Orioles Preview - Page 60 - The D’backs

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The D’backs

Associated Press

 

The post-Goldschmidt era is about to begin in the desert.

 

For the first time in nine years, the Diamondbacks will open a season without Paul Goldschmidt at first base. The fan favorite and perennial MVP candidate was traded during the offseason, leaving a huge hole in the lineup.

 

The Diamondbacks insist they’re not in rebuilding mode, though. Not just yet.

 

With key players still on the roster and new players who should fill at least some of the void, the Diamondbacks are hoping to again compete for a playoff spot even with one of baseball’s best players having left.

 

“We have some new parts, and we know that,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “And as much as it hurt to let some of these guys go elsewhere, it’s the nature of the game. What it’ll mean is that we need to be a little bit better and a little bit sharper, and we love that challenge.”

 

The D’backs traded Goldschmidt to the Cardinals for catcher Carson Kelly, right-hander Luke Weaver, minor-league infielder Andy Young and a 2019 draft pick. Despite Goldschmidt being one of the most popular players in franchise history, the Diamondbacks made the deal for fear of losing the six-time All-Star to free agency without getting anything in return.

 

Goldschmidt wasn’t the only key player to leave. Outfielder A.J. Pollock signed with the Dodgers, and left-hander Patrick Corbin went to the Nationals. Right-hander Clay Buchholz, the team’s best pitcher the last half of the 2018 season, is now with the Blue Jays.

 

The Diamondbacks made a handful of moves during the offseason and in spring training to help fill some of those holes, adding infielder Wilmer Flores, outfielder Adam Jones and reliever Greg Holland — all veterans they hope can still be productive.

 

New faces: The Diamondbacks signed Flores after he spent the first six seasons of his career with the Mets, and they will use him primarily at second base. He hit .267 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs last season.

 

Jones signed a one-year, $3 million deal after spending his first 13 seasons with the Orioles. The five-time All-Star hit .281 with 15 homers and 63 RBIs in 2018. He’s expected to be the opening-day center fielder. Holland battled Archie Bradley to become the closer through spring training, but both struggled in Cactus League games.

 

Kelly gets his first shot at being a starting catcher after being stuck behind Yadier Molina, and Weaver is looking for a bounce back season.

 

Lamb’s switch: The Diamondbacks are hoping Jake Lamb can make a smooth transition across the diamond.

 

The former third baseman is switching positions to take Goldschmidt’s place at first base. Lamb worked out with Goldschmidt during the offseason to learn the position.

 

Lamb is a powerful hitter against right-handed pitching but struggles against lefties and is coming off shoulder surgery.

 

He hit 30 homers and had 105 RBIs his last full season in 2017.

 

Rookies to watch: The Diamondbacks once had one of the weakest farm systems in baseball, but it has vastly improved the last few years. Shortstop Jazz Chisholm and pitchers Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener are rated among the top 100 minor-league players in the game but will likely need more time in the minors before being ready for big-league action.

 

Photo: An uncertain year awaits the Diamondbacks after the loss of several big names.

 

CHRIS CARLSON/AP