Diamondbacks Select Jarrod Dyson from Value Menu

Dyson was part of a formidable defensive outfield during Kansas City’s World Series appearances.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

While the J.D. Martinez signing was certainly baseball’s headline news item from Monday, the announcement of Jarrod Dyson’s two-year deal with the Diamondbacks represents an intriguing undercard.

Dyson is a versatile piece for Arizona. He’ll be able to spell A.J. Pollock in center field while also possibly playing a platoon role with the right-handed and defensively challenged Yasmany Tomas in left.

Left field projects to be the Diamondbacks’ weakest position, and Dyson’s glove-first game should play up in a Chase Field that is expected to better suppress run scoring with the news that it is adding a humidor to reduce the impact of baseballs batted into the desert air.

That should, theoretically, lead to a greater quantity of catchable balls. In this regard, Dyson is quite valuable. He ranks seventh in DRS among center fielders since 2014 and eighth in UZR/150. While known for his glove and speed, he’s shown enough bat to be a regular in the lineup, as well — or, at least enough to serve as a platoon bat against right-handed pitching.

Dyson slashed a modest .251/.324/.350 with an 85 wRC+ overall last season but posted a .271/.342/.388 slash line and 100 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. It was enough for a 2.1 WAR campaign over 390 plate appearances in his age-32 season. In 2016 for the Royals, he slashed .278/.340/.388 with a 95 wRC+ en route to a career-best 3.1-win season. Long relegated to reserve status, he’s proven worthy of more playing time in recent years. For his career, Dyson owns a .267/.331/.372 and 93 wRC+ versus righties (52 wRC+ vs. lefties).

At the reported two years and $7.5 million, the deal has a chance to produce significant value for Arizona. Depth Charts projections have Dyson producing a 1.7-win season over 455 plate appearances.

The FanGraphs’ crowdsource effort predicted a two-year, $16-million contract and Dave Cameron predicted a two-year, $22-million pact. Cameron ranked Dyson among his top bargains entering the offseason.

At this modest price — and for a club that will benefit from greater outfield defense in a home environment that should better suppress runs — it’s going to be hard for Arizona to lose on this deal. And if they can gain a win or two out of it, it could be crucial for a club that might find itself in a tight Wild Card race. FanGraphs projects the Diamondbacks to finish roughly .500 this coming season as presently constituted. The addition of Dyson should bump up that figure slightly.

Still, a deal for an aging speed-dependent player is not without risk.

Entering his age-33 season, it’s fair to wonder if the speed-dependent player Dyson could fall into a steep decline. Dyson did have season-ending sports hernia surgery last September and missed a significant portion of the season on the disabled list.

Will injuries mount?

Will he keep his speed?

His sprint speed of 28.8 feet per second ranked 30th overall in the game last season, according to Baseball Savant. He was amongst the fleetest players in the game, but it was a decline from his 29.6 feet/second speed of 2016, which ranked fourth in the majors — and from 2015, too, when he ranked No. 1 (30.0 feet/second) in the first year of Statcast-player tracking.

Dyson’s game is built on speed and defense, so the Diamondbacks will have to hope he retains most of those gifts over the next two seasons. The deal is not without risk, but it has a chance to be one of the better value signings of the offseason. While some in Diamondbacks Nation were hoping for a reunion with Martinez, a player who became one of the better trade-deadline acquisitions of the 21st century, Dyson carries far less long-term risk and still offers short-term potential. The club might have also some value-priced run production in catcher and Statcast darling Alex Avila.

Dyson and Avila are not stars, but they are the types of assets that can supply sneaky value around a core that led the team to the postseason a season ago. This isn’t a headline-grabbing move, but it could help the club back to the postseason. Perhaps it’s not enough, but it’s something.

A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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4 years ago

He is both the anti-Yasmani Tomas and the point man for a humidor-inspired roster makeover.

At first glance one has to wonder why the Giants did not sign him for this amount instead of Austin Jackson, but maybe Dyson changed his asking price since then.