Our Comeback Candidates series moves to the desert to look at the suddenly-free-spending Snakes. A massive contract for Zack Greinke and a trade for Shelby Miller suddenly gives Arizona a fearsome rotation, at least at the front end. The Diamondbacks showed flashes of greatness combined with some rough stretches in 2015, but there are a number of key pieces already in place that have D-Backs fans hopeful of a return to postseason play. Arizona’s last playoff appearance was in 2011.
The Diamondbacks appeared to at least be in line for a winning season last year, but after sweeping a doubleheader in Colorado on September 1, they lost eight of 11 to quash any hopes of pushing for a wild card spot. Arizona’s rotation ERA ranked 23rd in baseball, so the team broke the bank to lure Cy Young runner-up Greinke from the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers to be its ace. Following Greinke’s record-setting deal, GM Dave Stewart sent a bevy of prospects, including former first overall pick Dansby Swanson, to the Atlanta Braves for Miller. The offense is already a potent one, finishing eighth in MLB in runs scored and ninth in OPS. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt has been the runner-up for NL MVP twice in the last three years, and A.J. Pollock was a first-time All-Star in 2015.
Reasons for Hope
It starts now with the D-Backs’ newfound star power. Goldschmidt is one of the game’s truly elite players, and Pollock emerged as a star last year. Greinke, who won the Cy Young in the AL with the Royals in 2009, is no fluke; he put together one of the truly remarkable seasons in recent memory in 2015 and is obviously quite familiar with pitching in the NL West. Miller is a rising star who was riddled with awful luck in Atlanta last year, posting stellar numbers yet leading the league with 17 losses. Tyler Clippard was brought in to fortify the bullpen, and shortstop Jean Segura arrived via trade from Milwaukee. If the team can get solid production from Yasmany Tomas in his second year and David Peralta in his third, the offense could be even better in 2016.
Reasons for Doubt
There are several factors that could potentially derail the D-Backs this season. The first is a top-heavy National League West division with the San Francisco Giants, in an even-numbered year, reloading, and the three-time defending champion Dodgers still having plenty of star power. Prying Greinke away from L.A. is a major coup, but it remains to be seen if the back end of the rotation can hold up. Three of Arizona’s five starters posted an ERA of 4.30 or higher last year. Patrick Corbin rebounded nicely from Tommy John surgery, but there are still concerns about what the team can get out of the likes of Rubby De La Rosa and Chase Anderson.
Will they or won’t they?
The Diamondbacks will undoubtedly be one of the chic teams picked by the experts to crack the playoff field, but it will still be tough. The Giants appear to be as well-balanced as any team in the division and possibly even the entire National League, and the Dodgers are still stacked with starting pitching despite losing Grienke. Second-year manager Chip Hale will have to navigate his team through the early part of the schedule and around high expectations that didn’t exist last year. Arizona’s chances look promising for 2016, but a wild card berth may be the more likely route than a division title.