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New York Post

Diamondbacks’ big Corbin Carroll extension telling of team’s ambition

By Joel Sherman,

2023-03-14

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How do you begin to navigate toward the top of the NL West when your team has finished fifth, fifth and fourth the past three seasons?

When the top of the division has the Dodgers, who have made the playoffs 10 straight seasons? And the Padres, who already have megadeals with Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. and would surprise no one if they have one with Juan Soto? And the Giants, who won 107 games in 2021 and chased Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa in the offseason and still — without signing either — became the third NL West club to push their payroll beyond $200 million for luxury tax purposes?

Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, who has overseen the team with the majors’ fourth-worst record combined the past three years, believes in climbing this mountain in the smallest increments. “We talk about winning the inch around here.”

Translation: capitalizing on the athletic composition of his roster and the fast track of the D’backs’ Chase Field home and fixating on items like playing harder and defending better and having everyone up and down the lineup able to execute, say, a bunt when called upon. So last November, when he would go onto a back diamond at the organization’s minor league facility at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz., Lovullo would be elated.

“I’d see him every day bunting with one of our minor league coaches,” Lovullo said of his rising young star, Corbin Carroll. “To me that spoke volumes about his willingness to improve and his trust in what we’re asking our players to do. Who wants to work on bunting? It’s like rebounding and [defensive] slides in basketball. Everyone wants to shoot threes and dunk. He was working on rebounding when nobody was watching and that’s discipline to me.”

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The Diamondbacks extended Corbin Carroll to a long-term deal over the weekend.
Getty Images

It symbolized so much about why the Diamondbacks, though Carroll had just 32 games of major league experience, signed the outfielder to an eight-year, $111 million deal over the weekend. A ninth-year option that, if triggered, would buy out three free-agent years for Carroll. If all escalators were met, the pact would be worth $154 million.

Carroll, 22, is generally viewed as the huge NL Rookie of the Year favorite off of his five-tool cameo last year that included MLB’s best sprint speed (30.7 feet per second). But when Diamondbacks officials rave about Carroll, they sound like their Yankee counterparts with Anthony Volpe (Carroll was the 16th overall pick in 2019, Volpe the 30th). Arizona executives love the tools, of course, but believe the work ethic, baseball passion and seriousness will enable the player to maximize the skills. When it comes to baserunning, for example, they say elite speed is enhanced by his attention to detail in cutting bases precisely. And, obviously, working on bunting also will mix well with the speed.

“I’m trying to be singularly focused on being a great baseball player, helping our team win and being a great teammate,” Carroll said last week before his contract was finalized. “It’s not always easy for me because I like feeling like the underdog and operating with a chip on my shoulder. I’m thankful that people are being nice to me right now and saying good things, but I want to make sure that is not where my confidence and drive come from.”

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Corbin Carroll is the overwhelming favorite to win Rookie of the Year.
Getty Images
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Corbin Carroll’s extension is telling for the Diamondbacks.
AP

What makes Carroll’s rise more interesting is that it feels like an Arizona tentpole — not dissimilar to when the Orioles summoned catcher Adley Rutschman last year to signal a spigot of young talent was now fully open. Defensively strong center fielder Alek Thomas already was up. Drey Jameson and Ryne Nelson joined a rotation that had ace Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. In the offseason, Arizona dealt Daulton Varsho (the Yankees were deep in those discussions, too) to Toronto for the righty power of Gabriel Moreno (one of the best catching prospects in the game) plus Lourdes Gurriel.

The six teams who made the NL playoffs (Braves, Mets, Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, Padres) are strongly favored to do so again. The D’backs are an intriguing wild card because even opponents note what a pain they were to play as last year transpired because of their athleticism on both sides of the ball. Nevertheless, they still may be a year away. Due to a poor bullpen, the Diamondbacks had the majors’ worst winning percentage (.615) when leading or tied heading to the sixth inning (the Dodgers’ .836 was the best).

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Corbin Carroll has impressed with his five tools.
USA TODAY Sports

Also, some of its better prospects are still not due until later this year (starter Brandon Pfaadt) or next year (shortstop Jordan Lawlar). But as opposed to, say, fellow NL West underdog Colorado, the D’backs have a blueprint to become more than just a pesky division rival.

“We see the landscape of the National League,” D’backs GM Mike Hazen said. “We know where the best teams stand on paper and where we stand on paper and the depth of the competition. I think the talent on this team, very much including Corbin, is better than it’s been the last couple of years. My goal for this team is that where we are standing in the middle of the season puts pressure on us in the front office to be buyers [at the trade deadline].”

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