PHOENIX (AP) — The post-Goldschmidt era is about to begin in the desert.
For the first time in nine years, the Arizona 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 Arizona’s 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 on a new team.
“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. Players are going to have to step up and the front office and myself are going to have to get a little sharper in every area. We like that type of challenge.”
Arizona traded Goldschmidt to St. Louis 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 Los Angeles Dodgers and left-hander Patrick Corbin went to Washington. Right-hander Clay Buchholz, Arizona’s best pitcher that last half of the 2018 season, is now in Toronto.
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 veteran players that they hope can still be productive.
A few more things to look for as the Diamondbacks enter the 2019 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 and was even using his glove during spring training.
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.
NEW FACES: The Diamondbacks signed Flores after he spent the first six seasons of his career with the New York Mets and will likely use him primarily at second base. He hit .267 with 11 homers and 51 RBIs last season while playing multiple infield positions.
Jones signed a one-year, $3 million contract in early March after spending his first 13 big league seasons with Baltimore. The five-time All-Star hit .281 with 15 homers and 63 RBIs last year. He’s expected to be Arizona’s opening day centerfielder.
Holland battled Archie Bradley to become Arizona’s 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 after struggling at times last season.
ROOKIES TO WATCH: Arizona once had one of the weakest farm systems in baseball, but has vastly improved it the past few years. Shortstop Jazz Chisolm and pitchers Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener are rated among the top 100 minor league players in the country, but will likely need more time in the minors before being ready for big league action.
ON DECK: The Diamondbacks open on the road against the Dodgers and play their first seven games away from Chase Field before their home opener against Boston on April 5.
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