On Wednesday, it was announced that infielder Wilmer Flores will join the Arizona Diamondbacks on a one-year deal that will pay him $3.75 million for the 2019 season with a $6 million club option that contains a $500k buyout for 2020. This may just be one of the best signings of the offseason.
Flores was somewhat surprisingly non-tendered by the New York Mets a few months ago despite hitting .267/.319/.417 with a 9.8% strikeout rate and 11 home runs over 429 plate appearances. On top of all of that, he rode another low BABIP of .267. He will be going into his age-27 season in 2019, and my projections are exceptionally high on him. Overall, I have him slashing .296/.339/.468 with a 12.8% strikeout rate and 14 home runs over 113 games or 386 plate appearances.
The home run total translates to 20 when spread over a 162-game rate. The batting average inflation came from his typical low BABIP rates. BABIP is a statistic that tends to fluctuate depending on all sorts of variables. While Flores’ offensive game and swing type typically results in a somewhat lower BABIP by default, playing in a hitter’a ballpark like Chase Field (with a considerable amount of games at the Colorado Rockies’ home, Coors Field) will definitely be something of a boost for him.
Another area where this signing helps Arizona is defensive alignment. Prior to the signing, the infield featured Eduardo Escobar at the hot corner, the inconsistent Jake Lamb in a platoon at first with Christian Walker, the all-glove Nick Ahmed at short and Ketel Marte at second, which put Jarrod Dyson in as the everyday center fielder. My assumption would be that Flores would replace Marte at second base which moves Marte back to center, which works out better because Dyson’s bat isn’t necessarily good enough to play every day. Flores is a plus defender at second and a solid defensive shortstop while playing a slightly below average first base (-1.0 Defensive WAR) and the ability to handle third in a pinch. For a team with no other infield help projected to make the Opening Day line-up according to RosterResource.com this is low-cost insurance so good that the General couldn’t match it.
The structure of the contract works in their favor as well. After losing Patrick Corbin, A.J. Pollock, and Paul Goldschmidt, it’s pretty clear that 2019 isn’t expected to be a very competitive season, which means the D-Backs are likely to be sellers at the deadline and Wilmer Flores is the perfect chip with a contract that gives the Snakes some leverage in negotiations.
In most cases, when a team brings in a guy on a one-year deal and the season doesn’t go as planned, they’re forced to deal him for a relatively small return based on the fact that their only alternative would be to let the player walk for nothing two months later. The relatively inexpensive option gives them some room to step back and wait a bit. Seeing as how Flores is a cost controlled source of defensive versatility with a very consistent bat (with potential to do more), there should be no shortage of contenders with interest.
This is a short-term move that could very well pay long-term dividends.