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2014 Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Big Question: Can the Diamondbacks withstand the injury to Patrick Corbin and get over the .500 mark?

The Diamondbacks won 94 games in 2011, the first year that general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson were paired together, but the team has underperformed expectations since. Towers attempted to remake the team in the (gritty) image of his manager last offseason, most notably by dealing Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to the Braves for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, and a trio of prospects. However, his bold moves didn’t make much of a difference in the standings, as the club finished at 81-81 for a second straight year.

While Towers attempted to make a splash on the free agent market this winter, most of his moves were once again made through significant trades. The big one was a three-team deal that brought Mark Trumbo to Arizona and sent Tyler Skaggs to the Angels and Adam Eaton to the White Sox. He later made another deal with Chicago, this time dealing third base prospect Matt Davidson in exchange for closer Addison Reed. After trying to acquire a frontline starting pitcher for most of the winter, the club added Bronson Arroyo on a two-year, $19 million contract last month.

Will these moves be enough to challenge the rival Dodgers for the NL West crown? Realistically, no. And let’s face it, they probably wouldn’t have been favored even if they did land Masahiro Tanaka, David Price, or Jeff Samardzija. However, Towers’ inability to acquire a frontline starter this offseason stands out even more now that Patrick Corbin has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, setting up the possibility of season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Without Corbin, the Diamondbacks project to begin the year with a rotation of Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, Bronson Arroyo, and Randall Delgado. Decent, but it doesn’t exactly scream playoffs. As for the lineup, Trumbo and last year’s NL MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt should provide plenty of thump in the middle of the order. Trumbo still has his flaws, as he doesn’t get on base often and figures to be a poor defender in the outfield. Fortunately for Arizona’s pitchers, A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra can cover a lot of ground. Martin Prado continues to fly under the radar on both sides of the ball while Aaron Hill should be an asset if he’s healthy and Miguel Montero should be a pretty good bet for a rebound. This is an interesting team, but make no mistake, the Corbin injury takes some wind out of their sails.

What else is going on?

  • Top pitching prospect Archie Bradley has been the talk of camp this spring and Corbin’s injury makes it more likely that he’ll see significant time in the majors this year. The 21-year-old right-hander posted a 1.84 ERA and 162 strikeouts over 152 innings last season between High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile and was recently ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the game by Baseball America. His command is said to be a work in progress, but it might not be long before we see him in the majors. My guess is it could happen as soon as the end of April.
  • The Diamondbacks are currently holding a competition between Didi Gregorius and prospect Chris Owings for the starting shortstop job. Gregorius, who was acquired from the Reds last winter in a three-team trade, hit .252/.332/.373 with seven home runs and 28 RBI in 103 games as a rookie last year and provided solid defense at shortstop. Owings, who is more known for his bat, is reportedly the favorite at this time. Whoever loses the battle could begin the season in the minors, though it’s possible one of them could be traded. The Mets and Tigers are among the teams who could inquire.
  • Arizona’s bullpen was in a state of flux for much of last season, as they used three different pitchers (J.J. Putz, Heath Bell, and Brad Ziegler) out of the closer role and their relievers tied for the major league lead with 29 blown saves. Ziegler actually enjoyed success as the closer despite a low strikeout rate, but Towers acquired a more traditional swing-and-miss option over the winter in Addison Reed. While some worry about Reed’s fly ball rate in the desert, he has survived in a hitter-friendly ballpark before and the Diamondbacks are better off having Ziegler available for high-leverage situations in the seventh and eighth innings when they really need a ground ball.
  • The Diamondbacks declined their 2015 options on Towers and Gibson after last season, which effectively set them up for lame duck status this year. Team brass apparently wasn’t comfortable with the perception and possible distractions involved, as they had a change of heart and extended the contracts for both of them. Exact terms weren’t announced, but we’ll likely hear more speculation about their job status if they miss the playoffs or take a step back this year.

Prediction: The offense should be there, but the rotation isn’t anything special and you can’t count on Bradley to be a savior. Fourth place, NL West.

2016 postseason playoff shares announced

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OXON HILL, Md — There used to be a time when postseason money was bigger than most players’ actual salaries. Winning a pennant in baseball’s Golden Age was great for its own sake, but if you were one of the guys who hung around with, say, the Yankees for a long time like Frank Crosetti, the money was basically life-changing.

That’s not the case any longer, but the money is still pretty good, as evidenced by the postseason shares handed out for this past postseason, which were just announced and are set forth below.

Shares come from the “players’ pool,” which calculated by taking 50 percent of the gate receipts from the Wild Card Games; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series; 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the League Championship Series; and 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first four games of the World Series.  The players’ pool is divided among the 10 Postseason Clubs. The 2016 players’ pool was a record total of $76,627,827.09. Last year it was $69,882,149.26.

The clubs themselves decide how many shares to allocate, with the players making decisions regarding which part timers, cup-of-coffee callups, staffers, etc. get. They also have the ability to hand out straight cash awards in whatever amount they want as opposed to a percentage cut of the postseason money.

The breakdown:

  • Chicago Cubs (Share of Players’ Pool: $27,586,017.75; value of each of full share: $368,871.59) – The Cubs issued 66 full shares, a total of 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards;
  • Cleveland Indians (Share of Players’ Pool: $18,390,678.50; value of each of full share: $261,804.65) – The Indians issued 60 full shares, a total of 8.75 partial shares and 16 cash awards.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (Share of Players’ Pool: $9,195,339.25; value of each of full share: $123,741.24) – The Dodgers issued 65 full shares, a total of 8.285 partial shares and 20 cash awards.
  • Toronto Blue Jays (Share of Players’ Pool: $9,195,339.25; value of each of full share: $123,045.09) – The Blue Jays issued 66 full shares, a total of 7.75 partial shares and 15 cash awards.
  • Boston Red Sox (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $33,761.22) – The Red Sox issued 61 full shares, a total of 10.686 partial shares and 14 cash awards.
  • San Francisco Giants (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $36,443.03) – The Giants issued 57 full shares, a total of 10.5 partial shares and nine cash awards.
  • Texas Rangers (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $38,422.69) – The Rangers issued 54 full shares, a total of 10.19 partial shares and seven cash awards.
  • Washington Nationals (Share of Players’ Pool: $2,490,404.38; value of each of full share: $35,442.68) – The Nationals issued 60 full shares, a total of 10.209 partial shares and one cash award.
  • Baltimore Orioles (Share of Players’ Pool: $1,149,417.41; value of each of full share: $18,351.02) – The Orioles issued 52 full shares, a total of 8.36 partial shares and 30 cash awards.
  • New York Mets (Share of Players’ Pool: $1,149,417.41; value of each of full share: $17,951.65) – The Mets issued 51 full shares, a total of 12.75 partial shares and five cash awards.

 

Cubs-Royals reportedly agree to the Wade Davis-Jorge Soler deal

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 3:  Wade Davis #17 of the Kansas City Royals throws against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on April 3, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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It was rumored to be close last night but now Bob Nightengale of USA Today is reporting that the Cubs and Royals have agreed to the Wade Davis for Jorge Soler deal. Jeff Passan of Yahoo first reported that the deal was close last night. It’s not a completely done deal as the official announcement is pending physicals, but an announcement could come this morning.

Davis has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball over the past three seasons, posting a 1.18 ERA with 47 saves and a 234/59 K/BB ratio in 182.2 innings. He did, however, miss a lot of time in 2016 — basically the month of August — due to arm trouble and expecting him to be the circa 2014 Wade Davis is probably unrealistic. He’s owed $10 million for 2017 and can become a free agent after the 2017 season. He’ll fill the void left by the departing Aroldis Chapman as Joe Maddon and the World Series champs’ closer.

Soler, who will be 25 when the 2017 season begins, hit .238/.333/.436 with 12 homers and 36 RBI in 86 games last season. He strikes out a lot but takes walks t00 and has shown some good power in short bursts. He’s the sort of player who one could easilsy see putting things together to become a solid regular, which makes him a decent return for giving up a closer in his walk year.