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Know your enemy: Arizona Diamondbacks

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The D-backs looked headed to the postseason last year, then collapsed.

The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

In case you were wondering, I changed up the alphabetical-order-by-city routine I usually use for these in order to run this one on a day the Cubs were actually playing the team in question. The Cubs meet the D-backs this afternoon — second time they’ve played them this week.

Most people focusing on the Diamondbacks this spring are noting their trade of Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals and the narrative is, “Face of the franchise gone, this team is in decline.”

That might not actually be the case. Sure, the D-backs went from a playoff year in 2017 to an 8-19 September collapse in 2018 to this deal, but they still have a lot of very good players.

A.J. Pollock is also subtracted; he departed as a free agent and is now a Dodger.

Jake Lamb moves to first base to take over from Goldschmidt. It was an injury to Lamb last year that pushed Arizona to trade for Eduardo Escobar, who they retained with a three-year deal. Escobar had the best year of his career in 2018 (.272/.334/.489, 48 doubles, 23 HR, 3.2 bWAR combined between the Twins and D-backs) and while the Lamb/Escobar combination isn’t quite as good as Lamb/Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks will still have a pretty good offense. They will be hoping to get better production from the catching position, where Alex Avila and Jeff Mathis were awful in 2018.

Part of that might be Carson Kelly, one of the players who came over in the Goldschmidt deal. He was a top Cardinals prospect and was a decent hitter in the minor leagues, though that did not translate in his brief callups in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, the D-backs also lost one of their better pitchers to free agency, with Patrick Corbin now a National. Luke Weaver, another top Cardinals prospect who came over in the Goldschmidt trade, will take his place. Again, Weaver is someone whose major-league numbers have not yet tracked his minor-league progress, but at 25 the D-backs hope he will break out.

And Zack Greinke showed up late to D-backs camp. Why?

He’s not entirely wrong, but that’s not really the kind of thing you’d want to hear from your top starter. On the other hand, Greinke has always been kind of a free spirit. He’s been very good the last two years, and has three years left on his deal. He will be one of the highest-paid players in baseball this year, scheduled to make $34 million.

Archie Bradley, once a top starting prospect for Arizona, will finally get his chance to be their closer full-time, with Brad Boxberger another D-back gone to free agency. If he falters, the D-backs signed Greg Holland, who was outstanding over the season’s last two months for the Nationals after an awful start in St. Louis.

The Diamondbacks aren’t on top of anyone’s contender list this year, but they could be sneaky good.

The Cubs will play their entire season series against Arizona within a 10-day period in late April. The D-backs will be at Wrigley Field April 19-20-21 and the Cubs travel to Chase Field a week later, April 26-27-28.