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Olney: Diamondbacks’ A.J. Pollock valuable at CF and in trade market

Arizona Diamondbacks' A.J. Pollock follows through on a two-run home run off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Jordan Lyles during the sixth inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 2, 2016, in Denver. The Rockies won 14-7. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A.J. Pollock’s elbow surgery that zapped all but 12 games of his 2016 season apparently hasn’t devalued how the Diamondbacks center fielder is viewed around MLB.

ESPN’s Buster Olney hinted at that as he continues his series of ranking the top players at each position with the help of MLB evaluators.

Olney ranked Pollock fourth in his list of best center fielders behind frontrunner Mike Trout, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Yelich. In that, what stood out was not that Pollock was viewed so favorably, nor that Olney called him the second-best player on Arizona’s roster behind one Paul Goldschmidt (he was ranked the fourth-best first baseman in this series, by the way).

It’s that Arizona brushed aside “serious trade interest” in Pollock, who last year in 41 at-bats recorded 10 hits, two homers, four RBi and five walks.

An elbow injury limited Pollock to just 12 games last season, but the Diamondbacks retained him for 2017 rather than following up on the serious trade interest because they will try to contend in the NL West. When healthy, Pollock is their second-best player behind Goldschmidt. The Diamondbacks saw his impact first-hand: In 2015, he posted a 7.4 WAR, with 65 extra-base hits, 39 steals (in 46 attempts) and provided high-end defense. If Arizona struggles in the first half, the Diamondbacks could look to move him to a contender. Pollock is eligible for free agency in the fall of 2018.

That teams would be interested in acquiring Pollock is not surprising, but this blurb paints a picture of what could be a secondary storyline for Arizona in 2017.

If the team struggles similarly to last season, the D-backs’ first-year front office led by general manager Mike Hazen will undoubtedly begin looking at rebuilding by dealing the team’s veterans. Pollock would become one of the most sought-after trade targets if that’s the case.

Of course, the other fork in the road is the D-backs end up winning more than expected. In that case, having the fourth-best center fielder in MLB is one reason for a turnaround from a down 2016.

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