If there’s a consensus opinion around the baseball world of the Arizona Diamondbacks the past few weeks, it’s that they are doing things that no other teams would do.
After the Zack Greinke signing, ESPN senior writer Jayson Stark wrote, “I don’t know how many other teams would have spent $206 million on Zack Greinke, OK, actually, I do: That would be none.”
Of the Shelby Miller trade, ESPN senior writer Keith Law said “the Diamondbacks are nuts. It’s one thing to win now. It’s another thing to just give away surplus value.”
Executives told FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that it was the “worst trade I’ve ever seen” and “holy crap for Atlanta.”
Of course, the same could be said on the other side of the fence.
Stark wrote after that Greinke factoid that the ace “makes the Diamondbacks dramatically better” and has his own quotes from someone inside baseball saying “that’s now a damn good team.”
Law, despite being vehemently against the deal, said “they are indeed better, close to playoff contenders at this point.”
In terms of the outlook for the future of the D-backs, there are also two sides to consider. Law said himself that he wouldn’t even trade Swanson straight up for Miller, but Stark has a quote from another individual inside baseball saying that once you make the Greinke move, more moves have to come.
The defining point of these aforementioned moves is the D-backs wanted to win now around two cornerstone players. They were the only team in baseball to have two players in the top 10 of WAR last season.
Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, both 28-years-old, were tremendous in 2015 and the D-backs also have them both on incredibly affordable contracts, with Pollock’s extension coming sooner rather than later and Goldschmidt’s escalating contract still maxing out at only $14.5 million in the 2019 season per SportRac.
That’s not to overshadow the supporting cast either. David Peralta was eighth in hitting in the NL, Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin had 3.52 and 3.60 ERA’s respectively, Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings are a dynamite defensive pairing in the middle of the infield and Welington Castillo provided some much needed power to the order.
Now with Greinke signed, the D-backs have three players in the top 10 of WAR from last season and form the best trio in baseball with a productive supporting cast. But, at what cost?
While Dansby Swanson isn’t a surefire All-Star, he was the number one overall pick and is surely going to be at the minimum a good every-day middle infielder. Aaron Blair might have been the best D-backs pitching prospect and could over time become what Shelby Miller is right now. There’s also the easily forgotten Ender Inciarte, who provided excellent defense in the outfield and his consistency at the plate — .302 average last season — allowed A.J. Pollock to move to the middle of the order.
It also goes without saying that giving someone $206 million when most weren’t sure you could give a guy $120 million presents an issue down the road, especially when that guy is going to be 36 years old in the fourth year of a six-year deal. If Greinke brings a pennant or a championship to Arizona, was he still worth it when he’s being paid $30 million in his twilight years?
The D-backs have now inevitably set themselves up with an inordinate amount of pressure to not only make the playoffs for the next couple of years, but win in said playoffs and possibly even bring a championship to Arizona. In fact, some will even tell you that it’s now “championship or bust.”
That’s concerning when the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants in the NL West, and a stacked NL Central that had three 95+ win teams last year, are going to make it tough on you to even make the playoffs.
In the end, the stance it always comes down to was potentially wasting the primes of two extremely talented players. Swanson and Blair are probably going to be good and Inciarte already is. But would they have been ready by the time Goldschmidt and Pollock were still great and along with the hypothetical mid-level signings, contribute in the same fashion that Greinke and Miller will?
It’s tough to say “yes,” and while everyone can agree that the D-backs gave up too much for Miller and gave too hefty of a contract to Greinke, how else could they have gone about instant contention after four straight seasons of failing to reach .500?
This extreme gamble, along with the team on the field, is what’s going to be so polarizing about baseball in the desert in 2016. There’s no other way for the organization to go about it.
They need to win now and win big.
Those previous statements having validity after just two transactions is quite the whirlwind, something the D-backs will find themselves square in the middle of for the foreseeable future. There’s no way to deny the pressure that comes with that and all the “what if’s?” down the road, two things that the D-backs better be ready for, whether they like it or not.