The Diamondbacks finished 2011 with a Major League best 29-win increase over 2010's performance. Losing to the Brewers in the NLDS, Arizona had tapped the likes of Ian Kennedy, Paul Goldschmidt and Ryan Roberts to guide them through the 2011 season.
As the team heads into the 2011-2012 offseason, general manager Kevin Towers should have an easier time than he did last year.
Though the D'backs improved in several offensive categories in 2011, it is no secret that they could use another bat. However, Towers will have to consider the financial ramifications of such a transaction.
With Kennedy, Miguel Montero, and potentially Joe Saunders and Aaron Hill due for some pricey raises, the Diamondbacks have to be careful. Not much money will be left over to add a big-name player to the lineup.
The D'backs aren't a cash cow, doling out $54,647,950 in 2011, with the average player taking home less than $2.25 million. Out of 30 teams, Arizona's payroll placed 26th in the league, paying out less than one-third than that of the league's payroll leader, the $192,230,363 laden New York Yankees.
Though the payroll is relatively low, statistics have a way of turning around frames of mind. Think about it this way, the D'backs were first in the National League in the "2011 Most Efficient Teams" category, recording a cost-per-win of $581,361. Then again, the lowly San Diego Padres finished in second place with $598,989, followed by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals.
While Towers' job is made easier by the fact that most key pieces of the lineup are returning in 2012, he will also have to contend with at least $30 million guaranteed to those returning players.
Though the D'backs are certainly going to be looking to acquire, here are some key names Towers and his crew should look to avoid and some they might want to consider.
Name: Prince Fielder
Position: First Baseman
2011 Salary: $15.5 million
2011 Stats: .299 Avg, 38 HR, 95 RBI, .415 OBP, 60 Runs
First baseman Prince Fielder has it all. He's relatively young (27 years) and routinely hits for power and production, hitting an average of 37 homers and 106 RBI his last five seasons in Milwaukee.
Earning $15.5 million during a one-year extension in Milwaukee last season, Fielder is simply too expensive for the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks already have an up-and-coming first baseman in Paul Goldschmidt, and there is no DH in the National League.
According to sabermetics-financial heaven Baseball Player Salaries, Fielder is underperforming, and is simply too expensive for the D'backs to take a chance on with cheaper players waiting for their chance at first base.
Name: Albert Pujols
Position: First Baseman
2011 Salary: $16.0 million
2011 Stats: .299 Avg, 37 HR, 99 RBI, .366 OBP, 105 Runs
With Albert Pujols set to leave St. Louis and create a king-sized courtship competition across baseball, the Diamondbacks should stay out.
Pujols has slightly better stats than Fielder, but comes with a slightly more expensive price tag as well. He is a better defensive player than Fielder, contributed more to the Cardinals on-field performance than Fielder did to the Brewers, and will be a fantastic sign for the team lucky enough to scoop him up.
But the Diamondbacks have options already in place at first base, and that combined with the issue of cost makes Pujols a no-go.
According to Baseball Player Salaries, Pujols is worth it, but for Arizona, he is decidedly not.
Name: David Wright
Position: Third Baseman
2011 Salary: $14.0 million, $15.0 million in 2012
2011 Stats: .254 Avg, 14 HR, 61 RBI, .345 OBP, 60 Runs
Rumor (ESPN's Buster Olney to be specific) has it that Arizona might be interested in picking up David Wright during the 2011-2012 offseason. Wright is still under contract with the New York Mets, so this would require a trade of some sort.
Set to earn $15 million this season in New York, Wright is almost as expensive as Fielder, but brings something to the table that Fielder does not. Fielder and Pujols are first baseman, a position the Diamondbacks have covered for 2012. Wright, on the other hand, is a third baseman.
The D'backs could certainly add a bat to the hot corner, a place roaming utility man Ryan Roberts currently calls home. Instead of simply placing a jack-of-all-trades at third base, Arizona would create a specialty position in third by adding Wright.
However, Wright had an abysmal 2011 with injuries causing him to lose significant playing time as his batting average slumped. As it stands, Wright is too risky for the Diamondbacks. For $15 million plus, Arizona cannot afford to take a chance on a player who may or may not come back from a significant slump.
According to Baseball Player Salaries, Wright is overpaid, and is also too expensive for the D'backs. With a cost of $1 million per home run, Wright is wrong.
Name: Aramis Ramirez
Position: Third Baseman
2011 Salary: $14.6 million
2011 Stats: .306 Avg, 26 HR, 93 RBI, .361 OBP, 80 Runs
Ramirez earned $14.6 million in 2011, down from $15.75 million in 2010. Ramirez is 33 years old, but he put together nice numbers in 2011 on a stagnant Cubs team.
Ramirez might be one of the best values of the off-season if his asking price drops once again in 2012. He is still a fairly durable player, playing in 149 games in 2011, for a cost-per-game price of $97,986.
Make no mistake, Ramirez would be one of the more expensive players on the Arizona roster, but he is a better choice at third base than the struggling David Wright.
According to Baseball Player Salaries, Ramirez is worth it. If the Diamondbacks make any moves this offseason, Ramirez just may be their guy.
Name: Jose Reyes
2011 Salary: $11.0 million
2011 Stats: .337 Avg, 7 HR, 44 RBI, .384 OBP, 101 Runs
Reyes had a very impressive 2011 season, which unfortunately might drive up his asking price. If his 2012 salary stays near 2011 levels, however, he will be a good catch for Arizona.
Reyes would provide further depth to a D'backs middle infield which could use another good shortstop or second baseman. With four 56+ stolen base seasons already in his pocket, Reyes adds tremendous speed to a team that likes to run.
With Reyes and Upton on the basepaths, the Diamondbacks would put the pressure on other teams around the league.
Reyes had a tremendous propensity to gather base hits in 2011, but don't let that fool you. He is a career .292 hitter, which the Diamondbacks should consider before even attempting to make an offer.
According Baseball Player Salaries, Reyes is very valuable, especially if he stays at or near his 2011 price. The D'backs would like to add a presence like Reyes to the roster, but only if the price is right.
Name: Aaron Hill
Position: Second Baseman
2011 Salary: $5.0 million, $8.0 million option for 2012
2011 Stats: .246 Avg, 8 HR, 61 RBI, .299 OBP, 61 Runs
Hill's contract is almost up, and it's time to consider whether to bring him back. The Diamondbacks will be hard-pressed to find a better second-base option this offseason for a better price, and they should re-sign Hill to a one-year deal.
According to Baseball Player Salaries, Hill was "a bum" for Toronto, but very valuable for Arizona. There is risk involved in re-signing Hill, but if the D'backs bring Hill back as well as sign a new infielder, Arizona's depth will provide a safeguard if Hill begins to slump.
All in all, the Diamondbacks do not need to make many, if any, position player acquisitions this offseason. If the team re-signs all outstanding players, they will be in pretty good shape.
The club came together pretty well in 2011 as skipper Kirk Gibson's leadership took hold, and this positive climb should continue into the 2012 season. The team will play fantastic baseball with or without new faces in 2012.
As such, GM Kevin Towers has a fairly easy offseason ahead. He will negotiate and try to get Hill for less than his $8.0 million asking price, he will attempt to bring back Blanco and Bloomquist, and he will join all of us in watching Pujols and Fielder go where the money is.
Arizona will continue to be a simple team in 2012: a simple team that wins ballgames.