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What does the future look like in Arizona without Justin Upton?
Today the Brewers welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to Maryvale for the first of two meetings between these two teams this spring. To help us get ready, Jim McLennan of AZ Snakepit was kind enough to answer some questions about Arizona.
BCB: Four other teams in the NL West had their situations change this winter as the Dodgers' new spending habits turned them into the Yankees of the West. Where does the Dodgers' sudden cash infusion leave the Diamondbacks?
AZS: There's not really much the team can do about it for now, but concentrate on trying to "spend smarter, not harder" - certainly, you could question whether the Dodgers' spree has been wisely spent, in a number of cases. We are due to get a boost from a new TV contract ourselves in a couple of years: that'll help, though nowhere near to the level of LA's obviously. But you can probably expect to see the D-backs trading players who approach free-agency, and using them to restock with younger, cheaper prospects. It's a model that certainly can work - see Tampa - but it's a lot harder than waving around an open checkbook.
BCB: Obviously most fans know that the Diamondbacks traded away former #1 overall pick Justin Upton over the winter. Did they get enough for him, and how do things change now that he's gone?
AZS: I wasn't as down on the deal as some in the media, especially after Martin Prado was inked to a long-term extension. While Upton will be a good to very good player going forward, I don't think he will have a sustained, Hall of Fame type career. I think what we've seen is what Atlanta will get: someone who can be utterly dominant, for weeks or even months at a time, but can also have prolonged slumps. The bottom line is, we had outfield depth to spare, and needed help at 3B. Throw in a couple of decent prospects in Nick Ahmed and Randall Delgado, and it wasn't a bad haul: not as good as the one offered by Seattle, unfortunately.
In many ways, this is Kevin Towers severing a tie to the previous regime - they who were the ones that put an UPTOWN sign in right-field for a 21-year old player. What we have now is indisputably, and for better or for worse, Towers' team: of the 2013 roster, only Miguel Montero and Gerardo Parra have more than 200 appearances for the club. It does leave the team without an "obvious" #3 hitter, and it's going to take some getting used to - I was watching a spring training game earlier in the week, and found myself wondering when Upton was going to to bat. It was a bit of a shock to remember that he wouldn't.
BCB: Rookie Wade Miley was arguably Arizona's best pitcher a year ago. Do you think he'll be able to repeat those results in 2013?
AZS: We've had some flashes in the pan over the last couple of seasons, as far as starting pitching goes. Barry Enright pitched very well in 2010, but then imploded the following year. Josh Collmenter stepped up to replace him, and put up solid numbers - but he, too, wasn't able to repeat them, last season. So I do have concerns about Miley. But the difference with him is, peripherals that actually stand up to examination. His FIP was lower., at 3.18, than his ERA (3.33), something that couldn't be said for his predecessors. I would still expect some regression, but he's certainly capable of putting up something in the upper three range, and that's more than acceptable, especially playing home games at hitter-friendly Chase Field.
BCB: The Diamondbacks came away from the free agent market with the pitcher many Brewer fans wanted: Former Athletic Brandon McCarthy. How's he fitting in with Arizona, and will he be ready for Opening Day?
AZS: As ever, the key question for McCarthy is going to be health. He debuted in 2005, and only once has he reached even 115 innings in a season. Part of that is outside his control - freak accidents like the line-drive which fractured his skull are part of the game, and can't be planned for. It was certainly good to see him back in a game, and he seemed almost nonchalant about it, especially in comparison to his wife! [Truth be told, I think he's somewhat fed up being asked about that incident]
He has been re-united here with former team-mate and close friend Trevor Cahill, and McCarthy has been endearing himself to fans with his mad Twitter skills, which are of All-Star caliber! I think he'll do fine, and fit in well to a rotation which doesn't have an "obvious" ace, like a Kershaw or a Cain, but has solid depth and should give the Diamondbacks a chance to win almost every night. Again, health permitting, this could turn out to be one of the best free-agent signings of the off-season.
BCB: What's the biggest spring storyline with this team that we haven't discussed?
AZS: The story I'm most looking forward to watching is Adam Eaton. A 5'8" bundle of energy, who has been perpetually overlooked as a prospect, but has done nothing but hit, with a .355 minor-league average. The trade of Chris Young to Oakland opened the door for him to become a regular starter, and he'll give us a true leadoff hitter and base-stealing threat, something we haven't had in Arizona since the glory days of Tony Womack. Eaton got a September call-up and delivered what SnakePit readers voted the play of the year, this impressive double-play from CF. In a season currently with no obvious candidates like a Harper or Trout, he could conceivably be a Rookie of the Year candidate.
Thanks to Jim for taking the time, and check out AZ Snakepit for more on the Diamondbacks!