Clary: With Greinke Addition, Diamondbacks Primed for Breakout Season in 2016

Clary: With Greinke Addition, Diamondbacks Primed for Breakout Season in 2016

Aggressive offseason has Arizona looking like a legitimate sleeper pick to make the playoffs next season.

heath-clary
Heath Clary

Every year around this time, when the Hot Stove is at its hottest, there are always a few teams who have the look of a potential sleeper team heading into the new season.

Even before Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported that the Arizona Diamondbacks had shocked the baseball world by signing prized pitcher Zack Greinke to a record-breaking contract, Arizona already had that look.

After finishing 2014 in last place in the National League West with a paltry 64 wins, the D-Backs put together an impressive campaign last year. They finished in third place in the division with 79 wins - only five games behind the Giants for second - and showed signs of brilliance, especially on offense.

Only the Coors Field-aided Rockies scored more runs than the Diamondbacks last year among NL clubs, but the pitching ranked in the second half of the league in ERA and was not good enough to make them legitimate playoff contenders.

The signing of Greinke proved that Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa and his front office are serious about building a competitive team, and the fact that the organization already has a solid core of young talent gives the Snakes even more potential.

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Paul Goldschmidt has already established himself as one of the elite all-around players in Major League Baseball, and A.J. Pollock put together an incredible 2015 campaign - .315 batting average, 65 extra-base hits and 39 stolen bases - that only adds excitement for the D-Backs' future.

Both of those hitters are tremendous players who are still young at 28 years of age, but they are by no means alone.

David Peralta (28) and Ender Inciarte (25) each had nice seasons at the plate, Wellington Castillo (28) hit 17 home runs at catcher and Cuban rookie Yasmany Tomas (25) showed signs of promise as well.

Simply put, the lineup is young, stocked and ready to roll for 2016. The pitching, on the other hand, was not near as effective last season, which is likely why the Arizona front office has been ultra-aggressive on that front so far this offseason.

The Greinke signing got the ball rolling in a big way - he will make more money per season ($34.4 million) than any pitcher in MLB history - but that might have just been the beginning.

At 7:30 Tuesday night, the D-Backs made a high-impact trade, acquiring starting pitcher Shelby Miller from the Atlanta Braves. According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, the Braves will receive Inciarte, prospect Aaron Blair and 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson in exchange for Miller and possibly another prospect.

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Shelby Miller adds a dynamic arm to the front of the Arizona starting rotation. 

In two moves, the D-Backs garnered an ace pitcher and a solid No. 2 to go along with consistent starter Patrick Corbin. However, they might not be done yet regarding pitching.

Pedro Gomez of ESPN.com tweeted on Tuesday that the D-Backs were "pretty close" to signing Mike Leake, who went 11-10 with a 3.70 ERA and nearly 200 innings pitched. They have also shown significant interest in Kenta Maeda, the highly-touted pitcher from Japan.

Now, both of those reports were made before the Miller trade was announced, so they may halt pursuit of those two arms, but who knows?

Either way, this Arizona team can compete in the NL West. Some might try to label them as this year's San Diego Padres - who made a multitude of trades in the offseason and proceeded to finish in last place - but aggressiveness is really the only similarity between the two.

The Padres did not have near the pitching depth that the Diamondbacks do, nor did San Diego have two young, elite position players like Goldschmidt and Pollock.

La Russa and Co. know that they don't have too big of a window before those two are arbitration and free agent eligible - each is going to command a huge contract. They were very aggressive from the onset - Johnny Cueto reportedly declined a six-year, $120 million offer from the D-Backs last week - and now they have a legitimate shot at contending in 2016.

Championships are not won in the offseason, though, they are won on the field. It will be interesting to see how this D-Backs team performs as a team, but one thing is for sure: the front office has assembled a talented team that has the makings of a contender.

Now they just have to produce on the field.

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