PHOENIX – Since the end of last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks identified a significant need. No, that one and the bullpen.
The club remains in near desperate search of a right-handed bat with production. With a plethora of left-hitting outfielders and a core of talent from which general manager Mike Hazen does not wish to depart, the quest commenced for right-hitting power.
The Diamondbacks began this research from ground zero and after they designated Jordan Luplow and Stone Garrett, two right-handed hitters, for assignment in mid-November. As quickly as the ink on these release forms dried, Arizona was able to acquire that right-handed bat. Yet, the acquisition comes with some baggage.
Certainly, a needed right-handed bat was acquired but Lewis arrives in the desert with a physical history. True, the 27-year-old was the American League rookie-of-the-year in the pandemic-shorten 2020 season, but the native of Macon, Ga. remained also injury-prone.
In 2021, Lewis suffered a torn meniscus to his right knee and missed time in the 2022 season with concussion protocols.
Overall, Lewis has some pop in his stick.
When he captured the AL rookie of the year award, he hit. .262 with the M’s, smashed 11 homers and drove in 28 runs in 58 games. In his four seasons with Seattle, Lewis had a career .244 batting average (113-for-463), 25 homers and 57 RBIs. He also strikes out and a factor field manager Torey Lovullo must consider. In those 463 career at-bats, Lewis struck out 156 times.
The question now for Lovullo is playing time. Because of recent health malaise, Lewis was used mainly as a DH. Once the Mariners acquired outfielder Teoscar Hernandez from Toronto in mid-November, his time in Seattle was apparently over.
Yet, the larger question is the Diamondback’s use of the DH. Clearly, Lewis, who fits that need, is under Arizona’s control and cost-effective. Here in the off-season, Lovullo is confronted with finding a true DH or using players in and out of the lineup as his modus operandi in 2022.
“I would love to have someone like David Ortiz (as a DH) that can impact a game,” Lovullo said. “That’s someone who can reverse the game on any given night. We have several good players in our organization, If I can get a rotation as we did in (2022), that works very well. The players can get a rhythm with me and that translated into production.”
Lovullo sees an advantage to use a rotating DH.
“That gave everybody an opportunity to stay involved and engaged each night,” he said. “Of course, I would take David Ortiz. Who would not? If things work out next year as this year, I thought this was very successful.”
Given health issues and a logjam of quality outfielders, Lewis will likely spend a great deal of time as the DH. With Daulton Varsho penciled in right, Alek Thomas in center, and Corbin Carroll in left, the Diamondbacks could field one of the top defensive outfields in the majors.
With the addition of Lewis, a centerfielder by trade, to enter the gardens against left-pitching pitching, Hazen and Lovullo could have found a potential answer to the dilemma of finding that right-handed bat with some pop.