With the D-backs eliminated from the playoffs, what now?
The Arizona Diamondbacks were eliminated from possible postseason contention on Monday night. So what can be accomplished for the D-backs with five games left in 2019 as of Tuesday?
Manager Torey Lovullo has to figure that out for the second year in a row. And although the Diamondbacks can’t accomplish their goal of winning a World Series this year — a goal that Lovullo vows is his ultimate objective as the team’s manager — the skipper said Tuesday that the team has a duty to play its best baseball until the year’s end.
The D-backs were yet to play two remaining games in a series against the Cardinals, as well as a three-game series at home against the Padres to end the year.
“[We] are maybe transitioning our thoughts to next year, and we’ve got five games to play still,” he told Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “We don’t want to short-change ourselves on being the best version of what we can be for 2019. We want to win as many games as possible. Plus, we have a responsibility to the Milwaukee Brewers to play good baseball to put some pressure on the Cardinals.
“But I’m not going to lie, we have already began a little bit of a process of talking about next year internally, and we’ve allowed ourselves to open up those discussions that we’ve been compartmentalizing for several months. We want to win a World Championship here in Arizona.”
The D-backs have most of their players under team control through next year. Three players — catcher Alex Avila, outfielder Jarrod Dyson and outfielder Adam Jones — are scheduled to become free agents. Pitcher T.J. McFarland and infielder Wilmer Flores have club options for next year, per Spotrac.
Next spring training, there figures to be some position battles. The D-backs especially have a wealth of starting pitching candidates, including Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, Zac Gallen, Taijuan Walker, Mike Leake, Jon Duplantier, Taylor Clarke, Merrill Kelly and Alex Young for next year.
Weaver just recently made his first appearance in a long time, pitching two innings on Saturday after being sidelined since May 26 with an arm injury. Lovullo said Tuesday that it’s possible Weaver pitches again before season’s end.
Gallen, meanwhile, who was acquired in a trade from the Marlins at the trade deadline, has pitched 80 innings this year. The D-backs skipped his turn in the rotation on Saturday so Weaver could pitch, and Lovullo said it was his feeling that the D-backs won’t use Gallen again this season due to his innings workload.
Then there’s Walker, who hasn’t pitched since April of last year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
“He’s missed a year and five months of baseball,” Lovullo said. “It would be an unbelievable story for him and this organization if we saw him throw again. So I think we will see him. He is still being evaluated from the simulated game that he threw yesterday. … I hope that he is or I hope that he does. But we can’t quite answer all of those questions just now.”
There’s also the benefit of evaluating players who are young and/or spent most of the year in the minor leagues and are on the major league roster for the month of September. Some of those players include Kevin Ginkel, Kevin Cron, Domingo Leyba, Ildemaro Vargas and Abraham Almonte.
Still, the Lovullo isn’t happy that the D-backs missed the playoffs in back-to-back years.
“This hurts. This is painful,” he said. “But this pain will drive me and motivate me to be the best version of myself and work tirelessly until we can take what we’ve done this year and those proud moments and the things that we’ve done, and make it even better next year. Because I’m not stopping until we hang flags here.”