Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona Diamondbacks are not in good shape right now. That’s an obvious statement. Sitting at not only the bottom of the National League West, but toiling near the cellar of the league standings overall, the 2014 campaign already seems to be a lost one for the Snakes. In a year like this, it might make sense for a team to experiment with their lineup a little bit, even if that wouldn’t be the most popular of moves.
The Diamondbacks have at least one elite player on their current roster in first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. A Gold Glove first baseman last year, and a player that probably should have won the National League Most Valuable Player award over Andrew McCutchen, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better first sacker than Goldschmidt. And what might be something to consider for the Diamondbacks is taking that Gold Glove first baseman and moving him to the other side of the diamond, over to the hot corner.
The idea may seem blasphemous, but there is a way for the Diamondbacks to take Goldschmidt and move him to third while improving their team defense overall. Such a move has the potential to take them from the bottom of the half of the league, even the bottom third where they currently rank, and bump them up quite a bit, simply with the shuffling of the lineup.
Moving Goldschmidt to third has less to do with him than it does with those around him. The Diamondbacks rank near the bottom of the league in plenty of statistical categories this season, but defense is a concern. Their fielding percentage as a team is at .979, currently 24th in the league, and their Defensive Efficiency Rating, which measures their ability to record outs is at .674, ranking 23rd overall.
Over the winter, the Diamondbacks went out and acquired Mark Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels. They certainly were not acquiring him for his defensive skills, and that in itself made it a somewhat questionable move, given what their actual needs were. We’re working with a small sample size here, and focusing primarily on defense, but the results to this point, even with Trumbo on the disabled list, don’t paint a pretty picture. His UZR per 150 innings to this point is well into the negative, currently residing at -6.2.
By comparison, Trumbo’s UZR/150 in 2013 with the Halos, when he logged over 1,000 innings at first base, was up over 10. That’s not elite, but it’s a significantly better looking figure than anything he’s posted in left field. His offense would translate well to first too, so there isn’t a concern that the Diamondbacks would be getting less production from their first baseman if it were to be Trumbo. He still boasts serious offensive ability.
Such a move would see Martin Prado transition to left field, a position that he’s become familiar with throughout his career as a versatile player. He played a touch over 200 innings there for Arizona last season, but was there pretty much full time for the Atlanta Braves back in 2012. His UZR per 150 was at 17.1, a solid looking figure, and he demonstrated impressive range. He’d certainly be an upgrade there from a defensive perspective.
As for those that might be concerned over Goldschmidt’s transition, this is a guy who has made incredible strides in his defensive skills at first. He was a third baseman in high school before transitioning to the other side in college. He’s developed his defense immensely throughout his time at the professional level. He demonstrates better range than most first basemen in the game and likely wouldn’t have a problem with such a transition. In any case, we’ve seen much less athletic players, like Carlos Santana, make the transition in a successful fashion.
Now is this something that Kirk Gibson is considering? Probably not even remotely. Nonetheless, there are some benefits in shifting Paul Goldschmidt over to third base to the point where the Arizona Diamondbacks may want to at least consider it. It would allow them to set Trumbo up for success defensively and put a much more impressive defensive product in left field. Again, not something that’s on the table, but something that makes a ton of sense for a struggling club.