The Arizona Diamondbacks reached the pinnacle of the postseason in a year they hardly qualified for the Wild Card round. That will be a tough act to follow, but with several key additions, Arizona is set to fight in a competitive National League West. Will it be enough to match last season’s unexpected success?
Have the Diamondbacks Improved Enough?
Bring in the Bats
The first major offseason move for the Diamondbacks was a trade that brought in Eugenio Suárez to slot in at third base. Finding a path to improve the power potential of this lineup was a major point to address this offseason. Suárez’s impact will be necessary for the Diamondbacks to sustain another competitive season, but there was more to be done.
The Diamondbacks also brought back Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on a three-year, $42 million contract. This might be a more impactful move than assumed at first glance. Gurriel provides a familiar clubhouse presence with an above-average bat at a position of need. He hit .261 with 24 home runs in 2023, good for a 106 wRC+. That alone would be a fine contribution, but Gurriel has a track record that suggests he could provide much more than that. In 2022-23, he was a much more prolific batting-average threat. Despite his average dropping thirty points this year, he made contact at a higher rate and barreled the ball twice as often than in the prior campaign. There could be a sweet spot in between where Gurriel hits for .280 while providing 20-plus home runs.
How Good is the Rotation?
The previous trio for the Diamondbacks lined up as Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, and Brandon Pfaadt. All three of those pitchers should generate excitement for 2024, but alone, that group would not be expected to push for another World Series. That makes Eduardo Rodriguez’s addition all the more tantalizing. With a rotation of at least four strong pitchers, where do the Diamondbacks rank among the National League contenders? If they can further develop one more youngster or find another pitcher on the market, this rotation could flip from a glaring concern to a definitive strength.
Rodriguez has an impressive career and consistently gets solid, if not always incredible, results. Over the past three seasons, Rodriguez’s strikeout rate has declined considerably, but his process still offers the Diamondbacks a chance at quality innings they otherwise were desperate to find. Since 2018, Rodriguez has had only a single season with an expected ERA over 4.05. He also provides a contrast from the previously mentioned starters as the only lefty of the group.
The biggest problem for Arizona this year?
Well, one hint… Shohei Ohtani. The Los Angeles Dodgers just keep getting better. The division was always going to be difficult with the Dodgers, but the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres are set for a competitive season despite the Giants missing out on Ohtani and the Padres trading Juan Soto.
The Padres had a highly disappointing season and still finished with a +104 run differential compared to Arizona’s -15. The Giants will surely improve from their 79-83 record with the addition of Jung Hoo Lee and more additions likely in the works. That makes four teams likely to finish above .500 in the National League West. There will not be much breathing room in the Wild Card Race, either, with teams like the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies fighting it out for a division title.
With a moment of reflection on last year’s standings, the Diamondbacks led the division as late as July 9. The team has an exciting, young core and made several interesting additions. It becomes harder to expect a repeat performance from Arizona when looking at teams like the Dodgers. With more growth from their young players and these veterans, the Diamondbacks will doubtlessly provide an adventurous challenge to prove they are indeed an elite club. The addition of players like this makes it more likely the Diamondbacks can finish the race and pursue another championship run. There should be even more maneuvering ahead if Arizona wants to stamp its claim as a dominant force in this division.
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