Inbox: Could D-backs still bring back Pollock?

Beat reporter Steve Gilbert answers fans' questions

January 12th, 2019

Why aren't the D-backs pursuing A.J. Pollock to re-sign? The majority of the fans in Arizona would love to see A.J. back in center field. It doesn't seem like they are even negotiating with him.
-- Ronald C., Surprise, Ariz.

Given the kind of contract that Pollock is expected to get in the free-agent market, he might end up being too pricey for the D-backs. Each time we talk to general manager Mike Hazen, though, he does say that the team is staying "engaged" with Pollock. What that likely means is that if Pollock doesn't get the deal he would like on the open market, the D-backs would look at signing him to a shorter-term deal. Again, given what Pollock brings to the table, and the lack of quality center fielders on the market, I think he will wind up with a long-term deal that is out of Arizona's price range.
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Will the D-backs try to sign a first, second or third baseman, center fielder or get a utility man?
-- Dustin V., Tucson

I think the D-backs' one remaining big move of the offseason -- outside of adding a bullpen piece or two -- will be to acquire a second baseman or a center fielder. It seems they are content to give a lot of reps over at first base with playing a bunch of third. That leaves them with two options: They can either acquire a center fielder to take the place of Pollock, or they could shift from second base to center and acquire a second baseman. If they go the free-agent route, there are more options at second base right now than there are in center. My guess is that if they look for a center fielder, it will have to be through a trade.
What does "be competitive" mean? Does that mean .500 club? Or does that mean a Wild Card? And is that really even achievable without big spending first? This is when smart teams rebuild.
-- Mike F., Lenoir, N.C.

The D-backs feel with the core of players that they still have, they can still contend for a postseason berth. Now, I understand your point about rebuilding, and they are also trying to do that by being aggressive in the international market, along with some of their intriguing pieces at the lower end of the Minors. They also have a ton of picks early in the upcoming MLB Draft, which will be huge for further restocking the system. I think if they get to the Trade Deadline this year and they're struggling, then you will see more of a full-scale rebuild where they would look to deal more of their veterans.
T.J. McFarland was maybe the most valuable pitcher the D-backs had last year. What do you see as his role for the D-backs this year?
-- Mike P., Chicago

He often gets overlooked, but you're right in saying that McFarland was one of their most valuable pitchers last year. His ability to give them multiple innings when needed, or come in and get out a left-handed hitter, or pitch in high-leverage situations gave them a lot of flexibility. I think you saw as the year went on that the D-backs used him less in a long role and instead in more important leverage situations. It would not surprise me -- depending on who they keep as a multiple-inning reliever this year -- if you see that continue in 2019.