Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed has battled right shoulder issues for almost two years, and will now consult with Dr. Neal ElAttrache after continued discomfort in Ahmed’s shoulder led to a shutdown in his rehab process. Ahmed has already been out of action on the COVID-related injury list, but as D’Backs manager Torey Lovullo told The Arizona Republic’s Jose M. Romero and other reporters on Friday, Ahmed’s shoulder was still giving him problems during a recent rehab game.
Noting that Ahmed bounced more than one throw to first base during the game, Lovullo said it “felt like he was trying to gut things out and the shoulder just was not responding. It was just a little too much for him to handle, the workload.”
A visit to Dr. ElAttrache doesn’t always equal surgery, yet such a decision might be necessary given that Ahmed’s other treatment methods (including two cortisone shots during the offseason) apparently haven’t worked. The injury has also intermittently lingered for close to two years, though Ahmed didn’t actually go on the IL due to the shoulder problem until late last September.
Never known as a big offensive threat, Ahmed’s .235/.293/.365 slash line over 744 plate appearances since the start of the 2020 season isn’t far off his overall career numbers. However, Ahmed’s defensive decline is perhaps the greater sign that something is amiss, as Ahmed has +5 Defensive Runs Saved and 0.5 UZR/150 over that same three-season stretch. While many shortstops would be quite pleased with these numbers, they represent a step back from Ahmed’s superb glovework from 2015-19 (73 DRS, 4.7 UZR/150), a stretch that saw him win Gold Gloves in both 2018 and 2019.
With only 17 games played in 2022, Ahmed’s season could quite possibly be over, if surgery is needed to finally correct his ailing shoulder. Even in a best-case scenario, it seems like Ahmed will still miss quite a bit more time before he is healthy enough to get back onto the field. Until Ahmed returns, Geraldo Perdomo will presumably continue to get most of the reps at shortstop, with Jake Hager also getting the occasional playing time.
Looking at the longer-term picture, Ahmed is in the third season of a four-year, $32.5MM contract extension signed prior to the 2020 campaign. The extension seemed like a solid investment for the D’Backs at the time, given Ahmed’s defensive excellence and the fact that he was coming off one of his better offensive seasons (a 19-homer, 254/.316/.437 campaign in 2019). While Ahmed still contributed 2.9 total fWAR over the 2020-21 seasons, his injury problems mean that the contract could be chalked up as another of many moves that simply haven’t worked out during two rough seasons for Arizona.
Ahmed is owed roughly $4.9MM for the rest of this season and then $10MM in 2023. That’s a notable price tag for a player who will be 33 on Opening Day and possibly coming off a lost season, yet Ahmed’s struggles also mean that the Diamondbacks wouldn’t have much luck in trading Ahmed unless they eat much of that salary or swap Ahmed for another player on an undesirable contract. The likeliest scenario is that the D’Backs just hang onto Ahmed as the bridge to top prospect Jordan Lawlar, who is shredding A-ball pitching but doesn’t turn 20 until July.