Arizona Diamondbacks: Preparing for life after J. D. Martinez

An open spot in the Arizona Diamondbacks outfield could be filled by a number of candidates.

Major rumblings in the baseball world this week emanated from the icy tundra of New England. Outfielder J.D. Martinez, late of the Arizona Diamondbacks, was reportedly headed to the cozy confines of Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox.

If reports are believable, Martinez offer is a five-year deal worth $150 million, and his agent Scott Boros turned down the proposal. If this goes down, or any other movement out of the desert, that would create a rather significant hole in the Arizona Diamondbacks outfield. Then again, Arizona GM Mike Hazen may not have that difficult a task of finding an adequate replacement.

That’s because the Diamondbacks existed quite well without Martinez, who was acquired last July 18 from the Detroit Tigers for three minor-league players. By the time of his acquisition, the Diamondbacks had already risen near the top of the National League West division.

On July 2, the team was 2.5 games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers and moved into Dodger Stadium for a critical three-game series. Swept in SoCal, the Diamondbacks lost all three by one run each, and by the time Martinez joined the club just after the All-Star game, Arizona fell behind by 11.5 games behind the Dodgers.

Through the opening three months of the season, the Diamondbacks hung near the top of the division, and after Zack Greinke defeated the Marlins in Miami on June 1, the Diamondbacks were tied for first place in the NL West.

Still, there is no question that Martinez’s 29 homers and 65 RBIs in 62 games for the Diamondbacks represented an essential contribution to their playoff run. Though regarded as a marginal defender, Martinez provided enough leather to help the club’s ERA improve to a 3.66, and that was second best behind the Dodgers in the National League.

The temptation is to appreciate Martinez’s value and project his significance of physical achievement on the diamond and a vital role in the clubhouse into the 2018 season.  That is unlikely to work because like any equation in the financial world, past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

While the Diamondbacks would undoubtedly like to have Martinez back in right field for opening day and beyond, Hazen could go with the essentially the same outfield which performed well over the first half of the 2017 season. This would shift David Peralta back to right field, Martinez’s old spot, and move a healthy Yasmany Tomas into left field.

While Tomas was limited to 47 games due to several nagging injuries, he did manage eight homers and 32 RBIs for that time. Coming off a 31-home run season in 2016 and 83 RBIs, Tomas’ adjustment to the majors from five years of playing in Cuba appears complete. Together with a healthy A. J. Pollock in center, the loss of Martinez could be minimized.

If the Diamondbacks open the season with Tomas in left, Pollock in center and Peralta in right, Hazen will search for depth. Here, he could start by looking at players who can play multi-positions. Two which readily come to the fore is Daniel Descalso and Chris Owings.

In the Rule 5 draft last month in Orlando, the Diamondbacks lost potential depth when outfielder Victor Reyes was selected number one overall by the Detroit Tigers. If Reyes fails to make the Tigers’ opening day roster, then native of Barcelona, Venezuela is returned to the Diamondbacks and could give Hazen still another look in the outfield.

Just around the corner

Tickets for Diamondbacks’ pre-season games at Salt River went on sale Saturday. Fans can pick up their tix on-site or online.

The spring slate opens with the traditional game against a local college opponent. On Feb. 21, the Diamondbacks will engage Arizona State University at Salt River. In rotating years, they open against the University of Arizona and Grand Canyon University of Phoenix.

Their initial spring contest against a major-league opponent is Friday, Feb. 23 at Salt River against the Colorado Rockies. Since both the Diamondbacks and Rockies share the Salt River facility, Arizona will be the road for this game. The Diamondbacks first spring home game against a major-league opponent is Sat. Feb. 24 against Cleveland.

Reporting dates are established, with the first workout for pitchers and catchers is Wed. Feb. 14, and the first full-squad workout is Monday, Feb. 19 at the Salt River training facility for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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