The odds are stacked against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In what has been an offseason of turnover, the D-Backs have lost and/or traded significant figures such as left-hander Patrick Corbin, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, and outfielder A.J. Pollock — who spent the entirety of their careers in Arizona beforehand. Despite those losses the D-Backs insist they’re all in on 2019 and have a chance of competing for the National League pennant. If they’re going to do as such, they will need revitalized versions of left-hander Robbie Ray and right-hander Zack Godley.
When Corbin inked a six-year, $140 million deal with the Washington Nationals, the D-Backs traded Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals, and Pollock inked a five-year, $60 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the recurring notion was that a full-on rebuild was in place. Right-hander Zack Greinke, who is entering the fourth year of a six-year, $207 million deal, has been discussed at length as a trade candidate this offseason, as has Ray. On the contrary, the D-Backs haven’t made any other big trades.
While they haven’t made any blockbuster signings this offseason, the D-Backs added former New York Mets infielder Wilmer Flores — who may be their starting second baseman in 2019 — and reliever Greg Holland on one-year deals. Flores, a career .262 hitter, can play all four infield positions, is a reliable fielder, and a steady hitter. While he struggled immensely with the Cardinals in 2018, Holland surrendered just two runs in 21.1 innings of work with the Nationals after signing in mid-August.
Flores doesn’t make up for the loss of Goldschmidt; it’s virtually impossible to replace a perennial All-Star and former face of the franchise. With right-hander Brad Boxberger signing a one-year, $2.2 million deal with the Kansas City Royals, Holland’s arrival fills a void and deepens what is an extremely deep D-Backs pen, headlined by Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin, Yoshihisa Hirano, and T.J. McFarland.For the @Dbacks to make a postseason push after a miserable offseason, they will need Robbie Ray and Zack Godley to step things up, @RPStratakos writes.Click To Tweet
The D-Backs haven’t made any transactions to replace Corbin, but that’s where Ray and Godley come into the equation.
One year ago the D-Backs possessed one of the best starting rotations in Major League Baseball with the quintet of Greinke, Ray, Corbin, Godley, and Taijuan Walker. But they failed to perform up to expectations, as a whole, in 2018.
In 2017 Ray recorded a career-best 2.89 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while totaling 218 strikeouts (which he also did the year prior). He was one of the best starting pitchers in the sport, and there was an argument to be made that he deserved consideration for the NL Cy Young Award. Unfortunately for the left-hander last season was not a duplication of 2017. While he finished strong down the stretch of the regular season, Ray still recorded a 3.93 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He came out of the gate slow, was hit hard, and limited to 24 starts due to an oblique strain — which was part of his struggles. Ray’s command was also hot and cold.
On the other hand, Godley began 2018 on the right foot, pitching like an All-Star, but he later fell off a cliff. Struggling to keep runners off base, or pitch deep into games, Godley was a shaky presence on the rubber; he just so happened to get run support in the starts he made, finishing 15-11. At the same time, he also recorded a lackluster 4.74 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 32 starts. The year prior he recorded an impressive 3.37 ERA in 25 starts in what was his first season starting on a consistent basis — which made his 2018 struggles discouraging for the D-Backs’ sake.
The NL West isn’t as potent as it once was, but the D-Backs will still have a great deal of competition to overcome this season. The Dodgers have won the division and the NL pennant while the Colorado Rockies have been a Wild Card team in each of the last two seasons. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants are in the mix to sign Bryce Harper, and the San Diego Padres appear ready to spend in an attempt to get back on the MLB map.
The D-Backs would likely be satisfied with either Ray or Godley having a bounce back season in 2019, but to overcome the offseason departures of Goldschmidt, Corbin, and Pollock, they need both pitchers to have big seasons. Why is that the case? Their offense was severely inconsistent with the right-handed hitters in their lineup last season.
Through the first five months of last season, the D-Backs were in the thick of the NL playoff race. They kept shuffling the division lead and Wild Card seedings with the Dodgers and Rockies, among other teams. Throughout it all their offense was incredibly — and surprisingly — dormant. Finishing the year 19th in runs (693), 28th in hits (1,283), 18th in home runs (176), 22nd in total bases (2,170), 27th in batting average (.235), 23rd in on-base percentage (.310), 22nd in slugging (.397), and 21st in OPS (.707), they were one of the least productive offenses in the sport.
It was a difficult outcome to fathom — as was the D-Backs collapsing in the final month of the season — given the likes of Goldschmidt, Pollock, David Peralta, Eduardo Escobar (who they acquired from the Minnesota Twins before the MLB trade deadline), and Steven Souza Jr. being on their depth chart. Sure, Goldschmidt and Pollock have departed, and the D-Backs need to find ways to come up with offense in 2019, but they were still underwhelming, collectively, with them in place. Perhaps a healthy Jake Lamb, who compiled 59 home runs and 196 RBIs from 2016-17, could make up for part of their departures?
The D-Backs pitching staff carried them through August and can do so again in 2019, but they need to fill the void created by Corbin’s departure. Recording a career-best 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while totaling 246 strikeouts (another career-high), the left-hander was arguably manager Torey Lovullo‘s most reliable starting pitcher. Simultaneously, he was throwing one of the best cutters in the sport and was named to the NL All-Star team. Once upon a time, Ray was of that mold in regards to his production, and Godley wasn’t far behind.
The D-Backs aren’t throwing in the towel on 2019, and that should be admired. With that said, for their philosophy to result in a playoff appearance, Ray and Godley need to have resurgent seasons.