When Ronan Keating sang “Life is a rollercoaster”, he probably wasn’t thinking about the ups and downs in the life of a Diamondbacks fan.
Despite having finished 11 games behind the Dodger Blue behemoth in the NL West in 2017, Arizona entered the 2018 season with surprising enthusiasm.
This took a hit when they lost Steven Souza Jr. to injury before Opening Day. He was joined on the DL by Robbie Ray, Jake Lamb and Taijuan Walker before the month of April had finished. Yet the team opened the season 21-8, the best start in franchise history.
Baseball’s equivalent of “Project Fear” was widely touted by ESPN and other media outlets, with Doomsday scenario of offense falling by 50% at Chase Field with the introduction of a humidor.
Dr. Nathan estimates the Chase Field drop will be even larger (likely 37%, but perhaps as little as 25% or much as 50%) because Chase Field's humidity is lower to begin with. His article is a must-read: https://t.co/cjLyq5Zo1G
— Derek Carty (@DerekCarty) February 14, 2018
Home runs were down in Arizona in 2018, but they were down across the league. It will take much more data to know the true effect, but it does not look as bad as the “drop of as little as 25% or as much as 50%” in clickbait articles.
Having been in first place at the start of every month and leading division for a total of 125 days, the Diamondbacks finished in third place, after capitulating at the start of September. They went 8-19 over the rest of the year with their bullpen allowing nine losses to go with a season-destroying 5.50 ERA.
On September 30, Paul Goldschmidt singled with a pop fly in the seventh inning against the Padres. It was an unremarkable at-bat but proved to be his final hit in Arizona colours. The iconic first baseman hit .206 (.714 OPS) over the first 50 games of the season, but then .327 (1.103 OPS) for the remainder of the year. He is one of the true greats of this current era. The hole he leaves since the trade to the St Louis Cardinals looks too big to patch.
Drafted in the eighth round in 2009, the six-times All-Star departs Chase Field as probably the most successful homegrown player in franchise history. It is fitting that he claimed the Chase Field home run king’s crown in August.
The return in the Goldschmidt deal is intriguing, with starting pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly and hard-hitting minor leaguer Andy Young. Although the trade received mixed reviews, optimistic D-Backs fans will see that the front office converted the remaining one year of the 31-year-old’s contract into 11 years of control of two MLB-calibre players.
Also departing are Patrick Corbin (to the Nationals on a bold six-year deal), and Shelby Miller, Chris Owings and Brad Boxberger (all non-tendered). The Miller for Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson trade must still give nightmares.
It is also likely that free agent AJ Pollock will not resign. He is one of a very small handful of players to be drafted by the Diamondbacks and remain with the franchise to make it all the way to free agency.
With all of these goings, who are the comings? Unfortunately, MLB Trade Rumors does not anticipate the Diamondbacks signing any of the top-50 free agents.
The Goldschmidt trade does not mean that there is a full-blown rebuild in process. Robbie Ray can be moved, but the return would need to be astronomic. Zack Greinke’s contract probably makes him immovable, and anyway, with Ray, Greinke, Weaver and Zack Godley, the Diamondbacks have a contending rotation.
One of the highlights of the season was the 30 home runs hit by outfielder David Peralta. Where did that come from? He finished with more RBI and a better batting average than Goldschmidt, giving further proof why neither statistic is a true reflection of ability. Peralta’s presence in left field and in the middle of the lineup gives reason for optimism for 2019.
Although the second half didn’t go to plan, Archie Bradley was one of the most valuable relief pitchers in the game before the All-Star break and will likely be the team’s closer on Opening Day.
Signing Eduardo Escobar to an extension was a great, yet underappreciated move. The 29-year-old was a top-50 hitter last year. His 3.5 WAR in 2018 matched Bryce Harper and Joey Votto.
In the minors, Jon Duplantier could be an ace if he stays healthy, but most of the other top prospects are a few years away from contributing at the big league level.
Diamondbacks fans should not despair. The pain of losing Goldschmidt will take a long time to pass, but October baseball is a strong possibility for 2019.