SAN DIEGO — The Diamondbacks wanted to get away from adependence on the home run this season, and they did. They have 130, which ranks 26th in the major leagues.
Looking back, they believe they may have gone too far, although part of that was out of their control.
“I think we will probably look for some type of compromise from where we were and where we are,” manager Kirk Gibson said Thursday while discussing possible roster alterations next year.
While general manager Kevin Towers said recently that the D-backs might look to add a power bat in the offseason, he also indicated Thursday that a return to health and/or form could also provide an answer.
Paul Goldschmidt leads the National League with 36 homers, but no other D-backs player has more than Martin Prado’s 14. Jason Kubel regressed significantly after hitting 30 homers a year ago, and Cody Ross had only eight after averaging 19 the previous five seasons while missing significant time with injuries. Miguel Montero is down from his normal production level, and Aaron Hill also missed two months with injury. Some would point to the offseason trade of Justin Upton as a reason, but that misses the point.
“Really, the guys we had penciled in to have their normal, usual years didn’t have them. What we need to look at is, can we look to get those guys back to to where they are at? Not that we need to exceed that where they were at, but just back to their consistent, normal years,” Towers said.
The wild card in the equation is Ross’ health. How quickly can he return from the fractured hip suffered Aug. 11? Gibson said Thursday that Ross has progressed well thus far, and Ross said earlier that doctors have told him he could return during spring training. Gibson acknowledged that it will require a taxing rehab period, adding, “It is a long road back.”
How the Diamondbacks assess the Ross situation certainly will affect their offseason decisions vis-a-vis adding a bat. They have used in the outfield Gerardo Parra, A.J. Pollock, Adam Eaton and occasionally Prado, a group that is more speed- than power-oriented.
“You look at our outfield if Cody wasn’t ready. They are nice defenders, speed guys and play defense, but you are not going to get a lot of (offensive) damage in the outfield,” Towers said.
“You could probably use another power bat. A lot depends on Matty Davidson. He has actually kind of held his own up here. If we decide to stay within, Davidson could be that guy.”
Davidson has 60 minor league homers in the last three years and has three homers in the majors in the last two weeks, and while that gives him value here, he also could be a player teams ask about. The D-backs could reluctantly place him in a package to receive a more experienced hitter. With Hill at second, Prado probably fits best with at third base.
Although a trade seems the most likely avenue if the D-backs decide a trade is necessary, there are several free agent options. Padres third baseman Chase Headley will be a free agent this winter. The D-backs have talked about him in the past, but he will be expensive. Mariners outfielder Mike Morse, a power hitter, also will be a free agent. At the same time, Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick said earlier in the week that the team could increase payroll from $90 million if the proper situation presents itself.
Gibson balked at the idea that Goldschmidt needs another bat simply for “protection,” noting that Goldschmidt currently leads the league in both homers and RBIs. Prado hit his 14th homer of the season after Goldschmidt singled in the fourth inning Thursday, and Prado has 18 RBIs in 104 at-bats in the No. 4 spot behind Goldschmidt this season, with almost all of those at-bats coming in the last five weeks.
“Martin Prado is a different hitter in the No. 4 spot than in the No. 2 spot,” Gibson said. “Is he a prototypical No. 4? I get where you are coming from there, but on this team, we made a decision that was the guy. He’s cleaned up a ton of RBIs for Goldy, and that’s after Goldy gets most of them anyway.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean Prado will stay there in 2014, of course.
Eaton and Pollock also could develop into double-digit home run hitters, Gibson said when asked about the need for power. Eaton has three homers in 238 at-bats this season after hitting nine at all levels last year. Pollock has eight in 431 at-bats.
“I think (Eaton) has the ability to hit more than 10 once he develops a little bit. Maybe even 15 to 20,” Gibson said. “I understand where you are coming when you profile corner guys. Don’t be so surprised.”