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Arizona Diamondbacks 2014 Preview
By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Arizona Diamondbacks must be getting tired of kissing their sister.
After their second straight season of finishing at exactly .500, though, there is a tad bit of optimism in the desert.
The Diamondbacks were once again active in the offseason trade market, as they addressed two of the team's biggest needs with the acquisition of slugger Mark Trumbo and closer Addison Reed.
Trumbo, of course, will try to help an offense that last season was powered by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who hit .302 and led the NL with 125 RBI and tied for first with 36 home runs.
Reed, meanwhile, will try to shore up a pen that blew a league-high 29 saves a season ago.
Behind lefties Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley and righty Trevor Cahill, the Diamondbacks should have enough pitching to at least get themselves into position to compete for a playoff spot.
Keep in mind, even with that anemic offense from a year ago Arizona led the National League West for the better part of the year before Los Angeles started to leave it in its rearview in the middle of August.
2013 FINISH (81-81) - Second Place (NL West)
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Mark Trumbo (OF); Bronson Arroyo (RHP); Addison Reed (RHP); Henry Blanco (C); Matt Tuiasosopo (OF); Oliver Perez (LHP)
KEY OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Matt Davidson (3B); Heath Bell (RHP); Tyler Skaggs (LHP); David Holmberg (LHP); Willie Bloomquist (3B); Wil Nieves (C)
PROJECTED LINEUP: Gerardo Parra (CF); Aaron Hill (2B); Paul Goldschmidt (1B); Miguel Montero (C); Mark Trumbo (LF); Martin Prado (3B); Cody Ross (RF); Didi Gregorius (SS)
PROJECTED ROTATION: Patrick Corbin (LHP); Trevor Cahill (RHP); Wade Miley (LHP); Brandon McCarthy (RHP); Bronson Arroyo (RHP)
PROJECTED CLOSER: Addison Reed (RHP)
MANAGER: Kirk Gibson
WHAT IMPACT WILL MARK TRUMBO HAVE ON THE LINEUP?
Even with NL MVP candidate Goldschmidt the Diamondbacks' offense lacked punch.
So, general manager Kevin Towers addressed that by dealing outfielder Adam Eaton and left-hander Tyler Skaggs in a three-team trade to nab Trumbo, who should provide some protection for Goldschmidt.
Between the two of them, the Diamondbacks could have a duo that blasts 70 home runs, which would account more than half of the team's 2013 total (130).
Despite an awful .234 average with 184 strikeouts last season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Trumbo notched career-highs in home runs (34), RBI (100) and games played (159). And in over three-plus seasons with the Angels, the 27-year-old slugger has registered 95 homers and 284 RBI while batting .250 in 460 career games.
There is also some concern on how Trumbo will fare in left field on an everyday basis. But, the D'backs are hoping that new outfield instructor Dave McKay makes him, at the very worst, an average defender.
CAN PATRICK CORBIN BE AN ACE?
Even more surprising than Goldschmidt's breakout season was the performance put forth by Corbin. The 24-year-old went to spring training in 2013 hoping to win the fifth-starter job. He not only left camp with Arizona, but emerged as the team's ace.
Now the big question is, can he do it again?
After some debate Corbin has already been tabbed as the Diamondbacks' Opening Day starter in Australia after a terrific 2013 campaign that saw him go 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA, while earning his first-ever All-Star berth.
Manager Kirk Gibson had toyed with the idea of leaving him back for the opening series because of his 208-inning workload from a year ago. However, it will be Corbin and Cahill getting the starts in the two-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Even if Corbin falters in his role as de facto ace, the Diamondbacks still have former 18-game winner Cahill, as well as Miley, who won 16 games in 2012. Also, the team added a veteran presence to the staff, signing Bronson Arroyo to a 2-year deal. Arroyo, though, has been dealing with back issues and could start the season on the disabled list.
One player to watch as the season progresses will be 21-year-old right-hander Archie Bradley. Bradley will likely travel with the team to Australia and start against its national team, but Gibson has stated that he won't pitch in the bullpen for the Diamondbacks.
WHO IS GOING TO CLOSE?
Right-hander J.J. Putz has entered the last three seasons as the team's closer. Last year, though, injuries reared their ugly head and Putz struggled, particularly in the first half, ultimately leading to his demotion.
Submariner Brad Ziegler took over and pitched well as the team's closer, as he saved 22 games, while going 8-1 with a 2.22 ERA.
Still, this was a bullpen that blew a 29 saves and pitched to a 3.52 ERA last season.
So, Towers went out and acquired Reed from Chicago.
Reed set career highs in wins, saves, appearances, innings and strikeouts in 2013, going 5-4 with a 3.79 earned run average, 40 saves and 72 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings over 68 games with the White Sox.
The thought is that Reed is going to be the guy in the ninth inning and with 37-year-old Putz and Ziegler setting him up, the bullpen should be much improved.
X-FACTOR: MIGUEL MONTERO: From 2011-12, Arizona catcher Miguel Montero played in at least 140 games, had at least a .282 batting average, 15 homers and 86 RBI. He had a career-high .391 OBP in 2012 and earned himself a $60 million extension. However, a back injury limited him to just 116 games last season and he put forth one of the worst years of his career in 2013, as he hit .230 with a career-low .344 slugging percentage. He also struck out 110 times, while his WAR drastically dropped from 3.9 in 2012 to just 0.1. It's no surprise that the 23 games he missed in August almost coincided with the Los Angeles Dodgers stretching their lead in the division to 9 1/2 games over Arizona. Even more will be asked of the lefty swinging Montero this year, as he will hit in the cleanup spot to break up righties Goldschmidt and Trumbo. He's always hit well with runners on base and is a lifetime .276 hitter in that position with 37 of his 84 career home runs coming with runners on base. It sounds crazy to say considering the Diamondbacks have an MVP candidate in Goldschmidt on their roster, but Montero is the most irreplaceable player on the roster.
Arizona addressed its two glaring needs this offseason. The Diamondbacks should have more pop with Trumbo in the lineup, as well as a bounce-back year from Montero. Arizona's bullpen should also be improved with the addition of Reed. Provided Putz can stay healthy, it's actually one of the deeper pens in the league. Plus it will be interesting to see if Goldschmidt can build on his near-MVP campaign from a year ago. With that young pitching staff the Diamondbacks are coming. Some, though, are not sold on the fact that Gibson is the man to get the Diamondbacks over the hump. Still, they are in a division with perhaps the best team in baseball in the Los Angeles Dodgers. There is certainly some optimism in the desert, but another .500ish season wouldn't be a surprise, with a win total in the mid-80s a real possibility. But, that probably won't get you into October in a very deep National League.
03/14 16:53:40 ET