Nearly a year to the day that the Arizona Diamondbacks traded away slugging outfielder Justin Upton, GM Kevin Towers has spent the first day of the Winter Meetings pursuing, you guessed it, an outfielder!
In 2013, Arizona actually got a fair amount of value out of their outfielders. Gerardo Parra posted a 4.6 fWAR season, A.J. Pollock checked in at 3.6 fWAR and Cody Ross even managed to be worth 1.8 fWAR despite only logging 351 plate appearances. The problem, at least in the eyes of Kevin Towers, is that almost all of the value his outfielders provided came from their defense. Parra and Pollock were both defensive wizards but they posted 95 and 98 wRC+, respectively. Ross was the best bat amongst the whole crop of outfielders, which also included Adam Eaton, Tony Campana and Jason Kubel, with a wRC+ of 102 and wOBA of .326. As valuable as all that defense might be, it wasn't good enough for Towers who wants to improve Arizona's offense, which was below average for the National League, ranking 10th in wRC+.
The desire to improve offensively is easy to understand, what is less clear is how Towers wants to go about doing it. The two players that have been the focus of his search thus far have been Shin-Soo Choo and Mark Trumbo. Both are quality players, but their skillsets couldn't be more different.
Choo is an on-base machine, posting a .423 OBP in 2013 and .389 for his career, but he boasts only average power with 21 homers and a .178 ISO in hitter friendly Cincinnati last season. Really, Choo is a darling of the statistical community due to his ability to get on base.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there is Mark Trumbo. Trumbo, who is actually more of a first baseman than outfielder, has made a career for himself almost entirely on the strength of his prolific power. He crushed 34 homers last season to go with a .219 ISO. With a shortage of right-handed power in this market, Trumbo is coveted by many. The problem with him though is that he is an out machine. Trumbo hit just .234 last season and paired that with a dreadful .294 OBP, which is actually a tick down from his career mark of .299. He also set a career-high with strikeouts at 184. The power of Trumbo sure is attractive, but that is really the only thing he brings to the table.
So what exactly is Arizona trying to do? They can boost their offense with a 31-year old who is one of the best in the league at avoiding outs and would bolster the top of their order or they can boost their offense with a soon-to-be 28-year old who makes a ton of outs but could crush 40 homers in Arizona. Just to complicate matters further, Choo is a left-handed bat who struggles with left-hand pitching (.612 OPS vs. LHP in 2013) and Trumbo is a right-handed bat who struggles with right-handed pitching (.685 OPS vs. RHP in 2013). If you were somehow able to merge the two, you'd have the perfect offensive player, but the Diamondbacks have to pick one (or start investing in fringe science experiments).
It is just confusing that Towers appears to be ambivalent about how he improves his offense. Value is value, but you'd think that the D'Backs would have some kind of preference for how they want to create runs. From a lineup balance perspective, there appears to be a greater need for power as Paul Goldschmidt was the only D-Back to hit more than 14 homers, so the desire to land Trumbo is pretty obvious. However, Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill were the only regulars to have OBPs higher than .333, which is why Choo makes so much sense.
Whatever Towers ends up doing, it figures to improve the lineup, but it is just so odd in this day and age to see a GM who is building his lineup according to two different schools of thought at the same time.