The Diamondbacks set a major league record by playing 1,538 innings this season, but all that did was lengthen their disappointment. Arizona did not increase its 2013 payroll to about $90 million to run in place, but that is what happened.
After taking a 9 1/2 game lead over Los Angeles in late June, the D-backs were unable to hold off the streaking Dodgers, who not only clinched the NL West at Chase Field but also celebrated by in the ballpark's swimming pool. The D-backs finished 81-81 for second consecutive year.
It was hardly what the D-backs anticipated when they signed free agents Cody Ross (three years, $26 million) and Brandon McCarthy (two years, $15.5 million) and negotiated long-term deals with Aaron Hill (three years, $35 million) and Paul Goldschmidt (five years, $32 million). The also gave Martin Prado a four-year, $40 million contract a week after acquiring him in a January trade that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta.
Goldschmidt, a first-time All-Star, more than made up for the loss of Upton. He led the league with 125 RBIs and tied with Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez for the NL home run title. Each hit 36. Goldschmidt was the best offensive player in the league -- not to be confused with the MVP, which always carries with it a certain degree of subjectivity.
Prado did about what was expected, but the rest of the team underachieved, some because of prolonged time on the disabled list.
Due to injuries, the D-backs did not play an inning of their 1,538 with the 25-man roster they expected to use this season.
Patrick Corbin turned into the staff ace and made the All-Star Game in his first full season on the roster, but the rest of the rotation was so-so. McCarthy and Trevor Cahill missed large chunks of time because of injury and underperformed, and Ian Kennedy struggled so mightily he was traded at the deadline. The bullpen led the major leagues with 29 blown saves. Changes to both parts of the staff could be part of the process of moving forward.
General manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson are safe as they enter the final year of their contracts in 2014, managing general partner Ken Kendrick said in late September, but other moves appear likely.
"We'll make offseason changes," Kendrick said. "You could trade some established players. You could trade younger kids because their value is at a high level. If I'm Kevin, I'm feeling pretty good about the talent I have."
"With the array of players, both veterans and young players with good value in our minor league system, we're well-positioned to take advantage of one of the things Kevin does very well, make player moves."
The D-backs hit 130 home runs, 26th in the major leagues, and Towers believes more pop is necessary. Several teams asked about rookie shortstop Chris Owings at the trade deadline, and the glut at middle infield could be place from which Towers makes a deal.
"I think there is a need for a little more power in the lineup," he said. "Does that come via our organization? Maybe it's Matt Davidson. He performed very well at the end of the season. Pitching-wise, you can never have enough pitching. I think we have to take a strong look at our bullpen. We can make our bullpen better. Wholesale changes? I like this group of players we have here. I think their expectations were higher. We just never really got to see that offseason plan come together because of the injuries."
The Diamondbacks made two changes early in the postseason, firing pitching coach Charles Nagy and first base coach Steve Sax. The rest of the staff will return, the team announced.
The team's ERA ranked between 14th and 17th in the majors in Nagy's three seasons on the job. Sax served just one season.
2013: 81-81, second place in NL West
TEAM MVP: The $32 million contract extension Paul Goldschmidt signed two day before the start of the regular season looks like the best money the team ever spent. Goldschmidt hoisted the D-backs on his shoulders and took them as far as he could. He had an MVP-caliber season, leading the National League in RBIs (125), total bases (332), slugging percentage (.551) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.952) and tied for the league lead in homers (36) while playing a solid first base. He also led the D-backs with 15 stolen bases. Really, he did it all.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: There were several, but RHP Ian Kennedy's drop from staff ace to trade piece had a lot to do with the Diamondbacks' second straight .500 season. Kennedy, who led the NL with 36 victories in 2011-12, never found his rhythm n 2013. He used more off-speed stuff than normal in his four months with the D-backs and was 3-8 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts before he was traded for LHP Joe Thatcher and minor league RHP Matt Stites on July 31.
TOP PROSPECT: SS Chris Owings and 3B Matt Davidson had big seasons at Triple-A Reno and appear to be major-league-ready for 2014, but the jewel of the system is RHP Archie Bradley, the seventh player taken in the 2011 draft. Bradley features a 98 mph fastball, and once he refines his location and finds more consistency with his secondary stuff, he will be a top-of-the-rotation starter. He will get a long look next spring after going 14-5 with a 1.84 ERA at two minor league stops this season, spending most of his time at Double-A Mobile.
--RHP Heath Bell and C Ryan Hanigan were acquired by the Rays on Dec. 2 as part of a three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Reds. Bell moved from Arizona, which also sent $500,000 to Tampa Bay to offset part of his salary. Hanigan joined the Rays from Cincinnati.
Arizona got minor league RHP Justin Choate from the Tampa Bay organization, plus a player to be named or cash. Cincinnati received LHP David Holmberg from Arizona.
Bell, 36, is headed for his fourth team in four seasons. He went 5-2 with 15 saves and a 4.11 ERA in 69 appearances during his lone year with Arizona. Bell will receive $9 million next season, and his $9 million option for 2015 would become guaranteed if he finishes 55 games in 2014.
Hanigan, 33, will compete for playing time in Tampa Bay with two other catchers, Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton. Hanigan batted a career-low .198 with two homers and 21 RBIs in 77 games for Cincinnati this year.
Holmberg, 22, made his major league debut as a spot starter for Arizona on Aug. 27, allowing three runs in 3 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the San Diego Padres. It was his lone big-league outing. He went 5-8 with a 2.75 ERA in 26 starts for Double-A Mobile.
Choate, who turns 23 this month, finished 1-3 with six saves and a 2.88 ERA in 16 relief appearances for short-season Class A Hudson Valley this year.
--RHP Daniel Hudson was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Dec. 2, making him a free agent. Hudson, 26, underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2012, then a second Tommy John surgery in June 2013. He is likely will miss at least the first half of the 2014 season.
--LHP Tony Sipp, who was designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks on Nov. 20, cleared waivers and became a free agent. He would have been eligible for arbitration this winter. Sipp, 30, went 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA in 56 appearances for Arizona this year after spending the previous four seasons with Cleveland. Sipp has a 14-9 career record with two saves and a 3.84 ERA in 304 games.
--RF Gerardo Parra was selected the National League's Wilson Defensive Player of the Year. The honor was announced a few days after he won his second career Gold Glove. Parra led the NL with 17 outfield assists, a franchise single-season record.
Parra also finished fourth with 43 doubles. D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said he expects to open dialogue on a long-term contract extension with Parra this winter. Parra has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining. The sides talked last year but came to no resolution, and Parra played for $2.35 million when he settled before the case went to a hearing last winter. By the end of the season, teams stopped running on him, the truest sign of his worth.
--OF Matt Tuiasosopo was claimed off waivers by the Diamondbacks from the Tigers on Nov. 1. Tuiasosopo, 27, hit .244/.351/.415 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 81 games for Detroit this year.
--1B Paul Goldschmidt received the National League's Hank Aaron Award, an honor given to the top hitter in each league. Goldschmidt tied for the NL lead with 36 home runs and led the league with 125 RBIs, a .551 slugging percentage, 75 extra-base hits and 332 total bases. He also came through in big moments, collecting major league highs with 37 go-ahead RBIs, 20 go-ahead homers, three walk-off homes and seven homers after the eighth inning. Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera was the AL winner.
Goldschmidt was the runner-up in NL MVP voting after his power-packed 2013, finishing behind Pittsburgh CF Andrew McCutchen.
"I'm not a guy who ever looks at numbers. I just want to come in and give my best effort. Prepare. Work hard. Do whatever you can to help the team," Goldschmidt said.
The D-backs signed him to a five-year, $32 million contract extension two days before the start of the regular season.
"We saw him as an emerging young superstar," manager Kirk Gibson said.
Goldschmidt ended the season on a career-high, 19-game hitting streak.
--C Miguel Montero had surgery on his left index finger Oct. 6 to remove an infection. Montero, 30, is coming off a disappointing season in which he posted a .662 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, the lowest mark since his rookie year in 2006.
--RHP Alex Sanabia, who missed the last four months of the 2013 season due to a right groin injury, was claimed off waivers by the Diamondbacks from the Marlins. Sanabia, 25, went 3-7 with a 4.88 ERA in 10 starts for the Marlins this year.
--RHP Matt Langwell was outright to Triple-A Reno as the Diamondbacks cleared a spot on the 40-man roster. Langwell, 27, joined the D-backs in early September after being acquired from Cleveland to complete the trade for OF Jason Kubel. He made a total of 13 major league appearances with the Indians and Diamondbacks this year, going 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA. He went 3-4 with two saves and a 2.24 ERA in 43 appearances from Triple-A Columbus this season.
--OF Keon Broxton was outrighted to Triple-A Reno, a move that took him off the Diamondbacks' 40-man roster. Broxton, 23, missed the season's first month due to a broken right hand, then hit .231/.296/.359 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs for Double-A Mobile.
--LHP Patrick Corbin went from a candidate for the No. 5 spot in the rotation to the top of the group in 2013, with a midseason invitation to his first All-Star Game. In his first full season in the majors, Corbin gave the D-backs an island of stability in a rotation that was plagued by injuries and inconsistency. Corbin went 14-8 with a 3.41 ERA. His ERA was skewed when the D-backs pushed him through to the end of the season despite the fact he gave up 32 runs in his last 36 innings. "He battled. He had an outstanding year for us," manager Kirk Gibson said.
--2B Aaron Hill missed 10 weeks with a fracture in the top of his left hand when he was hit by a pitch April 9, and the D-backs suffered in his absence. Hill, who signed a three-year, $35 million contract extension in the offseason, was expected to hit third in the order. While 1B Paul Goldschmidt filled that spot in the order, Hill's production was missed. Hill had 21 doubles and 11 homers in 87 games. Although the fracture has not completely healed, he opted against surgery because it did not hamper his swing.
--RHP Brad Ziegler set a career high with 13 saves after becoming the D-backs' full-time closer the weekend before the All-Star break, but the job is expected to be open again next spring. The former closer, RHP J.J. Putz, who missed seven weeks with a strained right elbow ligament, appears to be the favorite to regain the role next spring. "I feel like if the opportunity presents itself, I know I can do it," Ziegler said of closing. "But if they want me to come in with runners on base and try to get double plays, I'll try to do that, too." Ziegler was 1-0 with six saves in his final 13 games, and he converted 12 of his final 14 save chances. He gave up one earned run in his final 12 1/3 innings, a 0.73 ERA.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you looked at the team this year, you counted on certain things, and those things weren't accomplished. People might want to blame the manager or the GM. I think this team was in place if everybody did what they were supposed to. Nobody foresaw the Dodgers doing what they did. Not even they did. We had depth. We have guys who have been there and done it before. When it came to it, we had too many guys underperform." -- 3B Eric Chavez.
The Diamondbacks believe they have the nucleus in place to once again challenge in the NL West, although after a second straight 81-81 season, changes will be made. 1B Paul Goldschmidt and LHP Patrick Corbin had breakout seasons, but others underperformed, and 100 weeks on the disabled list by projected major contributors did not help. Coaching changes appear a foregone conclusion.
BIGGEST NEEDS: The D-backs finished 26th in the majors in home runs in their first season in six without RF Justin Upton, and GM Kevin Towers will be in the market for a power bat at third base or on an outfield corner in the offseason. Rookie 3B Matt Davidson, who hit a combined 60 homers the past three seasons in the minors, showed well in a September call-up.
DEPARTURES: RHP Heath Bell (traded to Rays), INF/OF Willie Bloomquist (free agent, signed with Mariners), C Wil Nieves (free agent, signed with Phillies)
FREE AGENTS: 3B Eric Chavez, RHP Daniel Hudson
Chavez was very productive, with 44 RBIs in 228 at-bats, and he could return in the right scenario.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: LHP Joe Thatcher, RF Gerardo Parra, RHP Brad Ziegler
GM Kevin Towers said he would be open to exploring long-term contracts for Parra and Ziegler, two of the most valuable contributors in 2013. Ziegler might receive a nice bump if he gets to arbitration because of his expanded role this season, when he had 13 saves as the closer over the final 2 1/2 months. Thatcher was not at his best after being acquired from San Diego for RHP Ian Kennedy at the trade deadline, but he was effective against lefties in the past and could return.
IN LIMBO: SS Chris Owings, 3B Matt Davidson, OF A.J. Pollock
Owings drew considerable interest at the 2013 trade deadline, and the D-backs could be persuaded to move him in a package that could land a power bat at third base or a corner outfield spot. The D-backs have three shortstops -- Owings, Didi Gregorius and Cliff Pennington -- under contract or control, and another on the way in Nick Ahmed. Davidson is in the same boat behind 3B Martin Prado, although Prado could move to the outfield. Pollock had a breakout year and is the D-backs' best center fielder, which makes him valuable not only to Arizona but to other teams, too. With OF Cody Ross' health in doubt, however, the D-backs are unlikely trade an outfielder unless they get one in return. Towers said.
--C Miguel Montero (left index finger surgery in October 2013) had an infection removed.
--LHP Matt Reynolds (Tommy John surgery in September 2013) likely will miss the entire 2014 season.
--OF Cody Ross (right hip surgery in August 2013) hopes to be ready for spring training.
--RHP Alex Sanabia (aggravated right groin muscle) missed the season's final four months, then was claimed off waivers by Arizona. He is expected to be ready for spring training.
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