PHOENIX -- The regular season came to a close Sunday, but that doesn’t mean the D-backs front office will be headed off on vacation.
It will be a busy offseason for Arizona, which, like all clubs, has decisions to make. Here’s a look at five of the top questions the D-backs will have to answer in the coming months:
1. Where will Ketel Marte play?
The D-backs acquired Marte as a shortstop from the Mariners before the 2017 season and asked him to move to second base in '18. Then last winter, when center fielder A.J. Pollock departed via free agency, Arizona decided to shift Marte there despite the fact that he had never played the position in the big leagues before.
The results were better than the D-backs could have imagined. Switching between center and second did nothing to hamper Marte at the plate, and his defense in center was well above average.
However, the amount of games Marte played -- and potentially the team’s new synthetic grass surface -- resulted in him being shut down in September because of a stress reaction in his back.
The team will determine how best to keep Marte healthy in 2020. Whether that means a return to the infield or simply playing fewer games remains to be seen. It’s an important decision, though, because if Arizona decides to move Marte back to second, then it will need to find a center fielder.
2. Who is going to play right field?
The D-backs have counted on Steven Souza Jr. to be their starting right fielder in each of the past two springs, only to have injuries cost him most of 2018 and all of 2019.
Souza is arbitration-eligible once again, and it will be interesting to see if the club decides to bring him back in 2020 or decides to go in a different direction.
Adam Jones got the bulk of the playing time in right in 2019, but it’s uncertain whether Arizona wants to bring the free agent back. It would seem if the club did decide to re-sign him that it would be in more of a limited role.
The D-backs also could look to bolster the position through a trade or free agency while some of the younger outfielders in the system continue to develop.
3. Can they extend Nick Ahmed?
Ahmed won the National League Rawlings Gold Glove at shortstop in 2018, and he is a top candidate to repeat in 2019 while continuing to improve at the plate.
Probably even more important is the leadership that Ahmed provides both on and off the field. He is in the middle of everything the D-backs do defensively on the field and a leader by example with the way he plays nearly every game.
For example, after the 19-inning contest against the Cardinals in the final week of the season, the D-backs had a day game the next day. Despite playing every inning the night before, Ahmed was in the starting lineup the next morning, even though Arizona had already been eliminated from postseason contention.
Ahmed is arbitration-eligible again this offseason and is set to be a free agent in 2021. It would not be surprising to see the D-backs try to work out a contract extension with him this offseason, but he is not likely to settle for less than he is worth.
4. What do they do with Robbie Ray?
Last offseason, the D-backs decided to trade Paul Goldschmidt, who had one year left on his contract before becoming a free agent, to the Cardinals with the belief that they might not be able to re-sign him. In return, the team got Major League-ready players in right-hander Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly, along with promising Minor League infielder Andy Young and a competitive balance round Draft pick.
With Ray set to become a free agent following next season, might Arizona try and do the same thing with him? The team did entertain offers for the left-hander prior to the Trade Deadline, but its ask in return was said to be very high.
The D-backs have some depth in their rotation. They’ll have to decide whether it makes sense to trade the de facto ace on the staff before a season in which contending for a playoff spot is the goal.
5. What happens to Jake Lamb?
The big story heading into Spring Training was about the transition from third base to first base for Lamb.
Lamb's 2018 season was hampered by a shoulder injury that caused him to miss time and lingered throughout the year, causing him to never truly get comfortable at the plate and finally be shut down.
This year, a quad injury suffered April 3 kept Lamb out until June 26. Then he struggled to get on track offensively, having lost his job at first to Christian Walker.
Toward the end of the season, Lamb started to look much better at the plate, but he’s eligible for arbitration this year -- and set for free agency after next season. With Walker back at first and Eduardo Escobar on hand to play third, it’s a question whether the D-backs will tender Lamb a contract.
If they don’t, Escobar could play third and Josh Rojas or Young could get time at second, if Marte isn’t moved back there from center.