The D-backs floated back up to 28th in ESPN’s Power Rankings this week, but as noted there, the team is still in free fall. The team scratched out a win against the Dodgers on Friday in what was a great game to watch, but still lost that series after getting swept by the Mets. Something about the sweep by New York uncorked a torrent of bad press for the D-backs on many national sites, but no one covered the situation better than Jeff Wiser. For the record, I agree with Jeff’s take, and Jonah Keri’s insight, as well. With those pieces explaining how we got here, let’s focus on where the team is headed this season.
How many games did you think, prior to the season’s start, that the D-backs would win this year? I think many fans were thinking 85 wins or so, with others in the industry around 80 wins. Let’s say that this putrid stretch told us nothing about the true talent level of the team. They still have to carry around their record to date, and 5-16 creates a tough hill to climb. Even if they are an 85-win caliber team, with 141 games left, that has them winning 74 games for the rest of the season. 74 plus 5 is not in the playoff conversation, although it would mean that the rest of the season could become a lot more fun to watch.
Meanwhile, the slight re-engineering of the starting rotation has had mixed results. I thought the Josh Collmenter / Michael Bolsinger tag team worked well last Monday, despite the outcome of the game, I’d like to see Collmenter continue to have a handcuff. Yesterday, Collmenter was cruising at the end of five innings, and the safe play was to let him to continue to pitch. But players catch up to Collmenter’s deception game, predictably, and if he’s left in until he fails for all of his turns in the rotation, he’ll fail at the end of each of his turns in the rotation. The best usage for Collmenter is three innings at a time. But starting him once per five games is also great, so long as he gets a quick hook, and so long as a pitcher like Mike Bolsinger or Randall Delgado is at the ready.
The same could be said for Bolsinger, of course. At the very least, why not stagger the Collmenter and Bolsinger starts a little bit, and reserve Delgado for just those days? Is there a reason not to do that? Toss in the fact that Bolsinger and Collmenter could both be available for short relief appearances on what would be their side session days. I think Collmenter would be game for that kind of arrangement. If the D-backs are just trying things to see if they stick, that kind of start-splitting arrangement should be on the list.
Of course, there’s one other move to be made to bolster the starting rotation. I’ve changed my mind about the timing of Archie Bradley‘s inevitable call up just within the last two weeks, and I’d like to explain why. In short, it’s because that for the organization to accomplish what it’s apparently trying to accomplish, all factors weigh in favor of a call up, not against one.
The first reason is that there isn’t much to lose. By my count, the D-backs have 23 days in the books of a 184-day season. 172 days constitutes a full year for service time. Bradley will now be under team control through at least the 2020 season. Mission accomplished. Would it be nice to avoid Super Two status, which would inflate Bradley’s salary not just in 2017, but the subsequent years, also? Absolutely. But let’s not forget: he’d also pitch in the majors for an extra two months, and that’s worth something.
The second reason is that the D-backs already made their bed for this year, sacrificing the future potential of assets like Matt Davidson, Adam Eaton, and Tyler Skaggs for what they perceived to be marginal upgrades in the nearer term. Forget for a second that those moves may not have actually accomplished that; it matters that that’s what they were trying to do, in part for increased ticket sales and ratings to be used as a platform for their next TV deal. Great. But after all that, the risk of paying Bradley a bit extra down the road is an impediment to his call up? Give me a break. If Bradley manages to increase ratings at all this year, he’ll have paid for his increase in salary by affecting the TV deal. Yes, the D-backs will pay Bradley more overall by bringing him up right now. But they’ll make more money by bringing him up right now, so money shouldn’t be a reason to keep him down.
The third reason is that the stated position of Kevin Towers – that he doesn’t want to put extra pressure on Bradley at such a terrible time for the team – makes no sense whatsoever. If he can’t handle extra pressure, that’s going to bite the team at some point anyway. And if the fear is that he’ll be perceived as a savior, why not just tell everyone loud and clear that he’s not supposed to be a savior? Delaying Bradley’s start in the majors for this reason actually creates the problem it’s supposedly trying to stop. If Bradley’s call up is delayed until he’s “ready,” he’s going to be under immense pressure to perform immediately, and well.
You may say that Bradley still has command issues to iron out. Fine. But do pitchers ever truly iron out command issues? Can that be done in the majors, while probably performing better than Mike Bolsinger? Let Bradley figure out what major league players are going to chase and what they won’t.
- At FanGraphs, Paul Swydan has a plan for the D-backs to reload. I agree with most of this, although the only way to think Aaron Hill is just a 2-win player is to not watch him play. Yes, he missed half the season last year. But since coming to the D-backs, he’s done nothing but rake when he’s playing. That might help get some talent back for him in a trade, setting up a Gregorius-Owings middle infield. But considering Hill has only had two speeds for the last several years — either great or merely decent — wouldn’t you be cautious if you were a team considering a trade for Hill? I agree with a Bradley call up, for the reasons stated above. I agree with trading Ross, since the team already has three other outfielders that probably aren’t going anywhere, but I can’t see a team trading for him right now, without much more of a track record. Ross is not a high reward player, and if MLB clubs are categorically allergic to anything, it’s high risk, low reward gambles. Unless you’re Towers, maybe. Trading J.J. Putz and Bronson Arroyo should be no brainers. I also agree that Trevor Cahill could probably be moved; the D-backs have demonstrated an inability to fix pitchers that other teams have been able to fix, and Cahill is a good gamble on what is now a short-term deal. I can’t see the team getting full value for Brad Ziegler, but otherwise I think Swydan’s plan is sound. I just can’t see the D-backs organization doing an about face right now. It’d be an admission of guilt that they made absolutely the wrong decisions just this last offseason.
- Also at FanGraphs, Eno Sarris finally explains Brandon McCarthy‘s recent velocity surge: he’s bulked up, for stamina reasons. McCarthy has looked so much better than his results would indicate, and one wonders if there’s a team out there who might agree with me that McCarthy can be an excellent #4 starter right now.
- ESPN’s Jim Bowden also took a turn at explaining how he’d fix the Diamondbacks, and he starts by saying that Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson can simply acknowledge and learn to focus on building for the future. Kevin “60 cents on the dollar” Towers is not the answer, if the team goes in that direction. And other than calling for the call up of Bradley, I disagree with all of Bowden’s other assertions (note to self: do not push for Bowden to be Towers’s replacement). I would love to see Miguel Montero go, not because he’s a bad player or hitter, but because he’s not a great pitch framer, and the team desperately needs a guy like that now. But could you see Montero traded? The team has no other catchers right now. None. And Stryker Trahan was moved from the position this spring, so there’s also no catcher of the future. Not a great situation. Sadly, a player involved in a D-backs trade this offseason — Ryan Hanigan — might have been perfect. Instead, the club got salary relief. As for Bowden’s other assertions… many of them fall apart if you question his bald statements that A.J. “Action Jackson” Pollock is not a starter on a championship-caliber club (he wouldn’t be the best player on that club, but he’d be above average on any club) and that Gerardo Parra‘s bat “doesn’t profile in a corner” (Parra was one of the most valuable right fielders in all of baseball last season, Jim, and it doesn’t exactly matter how he did that).
- Nick Piecoro notes that Randall Delgado has looked really good out of the bullpen, and the same goes for Trevor Cahill. Yeah. More on that tomorrow from me, I think.
- As Snake Pit’s Clefo writes, Ryan Rowland-Smith was designated for assignment when Cody Ross re-joined the Active Roster for the Dodgers series. He will be missed, but as I concluded last week, it didn’t make much sense for the team to carry the Hyphenator with Oliver Perez providing similar services on a guaranteed contract. I’m not sure the team is in better hands with Perez, but it is what it is. Signing Perez was not among the better moves of the offseason. Signing Rowland-Smith was.
- At Venom Strikes, Kris Brown puts Kevin Towers under a microscope, identifying questionable decisions. Pretty much agree with all that’s here, for the reasons that Jeff identified last week.
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