PHOENIX -- The D-backs made their first move of the offseason Monday by signing Eduardo Escobar to a three-year contract worth $21 million.
The deal puts a quality player under contract for a reasonable price. What it does not do, however, is answer the question of whether the D-backs plan on competing in 2019 or if they instead will trade some of their veterans and retool.
"I would ask and caution not to read into either side of those things, as much as I know fans are definitely going to want to do that," D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said. "We totally understand. It's a long process for the offseason. We still have some holes to fill, especially the pitching side of things and there's going to be a lot of work left. This is a great first step for us but that's what it is."
Escobar, 29, was acquired by the D-backs from the Twins prior to last July's non-waiver Trade Deadline, and he filled in for the injured Jake Lamb at third, hitting .268/.327/.444 in 54 games.
Lamb, who underwent surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, is expected to be healthy when Spring Training opens, but Escobar can play multiple positions, having seen time at third, short, second and all three outfield positions during his career. That versatility gives the D-backs a lot of flexibility, both on the field next year as well as with what they want to do this offseason.
Should the D-backs choose to deal first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who will be a free agent after the 2019 season, Lamb could slide over to first base.
If the D-backs were to trade shortstop Nick Ahmed, then second baseman Ketel Marte could move to short and Escobar could play second.
Or if none of those things happen, Escobar could be a super-utility-type player bouncing around multiple positions.
"We foresee him being in the lineup every day," Hazen said. "What that ultimately looks like, we're not ready to talk through that just yet, but we foresee him being in the lineup every day. How this is going to ultimately look at the end of the offseason, that's obviously still to be determined, but we feel like there are at-bats and opportunities for playing time, even as currently constructed."
Hazen met this month with managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall to discuss the team's direction, and all parties agreed that Hazen and his staff would get a feel for the trade and free-agent markets before deciding.
After a couple of weeks, Hazen has begun to get a sense of the trade market, but the talks will become more real when it gets closer to next month's General Managers Meetings.
"We're getting some idea," Hazen said. "We've probably covered a majority of the league at this point. It's still very early in the process in terms of feeling out what other teams are looking to do, teams are in the same boat as we are as they look to assess what they may look to do come the offseason time."