Fans and GM Kevin Towers seem to agree: the real area of need for the Diamondbacks is on the defensive side of the ball. Although the team is only 5th in scoring in the league, there are no obvious places for improvement in the lineup. In the infield, the team has an MVP candidate at first, an above-average second baseman, its shortstop of the future, and a third baseman to whom the team has committed years and dollars. Catcher Miguel Montero is certainly no worse than what would be available on the market, and the Dbacks are currently rostering five outfielders that could be worthy of starting roles.
But if the obvious target for upgrades is the team’s pitching, Towers is unlikely to go outside the organization for a starter. The rotation has reinforcements on the way in the form of Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy. Even if only one of Cahill and McCarthy avoid an injury setback, Towers’ review of the trade market for starting pitching needs to begin with the question of whether what’s available is better than either of those two. Both Cahill and McCarthy have been steady in the past, even if McCarthy has had numerous health question marks before. The Dbacks had a scout to watch the White Sox – Braves game on Saturday, in which Jake Peavy looked strong, but according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX, the Dbacks were not there to scout Peavy. The former Padres standout is probably the only starting pitcher on the trade market to represent an upgrade for the Dbacks, as the Matt Garza price is reportedly too high for Towers to stomach, and scouts now see the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo as a 4-5 starter type. Even the Astros’ Bud Norris might not represent an upgrade for the Dbacks right now.
Although Ian Kennedy has really struggled this season, he will be given every opportunity to straighten out, especially when there’s no reason to believe that he’d be better in relief. And while Wade Miley’s statistics in his sophomore season look middling, most of the damage was done in his 7.34 ERA May; since June 1, Miley’s ERA stands at 2.89.
One game is unlikely to alter a GM’s thinking significantly, but Randall Delgado’s stalwart appearance in San Francisco yesterday is another reason why Towers is unlikely to make a move for a starting pitcher. Although Delgado came just short of a quality start by being yanked during the sixth, he has been a quality start machine of late. Delgado’s main problem in the past has been control, and while he had a season-high four walks yesterday, his command has generally been good in the last two months. Since his two-inning appearance in relief of Trevor Cahill on June 3, Delgado has logged 42.2 innings in seven starts, with 15 earned runs, 9 walks, 51 hits and 32 strikeouts. Those ratios (3.16 ERA, 1.9BB/9IP, 10.75H/9IP, 6.75K/9IP, 3.56K/BB) are above-average across the board, and there’s little reason to deal prospects to replace him.
The team’s fifth rotation slot is manned, at least in the short term, by Tyler Skaggs. As has been noted elsewhere, Skaggs has not had the velocity of late that he had earlier this season. With the ticks off the fastball, it remains to be seen whether he will be the pitcher who dominated the Rockies on July 5 (8 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K) or the pitcher who nibbled and got knocked around by the Dodgers on July 10 (4.1 IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 3 K). Skaggs is scheduled to pitch tonight against the Cubs after a turn in Single A (to stay on a regular schedule). It may be that Skaggs is pitching for a rotation spot tonight.
Regardless of whether Towers is testing the starting pitching market — and we don’t know who might be available, beyond Garza, Peavy and Gallardo — he is unlikely to trade Skaggs or Delgado to get that done. Former top prospect Delgado is cheap insurance right now, and dealing him for a starter is unlikely to be an upgrade, even if he shows signs of slipping control again. And Skaggs will almost definitely not be traded for a starter because if he’s pitching well, there’s no need to trade for a starter, and if he’s not pitching well, Towers will not be able to get 100 cents on the dollar for him.
The rehabs of Cahill and McCarthy give Towers the luxury of waiting to see how the rotation fares in the coming weeks. McCarthy is the first due back; although he was shelled with Reno yesterday and he needs at least one more rehab start, he could be ready by the end of July. According to Kirk Gibson in a comment Saturday, Cahill is “way behind” McCarthy, but Cahill could be back before late August, according Towers an option at a later time.
Delgado and Kennedy probably have more leash than Skaggs. If Skaggs is struggling when McCarthy is ready, McCarthy would probably just slot in for Skaggs. If Skaggs is dealing, Towers could try a temporary six-man rotation to see who falters (the team is looking to limit Corbin’s innings anyway). If no one does falter, the team could more McCarthy to fill a need in the bullpen, where he has experience and his stuff may play better.
With Corbin and Miley locking down two rotation spots, it seems likely that a combination of Kennedy, Delgado, Skaggs, McCarthy and Cahill can man the other three, making an acquisition from outside the organization or a promotion of Archie Bradley very unlikely. Just like us, all Towers can really do is wait to see how this plays out.
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