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Decisions loom for 6 key Diamondbacks free agents

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Arizona Diamondbacks finished in third place in the NL West, two games above .500, and arguably two of their top four players are set to hit free agency.

Anyway you slice it, the 2018-19 offseason presents a proverbial fork in the road for GM Mike Hazen and the D-backs front office.

John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station has reported that the D-backs are planning to reduce its 2018 active payroll of $107,901,628, according to Spotrac.com.

Reducing the team payroll could signal a total roster blowup in preparation for a team rebuild, but maybe not.

The D-backs have re-signed last season’s trade deadline acquisition Eduardo Escobar and picked up the team option on first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, signaling a potential reload rather than rebuild.

Fancred Sports released a list of the top 131 MLB free agents and six D-backs players made the list. Decisions on those six players and, in particular, Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock who were rated No. 4 and No. 11 on The Athletic’s list of top 35 MLB free agents, could draft the framework of the Diamondbacks organization for the future.

Here is a breakdown of those six players:

SP Patrick Corbin – Rated No. 4 on the Athletic and No. 5 on Fancred, Corbin is expected to sign a contract in the neighborhood of $100 million dollars. The lefty posted a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while striking out 11.07 batters per nine innings in 2018. The two-time all star has spent all of his six big league seasons with the D-backs, but is not expected to resign due to his high projected price tag. Corbin grew up in upstate New York rooting for the New York Yankees, who are the favorites to sign the 29-year-old.

OF A.J. Pollock – Rated No. 11 on the Athletic and No. 16 on Fancred, Pollock has spent all of his seven seasons in the majors with Arizona. A career .281 hitter with a .805 career OPS and 103 career stolen bases, his five-tool production hasn’t been the issue as much as durability. Pollock has missed more than 50 games due to injury in four of the last five seasons, which should affect his price tag. Projecting the market for Pollock could be tricky, but he is expected to sign for something close to three years, $45 million.

SP Clay Buchholz – Rated No. 45 on Fancred, Buchholz was nominated for the Comeback Player of the Year in the NL finishing with a 7-2 record and 2.01 ERA. Buchholz’s contract was worth $1.5 million last year. A forearm injury ended the veteran’s season early and medical clearance could affect his new contract negotiation, but Fancred is expecting Buchholz to sign for somewhere in the range of 1-year, $7-10 million.

OF Jon Jay – Jay, like Buchholz and Escobar, was a midseason acquisition last year and played in 84 games with the D-backs. He batted .235 with 22 RBI and 46 runs scored. Jay posted this tweet on Oct. 3, does it mean he is moving on after one season in the desert?

C Jeff Mathis – Mathis was a defensive specialist for the D-backs. The catcher made $2 million in each of the past two season in Arizona. Fancred is projecting his next contract to be $1.5 million, if the 14-year veteran decides to come back for another season. He will be 36 years old in 2019.

RP Jake Diekman – The hard-throwing lefty struggled in 24 games played with the D-backs in 2018. He pitched 14.1 innings and allowed 12 earned runs, but struck out 18 batters. There is a market for lefty relievers, however, and Fancred expects Diekman to sign for 1-year, $3 million.

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