If you had to pick one word that describes the 2019 season for Arizona it would have to be AVERAGE. After all, they set an MLB record by spending 60 consecutive games within two games of the .500 mark. That broke the previous record of 56 games, set by the 2007 Oakland Athletics. The question then becomes – was the 2019 season considered a success or a failure?
During the last offseason, there were some big names that left the desert. Paul Goldschmidt went to St. Louis, A.J. Pollock went to the Dodgers and Patrick Corbin became a Washington National. Our own Justin Colombo dug deeper into the offseason moves in his 30 in 30 piece heading into last season. That’s a lot of production to have to replace on both sides of the ball (53 HR, 148 RBI of offense and 11 wins, 3.15 ERA and 246 strikeouts from the mound). After seeing those kinds of departures, you’d be hard-pressed to think that Arizona was positioning itself to compete in 2019. That’s likely one of the main reasons that most projections for last season settled into the “at or just below average” range
Or Maybe Not?
Despite the high profile departures in the offseason, the Diamondbacks still had a roster with some promising young talent. As outlined in this CBS Sports Season Preview article by R. J. Anderson, the hopes for an improved 2019 campaign rested primarily on growth from within the organization. Players like Ketel Marte, Jake Lamb, and David Peralta would have to try and make up for the lost production from Goldy and Pollock. The starting rotation still had some quality arms in Greinke and Robbie Ray, but the back end would also have to step up to lessen the impact of losing Corbin.
So How’d it Go?
By all accounts, the first half of last season went as expected. They finished with a 46-45 record, pretty much on pace with expectation. The slightly surprising thing about it was that they found themselves in second place in the division. The Dodgers had a phenomenal start and were running away with the division almost instantly, winning 60 games before the All-Star break. The rest of the division was closely bunched, all within 4 games of each other. While everyone expected the Rockies and Dodgers to be the top of the division, it was the Diamondbacks on the top of the pile.
As the trade deadline approached, the Diamondbacks found themselves 16.5 games behind the Dodgers for the division lead. They were 9th overall in the National League. The organization was presented with an opportunity, courtesy of the Houston Astros. After all of the offseason moves, the biggest name left on the roster was former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. His contract was by far the biggest one on their payroll. When the Astros came calling in the waning seconds of deadline day, the D-Backs pulled the trigger. In exchange for 4 of Houston’s top 30 prospects, they sent Greinke to Houston. Did I mention the Astros would also be paying two-thirds of his remaining salary ($53 million of the $77 million owed)?
Ending Where They Started
With Greinke now in Houston, the team continued to plug along through the second half of the season. The aforementioned 60-game streak stretched from June 18th through August 30th. By the time September rolled around, the division was essentially out of reach. The Dodgers had an 18 game lead on the D-Backs. All of the focus turned to a Wild Card spot. Things were promising with them winning 11 of 12 to start the final month of the season. However, a 6 game losing streak sealed their fate and they missed out on the postseason. They finished with a record of 85-77 and a lot of optimism heading into 2020.
Even though they missed the playoffs last year, there was a lot of hope surrounding the club. Despite the big losses coming into 2019, they managed to improve their record and stay in the playoff conversation until late September. They made some moves this offseason that they’re hoping will push them even closer to a postseason return. On December 30th they signed a 2-year deal with former Angels OF Kole Calhoun. They also inked Madison Bumgarner to a 5-year, $85 million deal (second biggest in club history). But their biggest deal was only recently completed. On January 27th they completed a trade with the Pirates that will have Starling Marte playing in the desert.
They’ve been trying to land him for a few seasons, and have finally managed to seal the deal. It cost the team a pair of highly touted prospects and some international pool money, but they got their man. His bat will allow manager Torey Lovullo a little more flexibility in the lineup along with Calhoun. Additional signings include Stephen Vogt, Hector Rondon, and Junior Guerra – all on smaller deals.
Prediction: 84-78, 3rd in NL West
Will all of these moves finally fill the void created by the departures of the big names mentioned earlier? Time will tell. The Dodgers are a force to be reckoned with and I think the Padres youth movement will have them in the mix as well. If things break right, I think the D-Backs could snag a second-place finish in the division, but I think SD may finish just ahead of them. Still – there’s a lot to be excited about for this club.
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