This winter’s free-agent shortstop market has long-promised to shake up the league, and it’s lived as much as its billing so far. However we’re solely half method via the transfiguration. The Rangers signed two of the highest shortstops accessible, including a wrinkle that the opposite 29 golf equipment have but to iron out. If nothing else, two important dominoes — Carlos Correa and Trevor Story — have but to fall, so there are much more twists-and-turns when the lockout ends.
For these groups not keen to plunk down six figures for a long-term answer like Correa or Story, nonetheless, it will be value giving Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen a name to see concerning the availability of veteran Nick Ahmed. Ahmed struggled mightily on the plate in 2021, slashing simply .221/.280/.339 over 473 plate appearances, however that’s by no means been his calling card.
If nothing else, he’s reasonably priced. He’s coming into his age-32 season with two years and $18.25M left on his deal. The contract is reasonably priced, but it surely is also a possible impediment. The cash owed is substantial sufficient that groups might doubt whether or not he affords sufficient of an improve over whomever they’ve in-house. Any rookie shortstop will provide higher worth potential due to a rookie-minimum contract. Apart from, it’s simple to dream on the untapped potential of a younger participant you haven’t but seen fail on the main league degree.
There’s nonetheless, nonetheless, the query of whether or not the Diamondbacks can be keen to promote a participant who has come into his personal with their franchise, changing into a fan favourite within the course of. However after a disastrous 110-loss season, it’s onerous to contemplate the Diamondbacks as something however sellers.
They’ve completed final within the NL West for consecutive seasons and made the playoffs solely as soon as up to now decade. What’s extra, they’re staring down what is perhaps probably the most aggressive division in baseball because the Dodgers, Giants and Padres are every in pedal-to-the-metal, World Collection-hopeful mode.
As groups look to improve their rosters, there are solely so many rosters to scour. This time of yr, perception is rampant, so discovering a commerce associate requires both an aligning of group wants, a group trying to reduce payroll, or as within the Diamondbacks case, a group in rebuilding mode with an outdoor shot at rivalry subsequent season. Whether or not the Diamondbacks see themselves in that gentle is unclear, on condition that they’re simply two offseasons faraway from signing Madison Bumgarner to a five-year, $85M deal.
Even this winter, they made a win-now-ish transfer by signing veteran nearer Mark Melancon to a two-year, $14M deal. In fact, there are ranges of rebuilding, and the Diamondbacks need to subject a full roster similar to every other group. Signing Melancon might simply as simply be the acquisition of a future commerce piece as it’s a signal that the entrance workplace thinks they’ll win the NL West this season. Groups across the league have positively known as to inquire concerning the availability of Ketel Marte, however they’ve so far been rebuffed — one other signal that Arizona is perhaps leaning towards a mushy bid for a wild card spot.
Ahmed, nonetheless, has by no means been a high-impact participant, and the Diamondbacks can virtually definitely discover one other answer, ought to they resolve to maneuver him. He’s by no means posted larger than a 96 wRC+, and his profession mark sits at 74 wRC+. His 2.3 fWAR season in 2019 is the one time he’s topped 2.o fWAR over a full season (though he was on tempo to surpass that mark in 2020, had there been a full season).
Frankly, Ahmed is fairly near being a prototypical second-division starter, and that’s not the kind of man groups actually look to commerce for within the offseason. What makes Ahmed interesting, nonetheless, is that he does have an elite ability: protection. Sure groups have grown adept at maximizing flawed gamers with elite expertise, and there’s no cause to assume that the suitable group couldn’t maximize Ahmed’s abilities in a similar way.
Backside line: Ahmed is a veteran who ought to in all probability transition to a part-time function, however that is perhaps one thing he’s keen to do if he’s on a contender. The Diamondbacks don’t want a win-now veteran like Ahmed, and they need to in all probability be utilizing that spot to audition younger gamers who’ve an opportunity to stay long-term. That’s the calculus for a commerce.
So who is perhaps serious about Ahmed? The correct group can be a aggressive membership trying to make the playoffs who has an answer up the center, however not a surefire All-Star in that spot. Ahmed can be an ideal third center infielder to go with a lefty bat or a bat-first possibility up the center. Some choices:
The Astros might use Ahmed to ease Jeremy Pena into common taking part in time. He would primarily be the glove-first model of Aledmys Diaz. They in all probability have sufficient pop to slip one other glove-first physique into the underside of the lineup, however this in all probability works solely if certainly one of their younger centerfielders proves a real offensive weapon, as they’re already giving one lineup spot to a glove-only vet in Martin Maldonado.
The Cubs would possibly take a flyer on Ahmed to bolster the younger and injury-prone up-the-middle duo of Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal. Each younger infielders are pure second baseman, and each are coming off injury-ravaged seasons. Ahmed would discover taking part in time as Hoerner will get moved across the diamond, and he might function insurance coverage ought to one of many pair find yourself again within the coach’s room.
If the Yankees don’t pony up for one of many high free brokers, Ahmed would properly shield the offensive asset that’s Gleyber Torres by permitting their younger slugger to principally keep on the keystone. The plan to transform 30-year-old Gio Urshela to a full-time shortstop has some legs after a 24-start tryout in 2021 (-1 DRS, -0.2 UZR), however it will be rather a lot to count on him to deal with the total load. Ahmed would immediately develop into the most effective defender in an offensively potent Yankee infield, and so they might discover methods to maximise his glove work and decrease journeys to the dish.
The Phillies actually need extra offense, however as long as Didi Gregorius is their beginning shortstop, there can be a spot for Ahmed. After a 68 wRC+ season from Gregorius, the Phils would possibly simply as quickly enhance their infield protection — which additionally wants work.
Given the celebrities which have been on the free-agent market this winter, and the celebrities who is perhaps available on the market subsequent yr (Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts), Ahmed represents a decidedly milquetoast answer to a premier place. However he’s not an answer on his personal. He’s a succesful veteran who can completely assist defensively if match right into a bench function on the suitable membership. There’s a group on the market that may use Ahmed to assist them win video games and attain the postseason. Sadly, the Diamondbacks in all probability aren’t that group.