When you’re a good-but-not-great team, there aren’t a whole lot of weaknesses. As an entirely average club lately, the Diamondbacks don’t have many (if any) problem positions. They have solid players across the diamond, a rising star in Paul Goldschmidt and have the depth to cover a few injuries.
There isn’t a lot to be worried about here. Of course, there isn’t a lot to dream on, either — the Diamondbacks are pretty much what they are: an average-to-slightly-above-average team without much of a high ceiling.
Other than Goldschmidt, Arizona has a lot of good pieces that are nice to have around, but are guys you wouldn’t necessarily build around. But that’s what they’re doing, and after a couple of years of signing guys like Martin Prado to extensions, they’ve pretty much locked themselves into being a solid-yet-unspectacular team. Prado’s a fine player. He’s also the third- or fourth-best third baseman in the NL West.
That’s not to say they’ve avoided trying to land star players. They kicked the tires on the Jeff Samardzija trade market, chased Shin-Soo Choo, and were one of the finalists for Masahiro Tanaka. They wound up with Bronson Arroyo. They’ve made runs at these bigger names, but Kevin Towers has always given the impression that the guys he has now are His Guys and he’s perfectly content going into the season with them.
The problem is that His Guys aren’t allowing for much of a high ceiling. That’s fine if you think a team should be competitive year after year, trying to break .500 at all costs. But this isn’t likely a group that’s going to break through and win the World Series. They’re going to win 80-85 games again this year, with no real hope of doing much better without a pretty significant amount of luck.
If not having much of a high ceiling is weakness number one, management may be weakness number two. You can still surprise with average talent if you have a manager that can figure out how to maximize everyone’s strengths and put the team in the best position to succeed. There’s some doubts about Kirk Gibson’s ability to do that.
Towers has spent the past couple years shipping off more talented or higher-potential players in exchange for guys who do things like “play the right way,” “respect the game” and show “fire.” Gibson’s his manager because he also prefers to play guys who show those traits. Sometimes it leads to curious decisions. There’s also the issue of managing a bullpen which lost the most leads in baseball last season. For a team that needs everything to go right in order to have a chance, having a guy calling the shots who’s made questionable decisions in the past and owns a career record just over .500 despite having a 94-win season to his name isn’t all that inspiring.
So, no, when you think about it, the Diamondbacks don’t have very many glaring weaknesses. But the big issue is that they don’t have a bunch of positives, either. They’re just sort of “there” in both the NL West and NL Wildcard races, without a lot of hope of doing something bigger this season without a significant midseason move.