starting outfield projects to be Yasmany Tomas in left field, A.J. Pollock in center, and David Peralta in right.

Tomas played in only 47 games last season, and questions remain about whether he is fully healthy. After playing in only 12 games two seasons ago, Pollock appeared in only 112 games last season. When he plays, Pollock is one of the most dynamic two-way center fielders in the game. But 2015 is the only season in which he has played more than 137 games. Even Peralta has had trouble staying on the field. The 29-year-old played in 140 games this past season with a 2.5 WAR, but he played in only 48 games in 2016, so questions about his health (albeit fewer than Tomas and Pollock) remain.

The picture gets even bleaker when you look beyond the projected starting trio.

“Just Dingers”

There is an obvious name currently missing from the fold. J.D. Martinez, who by all accounts is content on holding out until one team gives him the offer he wants, likely will not return.

Martinez’s impact during the second half of 2017 has been well documented. After the D-backs acquired him before the trade deadline in a trade with the Detroit Tigers, the 30-year-old thrived in his new hitter-friendly surroundings. His 176 second-half wRC+ was one point higher than National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, 12 points higher than Mike Trout, and 14 points higher than NL MVP runner-up Joey Votto.

His defense and age are a concern, but his bat more than made up for it. Plus, Martinez’s obvious comfort level with Chase Field and his outspoken pleasure for playing in Arizona would make it safe to assume he can stay productive at the plate.

But what Martinez has sought all offseason — a six-year deal in the $300 million range — is unrealistic for the Diamondbacks in the present and could backfire on any team if his production declines steeply in the final two or three years of the deal.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported last month that teams are interested in a deal ranging from $120 to $150 million. That is more reasonable, especially when you consider MLB Trade Rumors predicted he would land a six-year, $150 million contract before the offseason began.

So What are the Odds?

The price range that Heyman reported is more reasonable for the D-backs. But that might even be a stretch. Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reported that while the D-backs have “financial flexibility,” the team is still projected to begin the season with a payroll in the range of $120 to $125 million, if not higher, which would be a franchise record.

Thanks to a large, expensive crop of arbitration-eligible players, even spending $150 million might be too much.

Then again, Martinez’s comfort with the D-backs, his close relationship with Paul Goldschmidt, his profound impact on a team that played in the postseason for the first time since 2011, and the acquisition of his former teammate with the Tigers, catcher Alex Avila, might convince Martinez to take a pay cut or ownership to spend even more money to retain him.

Beyond Martinez, the D-backs outfield depth at the corner positions and in center is extremely thin. Rey Fuentes, who was designated for assignment to make room for Avila, cleared waivers and was assigned to Triple-A Reno. He will compete for a backup role, but he is far from a serviceable backup to Pollock.

At the corners, not only are there obvious concerns about Tomas and Peralta’s ability to stay healthy, but Gregor Blanco left in free agency and there are not a whole lot of options.

The D-backs could use another center fielder and corner outfielder before the offseason ends, but center should be the top priority.

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