Arizona Diamondbacks free agents; who stays, who walks

PHOENIX – When the Arizona Coyotes opened their 2021-22 NHL season, there were only nine players and two who played a partial season, on the roster from the previous hockey campaign. Not that the Arizona Diamondbacks will suffer a similar roster purge, the temptation is to agree that the 2022 club will be decidedly different than the one which finished with a 51-110 record.

Though there are only four players who are unrestricted free agents, the inducement is to move several veterans who underachieved, gain long-term patience with development players, and wait for the team to mature and to be productive.

If there is one direction that general manager Mike Hazen eschews, that is the free-agent route. Since named the club’s GM just after the 2016 season, Hazen likes to build with players he can “control.” That is, players who do not reach free agent status and must sign with Arizona.

That represents the core of the club and a few players, like outfielder David Peralta (free agent after 2022 season) and shortstop Nick Ahmed (free agent after the 2024 season) could be offered in trade situations. After the disastrous 2021 season, the path ahead is clear.

“I’m a pitching and defense person to the core,” said field manager Torey Lovullo. “This past season was hard, and I don’t want that to happen again. We have to find ways to have winning moments.”

Last season, both pitching and defense failed.

The team ERA was 29th of the 30 major league teams. With a 5.11 ERA, only the Baltimore Orioles (5.48) had a higher team ERA. Defense was not much better. The Diamondbacks committed 100 errors and only the Miami Marlins (122) committed more. Shortstop Amhed, a former two-time Gold Glove winner, made nine errors and his .981 fielding percentage made the 31-year-old almost mortal.

All of which identifies Hazen as a critical player. During the coming off-season, he needs to put players in a position to execute and Lovullo, and his coaching staff, must emphasize and stress fundamentals. For the coming season, personnel will likely emerge from the farm system and players brought to the major league level during last season should get the first look in spring training.

Of the four unrestricted free agents for 2022, the best pitcher for the Diamondbacks to pick up an option is right-hander Merrill Kelly. Coming off a 7-11 season and a 4.44 ERA for 27 starts, the 33-year-old, whose option is $4.25 million, could be one pitcher from which Lovullo could build a staff. The core of the rotation then could be veteran Madison Bumgarner, and right-hander. Luke Weaver, if the Diamondbacks offer a contact. Weaver is arbitration-eligible but not a free agent.

The nucleus of rebuilding is middle relievers and a closer. Veteran relievers Tyler Clippard ($500,000 buyout) and Chris Devenski, who was granted free agency on Oct. 8 are likely not coming back. Ditto for oft-injured outfielder Kole Calhoun, who appeared in only 51 games and batted .235.

Coming into spring training, Hazen will have to pull a few magic tricks in order to get the pitching staff competitive. By his own acknowledgment, Hazen told reporters after the 2021 season he does not expect the Diamondbacks to aggressively compete with the Dodgers and Giants in the NL West division during 2022.


















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