Contract years: Diamondbacks entering final season of team control
Jan 27, 2024, 7:25 AM | Updated: 8:16 am
(Photo by Rebecca Sasnett/Getty Images)
Spring training brings extension watch for the Arizona Diamondbacks given their activity over the past two camps. Ketel Marte and Merrill Kelly agreed to new contracts in 2022 and Corbin Carroll signed up for eight years in Arizona last spring.
Arizona, as it stands, is running back a similar roster as last season with only four major leaguers having hit the free agent market from the 2023 squad. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. already re-signed to a three-year contract. The other three were Tommy Pham, Evan Longoria and Mark Melancon (did not pitch in 2023). All three are still free agents.
The Diamondbacks enter spring training 2024 with four major leaguers entering their final season under team control, excluding one-year minor league deals signed this offseason by the likes of Tucker Barnhart and Kevin Newman.
The group is on the older side but includes prime contributors to Arizona’s postseason run: first baseman Christian Walker and closer Paul Sewald. Arizona also has team options on Kelly and third baseman Eugenio Suarez for 2025.
Diamondbacks on last year of contract
Christian Walker, 1B
Walker avoided arbitration and will play for $10.9 million in 2024 after back-to-back Gold Glove award-winning seasons. The 32-year-old broke out his first 30-home run, 100-RBI season in 2023, producing a career-high .830 OPS while playing 157 of 162 games.
He finished sixth on the team with 3.8 rWAR after he was second on the 2022 D-backs with 5.1 rWAR.
Walker has been a symbol of improvement throughout his time in the desert. He was designated for assignment by the Orioles before the 2017 campaign, claimed by the Braves, claimed by the Reds and waived again. That’s when Arizona picked him up as depth behind franchise cornerstone Paul Goldschmidt, whom Walker played sparingly behind for two years. When Goldschmidt was dealt in a trade after the 2018 season, Walker took the reins and improved to become considered a top 10 first baseman in the game and one of the best defensively.
— MLB Now (@MLBNow) January 19, 2024
The only other first baseman on the 40-man roster is Pavin Smith, while Emmanuel Rivera and Jace Peterson have some experience there.
Diamondbacks first baseman prospects to keep an eye on are Ivan Melendez and Gino Groover. Melendez tried his hand at third base last season and reached Double-A Amarillo, while Groover was drafted in 2023 as a third baseman but played first for most of his college career.
Goldschmidt and Pete Alonso join Walker as first basemen set to be free agents next winter, barring an extension. Goldschmidt will be 37 at that time, for what it is worth.
Paul Sewald, RHP
The Diamondbacks traded for Sewald at the 2023 deadline to address the closer role for the stretch run of 2023 and 2024, a move that paid dividends given the performance of the bullpen. Sewald helped a team without defined jobs in the bullpen find more consistent roles.
The Paul Sewald Experience was heart-pounding for fans, but he followed through after settling in with a 2.16 ERA and 13 saves over his final 18 appearances. His postseason run was flawless (eight scoreless innings) until a bit of an unraveling during the World Series (six earned runs over 2.0 innings). He struck out the side to pick up the save in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Phillies and recorded the final out Arizona needed to reach the World Series at Citizens Bank Park.
Sewald will turn 34 in May, although his prime MLB seasons have been his last three. He is a fastball-sweeper pitcher without much velocity but who has successfully missed barrels.
The last time the D-backs had a closer record even 13 saves in consecutive seasons was 2015-16 (Brad Ziegler).
Paul Sewald’s 2Ks in the 9th. pic.twitter.com/04bNZ5pwih
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 24, 2023
Miguel Castro, RHP
Castro is back in Arizona on a vested option after he surpassed the 60-game threshold in 2023. The 29-year-old led the league with 75 appearances in a mixed bag of a first year in the Valley.
He held a 6.35 ERA in save situations (4.31 overall) and eventually lost his high-leverage role. However, he allowed runs in only 14 of his 75 outings, shutting out opponents 81% of the time.
Castro closed the regular season with 14 scoreless appearances, although his campaign ended with three earned runs in Game 4 of the World Series, the bullpen game massacre.
With Sewald, Kevin Ginkel and Ryan Thompson back, the D-backs have the depth to deploy Castro in a lower-leverage role in which he performed more effectively.
Miguel Castro’s Disgusting Stuff. pic.twitter.com/Is2GRKeq0v
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 28, 2023
Jace Peterson, INF
In another midseason trade acquisition, Peterson joined the D-backs in the aftermath of utility infielder Josh Rojas’ inclusion in the Sewald trade. Peterson filled in as a left-handed hitting third baseman to platoon with Rivera and Longoria, but he never really got going offensively with a .534 OPS in 106 plate appearances.
The D-backs brought in Suarez to play third base in 2024 in a trade with the Mariners, and Peterson is the most experienced of Arizona’s back infield options on the 40-man roster and the only left-handed bat.
Infield prospects Jordan Lawlar and Blaze Alexander are positioned to compete for roles on the club, as well.
Peterson will be 34 in May.
Diamondbacks team options
The D-backs have a $15 million club option for Suarez in 2025 and a $7 million team option for Kelly.
Suarez played 162 games last year and hit 22 home runs for the Mariners. He has 84 long balls in the past three seasons, although he has also led the league in strikeouts twice during that span. He adds a veteran presence to the clubhouse and another right-handed power bat to a lineup that could use thump. He will turn 33 in July.
Kelly continues to get better as a major leaguer with a career-low (excluding 2020) 3.29 ERA in 30 starts last season. He missed a month due to a blood clot and still threw 177.2 innings as a consistent force in Arizona’s rotation. The 35-year-old also keeps adding to his arsenal, implementing a slider last year.
Reliever Scott McGough has a $4 million mutual option for 2025. McGough enters his second season with Arizona after pitching in Japan. He had a 2.41 ERA through June 25, but it rose to 4.73 by the end of the season after a tough second half. He spent the postseason on the injured list (shoulder).
The Diamondbacks and newly-acquired designated hitter Joc Pederson have a mutual option for 2025. The option is for $14 million with a $3 million buyout, per azcentral’s Nick Piecoro.