D-backs weigh keeping option-less players as opening day nears
GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Matt Koch took the mound for Friday’s spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, it could have possibly been his last outing with the team.
The Diamondbacks like Koch and he was serviceable last season, but with no minor league options left and Koch on the bubble to make the team’s 25-man roster, there’s a good chance he won’t be with the organization come opening day if he’s not selected.
If Koch or other option-less players — like outfielder Socrates Brito — aren’t selected to the opening day roster, they have to clear waivers to be sent to the minor leagues.
It’s a risk that has D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said has weighed on him recently as he and the front office try and pare down the roster before Thursday’s regular season opener against the Dodgers.
“It’s been part of our discussions,” Lovullo said on Friday. “I’m not gonna lie and say we don’t pay attention to who will and will not be here based on roster flexibility.”
The D-backs went into Friday’s game with 31 players in camp, leaving just six more cuts before opening day.
There’s an early season role as a long reliever that seems destined for Koch because of a lingering shoulder injury to T.J. McFarland — if he makes the team.
The question is how willing the D-backs are to potentially lose Koch to waivers without any compensation, whether it be to a division rival or not.
The same goes for Brito, the 26-year-old outfielder who’s been a force in Triple-A Reno but has yet to make much of an impact on the major league level, hitting just .202 in 82 career games.
Both players would likely not clear waivers if they don’t make the opening day roster.
Catcher John Ryan Murphy and infielder Christian Walker are also bubble players without any optoins left.
“There’s a balance, and you don’t want to lose good players for sure,” Lovullo said. “We have some really good players here.
“If you’re willing to take those risks and move on from somebody that is out of options, you have to make sure that person who will step in for them is ready to go.”
Koch’s performance against the Dodgers — he struck out six and allowed two runs in five innings — and throughout spring training — he owns a 3.18 ERA — is a good omen for him moving forward.
“It’s something in the back of my mind,” Koch said of his future. “But I try not to think about it too much and add any extra pressure.”
Soon enough, Lovullo and the D-backs will have to decide whether or not it’s worth keeping their option-less players around.
If not, Lovullo expects others to step in and take their roles.
“We try and make sure we bring the best team forward to start the season and have the right guys in the right place to step in,” Lovullo said.
– Adam Jones had his best performance of the spring. He homered off Dodgers’ starter Dennis Santana to lead off the game — his first with Arizona — then followed with a two-RBI single in the second inning. Jones finished 2-for-3 with 4 RBIs and a hit by pitch.
– Lovullo said the D-backs will likely announce on Sunday who their closer will be for the 2019 season. Archie Bradley, Greg Holland and Yoshihisa Hirano are all in the mix for the position.
– Lovullo said reliever T.J. McFarland on Saturday will throw his first bullpen session since being diagnosed with shoulder inflammation in early March.