If you would have told fans the Diamondbacks could be .500 at the All Star break, most would have gladly taken it. Five over? Even better. Ten over? Now you’ve got to kidding, right?  In reality, the team just got swept in Los Angeles and is still SEVENTEEN games over .500. It seems unreal. You know the reasons why — the team has four All Stars, the supporting cast is getting the job done, a smarter approach is paying off and it finally feels like the team has enough depth to weather the storm. Still, they are coming off a tough sweep to the division-leading Dodgers and the break couldn’t come at a better time. With the team positioned as the leading candidate for the first Wild Card spot, things look good.

But, as we’ve talked about in the past, it’s no longer about making the playoffs, but about making sure they team can make a run in the playoffs. They’ll likely have to face the Rockies (or a NL Central team) in a one-game play-in contest just to earn the opportunity to face the Dodgers in a best of five series. Frankly, the team could be better. If they want to make a deep run and get over the LA hurdle, it’s reasonable to suggest the team makes an addition or two. The D-backs also face the toughest schedule of any National League team in the second half, so some reinforcements make sense. They’ve gotten off to a great start and the stars have aligned, but they’re not out of the woods just yet. A better team is always, well, better. Especially when you’re looking to make a deep run in the fall.

Not helping matters, the Diamondbacks have a dirty little secret at the plate. Against right-handed pitching, the team has been awesome. They’re collectively slashing .270/.341/.464, good for 361 wRC, the fourth-best mark in baseball behind only the Astros, Yankees and Nationals. Against lefties, however, they’ve scuffled. They’re slashing .225/.287/.378, good for 75 wRC, the third-worst mark in baseball ahead of only the Padres and Athletics. They’re also hitting for less power and striking out more often against lefties, only adding to their issues against southpaws. Sure, you can easily argue that the team could use more help in the bullpen, but it seems clear that they could also use some help at the dish with a priority on performing better against lefties. Should they win a play-in game, they’ll be seeing Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood, and if they can manage a win or two, they’ll certainly see Kershaw twice and maybe even see Wood a second time. They need some help here, clearly, so a right-handed bat makes sense.

The problem, of course, is that they don’t just need any right-handed bat. This is a team that’s deep on productive players, and just replacing one productive player with another productive player isn’t much of an upgrade, if it is one at all. So the team needs a guy that can really make an impact. Looking at the list of trade candidates, there aren’t a ton of guys who fit the mold.

  • Zack Cozart hits right-handed and crushes lefties, but he’d force Chris Owings back to the outfield and that’s not necessarily ideal. Plus, how much do you want to pin your hopes on a BABIP that’s nearly 80 points higher than his career average?
  • Jed Lowrie comes with some positional flexibility, but the switch-hitter has been better against righties than lefties.
  • Yonder Alonso and Lucas Duda both play first base, so, yeah… And they’re lefties.
  • Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson bat left-handed.
  • Alex Avila is a left-handed batter and the team seems to like their catching situation.

That really leaves a trio of outfielders who just might work. One is the Marlins’ Marcell Ozuna who’s 26 and is in the midst of a career season. His OBP is up and he’s hitting for far more power than at any point in the past. In a pinch, he can play center field, but he’s best in a corner. He’s making $3.5 million this season and comes with two more years of team control where his arbitration salaries will escalate. The problem is, Miami is going to want a ton in return. Arizona likely doesn’t have the prospects to pull off such a deal and might be faced with having to surrender a core player from their major league roster. With the team’s plans for the next few years still cloudy, Ozuna is likely too expensive for Arizona’s taste — not in terms of salary, but in terms of completing the transaction.

Another outfielder that could work and fits a bit better is the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen. He’s no longer plus in center field, but can easily slide to a corner where he’s played some in Pittsburgh. Cutch has put a dismal 2016 behind him and is mashing this year. He walks, doesn’t strike out much and has shown a resurgence of power from the right side. He’s killing lefties this year and has always been better against them, although he’s no slouch against righties, either. He’s owed the remainder of his $14 million deal this year and has a team option for $14.5 million next season (with a $1 million buyout). Doing the math, he’s either owed about $6 million for just the remainder of 2017, or about $19 million for two years. It’s an option that probably should get exercised, but do the Diamondbacks want that second year? They still have Yasmany Tomas floating around and David Peralta‘s not leaving. The Pirates, like the Marlins, are going to want a big haul for their franchise player and the cost, again, looks prohibitively high. That extra year of team control drives up the price, and while the D-backs could try to trade his remaining year this winter and recoup some of their loss, that’s going to be a tall order. This may be a little too complicated unless the team is all-in for 2018, too.

The final candidate is J.D. Martinez of the Tigers. He’s the biggest bat on the trade block and after getting healthy, has been absolutely crushing. His right-handed bat fits in left field and he has absolutely murdered lefties in a small sample this season. For his career, the 29-year old hits lefties better than righties, but can hold his own against same-handed pitching. He’s owed the remainder of his $11.8 million deal (which should be something like $4 million), but is in his walk year and will be a free agent at season’s end. In that sense, he’s purely a rental and the D-backs would owe him nothing in 2018 and beyond. With their long-term plans still a mystery, a rental makes sense. The Tigers will want valuable parts back for Martinez, but with just two and a half months of control remaining, they’re asking price can’t be sky-high if they want any chance at trading him. If you’re looking for a short-term addition that is conceivably affordable and helps shore up a weakness, this is your guy.

The question become the cost. To get an idea, let’s take a look at some trades from the last two deadlines. Here are a couple of deals that might be able to inform our view of what acquiring Martinez might entail.

The Reddick deal isn’t a perfect fit. Josh Reddick isn’t and wasn’t J.D. Martinez, plus the deal included Rich Hill. Gerardo Parra also isn’t and wasn’t J.D. Martinez, either.

The Ben Zobrist deal is a better comparison, but Zobrist was able to play several positions and owed a bit less cash. This is somewhat close as he was hitting well at the time of the trade and added some positional flexibility. Sean Manaea was the Royals’ third best prospect at the time with the upside of a #3 or #4 starter. Aaron Brooks was an up and down arm that slotted as a fill in starer. The cost here isn’t tremendously high and Manaea was the obvious headliner, though Zobrist as a trade candidate probably falls just short of J.D. Martinez.

Yoenis Cespedes is one of the biggest deadlines names to be traded in recent history. His deal included two more years of team control, but he had an opt-out in his contract and at the point of his trade, it was clear that he’d exercise that provision. That essentially made him a two-month rental, though he was owed over twice as much as J.D. Martinez will be owed, and he was likely a better hitter than what we should expect from Martinez going forward. Their defense is relatively similar, however, and Cespedes netted the Tigers Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa in return. Fulmer immediately slotted in as one of the Tigers’ best prospects and has emerged as a quality #2 or #3 rotation piece while Cessa has filled the role as a swingman type and has been shuttled back and forth between AAA and the majors. Fulmer was a quality prospect here, but Cessa is little more than a depth piece.

Maybe you split the difference a bit here, maybe you hedge a bit close to Cespedes than Zobrist. Either way, you’re looking at a strong rotation piece and another option with some fill-in type upside that can become a bench piece or a middle inning bullpen arm. If that’s what we’re looking at, some names start to emerge. The Tigers probably don’t want the headline piece to be a guy that will take two or three years to mature. That makes left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda, whom I just rated as the team’s third-best prospect, a headline piece. He likely lacks the upside of a Manaea or a Fulmer, so the other piece(s) would need to be a bit more promising. A guy like third baseman Dawel Lugo could fill that need, and throwing in a bullpen piece like righy Bud Jeter could complete the package. Given that the D-backs have a relatively thin farm system, you’re looking at two players from their top-10 and a bit of a throw in. That is expensive, but Martinez is a marquee piece approaching the deadline. It also puts a bit of stress on the D-backs’ pitching depth as Banda could be called on should an injury crop up. There’s plenty to consider here.

Of course, this is just one scenario. Maybe Detroit would rather get a player like Jon Duplantier, Pavin Smith or Marcus Wilson. Maybe they’re interested in Socrates Brito who’s doing big things in AAA right now and looks primed for another big league shot. Maybe they’d like to re-acquire Domingo Leyba. Either way, you’re looking at subtracting a name from the top three prospects, probably another name from the top ten, and likely another piece. Would Arizona be willing to subtract a young player from the major league roster? I doubt it, but that does provide another option.

Looking at things, the Diamondbacks are going to need some help. A bullpen arm would be a welcomed addition, but J.D. Martinez would help shore up a major weakness and helps position the team well heading into the post season. It shouldn’t prevent them from making a deal for a solid reliever to help add some depth to the bullpen, either. They can do both. Should they? That depends on how invested they are at truly making a run and what they envision for the long term. It also depends on what the Tigers are demanding. The Dodgers are reportedly interested and the Tigers are looking at Alex Verdugo, but it’s not clear that the Dodgers would move Verdugo. It is clear that adding Martinez keeps him away from Los Angeles and that’s a potentially big swing.

If the team really wants to make a run at this thing, they probably need to pony up and do this, or something similar. We don’t know what they have in mind for 2018, and yes, Yasmany Tomas is still around. But at some point the organization is going to have to decide to either make a big run at the playoffs, which will cost them, or they’ll have to decide to stand pat and let the chips fall where they may. If it were me, I’d push for the former. These opportunities don’t come around often and it could be years before they find themselves in this kind of position again. The time is now.

21 Responses to Can the D-backs Add a Big Piece at the Trade Deadline?

  1. Alex says:

    I believe you meant “If it were me, I’d push for the FORMER” based on your last sentence.

  2. Larry Person says:

    For bullpen upgrades, are the D’backs AAA and AA Closers ready for a promotion to the bigs?

    Jimmie Sherfy has a 1.39 ERA with 41 SO in 32.1 innings at AAA Reno.

    Gabriel Moya has a 0.93 ERA with 59 SO in 38.2 innings at AA Jackson.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Sherfy is ready for an opportunity, but with Barrett and RDLR ahead of him on the pecking order, he hasn’t gotten a shot. It’s hard to say just why that is. One reason could be, and I emphasize *could*, is that they don’t want to expose him to the majors in case they need to trade him at the deadline. If he pitched poorly, that might sour his stock some. If he remains in the fold, I think he’ll get a chance in September at the very least.

      Moya knows how to pitch, but ultimately, I don’t think he’s a setup/closer type. His stuff isn’t of the power variety that his results would suggest. Even at AA, being able to command the ball will get hitters out and that may not necessarily translate to a back of the bullpen role in the majors. Still, I think he could definitely be a big league reliever, perhaps more of a 6th or 7th inning type or a matchups role against fellow lefties. He could also warrant a cup of coffee in September. He’s been so, so effective for a few seasons now.

  3. Larry Person says:

    Thanks for the reply, very insightful. Follow up: first on Moya–I like him simply because he’s a lefty.

    Do you think RDLR can stay healthy?

    Does J.J. Hoover still fit into the bullpen picture, when healthy? And if so, does he figure in a high leverage role?

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Rubby is a question mark, no doubt. It’s always going to be a concern with his injury history. No way to really tell, but past injury is the best predictor of future injury, so there’s that.

      Hoover was good, then he kind of wasn’t, then he hit the DL. Not sure if the injury was impacting his effectiveness, or if his effectiveness led to the “injury” to give other guys a shot. Time will tell there. He has no options, so if they want to remove him from the roster, he has to be exposed to waivers and they risk losing him for good.

  4. Larry Person says:

    This might be an innovative idea…or it might be a hairbrained idea? I pieced together two comments from fans on a comment board after Rodney’s implosion in the last Dodgers game, for this idea. One suggested having a backup bullpen option when it looks like Rodney is going to implode, the other suggested dropping the third catcher (Herrmann) to add a pitcher to the bullpen.

    What if the D’backs did exactly that? They are currently using a 7 pitcher bullpen. Add an 8th arm to the bullpen (Hoover, Sherfy) who would be used in conjunction with Rodney. Utilize the bullpen as if there are only 7 arms there, so this extra pitcher is still available when Rodney enters the game. On days Rodney doesn’t have it, it seems pretty obvious. So if he walks the first two hitters, for example, pull him and insert that 8th pitcher. That 8th pitcher could also be used at other times when it doesn’t look like a save opportunity is looming in a game.


  5. Sam says:

    If we don’t have a chance to catch the Dodgers, is it really worth spending anything to get someone for just this season? We only have maybe a 60% chance max of surviving the wildcard game.

    That’s why I’m seeing our sweep at the hands of the Dodgers as a bit of a blessing in disguise: It discourages us from going for broke to try to win a very uphill battle for the division.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      This is a great question and it’s one the team is surely mulling over. Do you really want to increase your investment if you have to rely on a play-in game win and beating the Dodgers to make a real run? For me, I still lean “yes” simply because that’s why you play the game — to win. If you’ve got a chance, you have to take it in my eyes. Anything can happen in a short series. You have to like your chances against the Rockies when you can put Greinke on the mound. Against the Dodgers, you’re certainly the underdog, but you can’t let that stop you from trying your best to beat them. If you find a way to advance, it’s a new lease on life and you keep fighting. It would be a bit disappointing to come all this way, stand pat and watch the team suffer down the stretch, especially against lefties. The Giants are MadBum back and we’re still going to see Kershaw and Wood a few more times from the Dodgers. For my tastes, I’d give it hell and see what happens. Obviously you don’t want to mortgage everything, but there has to be some level of acceptable investment.

  6. Legendopolis says:

    An interesting twist of analysis. We’ve spent the last six months plus criticizing the D’bax farm system — cupboard is bare, too thin, organization gave away all the top prospects for not much in return. Now we’re debating whether to trade these prospects we’ve said for months aren’t that good for proven major league talent? Personally, I’d stand pat simply because in my opinion we’re still a year or so away, and go the free agent route in the off season.

  7. Larry Person says:

    On the question, would the D’backs trade a young player off the major league roster? I see 3 tradeable pieces:

    1. Fuentes, Brito, or Hazelbaker are redundant, all left handers, who back up left handers Blanco and Peralta, we are overloaded with left handers and need a right handed OF bat, maybe not much value on their own, but as part of a package, maybe some value
    2. SS, Ahmed or Marte. I’ve long advocated Ahmed to St. Louis, who is looking for a new infield strong on defense.
    3. C Chris Herrmann. Explain to me again why we need to carry 3 catchers?

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      1. Brito and Hazelbaker have value, but not much of it. Brito is going to turn 25 in less than two months and has basically had no big league success. Tools are there, production isn’t and he’s getting older. Hazelbaker just turned 29 and isn’t a big league starter for any team that has hopes of winning. He’s a fill-in guy. Fuentes has no minor league options and basically no value. Poor Rey, like the guy, he’s worked hard, but he’s not a trade target for other teams, I can’t imagine.

      2. Well, Ahmed has a broken hand and it’s difficult to trade a player on the DL, though it is possible. With him hurt, you really need Marte. If both were healthy, you could maybe lose one. With Ahmed on the shelf, things are thinner. CO twists an ankle and you have to turn to…?

      3. They don’t need three catchers. The issue is that he doesn’t have any options, so if you trade him, then Mathis gets hurt, you’re calling up Hank Conger (who doesn’t have any options, either). If you DFA Herrmann, he just might get claimed. The lefty bat might be useful down the stretch come playoff time, but they have plenty of those, to be honest. He could stay or go — I can see an argument for each. I’m not sure that he has any trade value, but if he leaves, I won’t lose any sleep.

    • Doug says:

      Patrick Corbin. Don’t need a 5th starter anymore if we’re giving up on catching the doggers. He’s built a little bit of value back up recently with another year of control left. Get a third team involved. Send corbin to said team, said team sends a prospect to pittsburgh, pittsburgh sense cutch to the desert. Hopefully the dbacks can absorb the $$$ and our window is this season and next.

  8. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    Howie Kendrick would fit perfectly and not cost much. I’ll guess that Hazen acquires him for some prospect outside the Dbacks’ top 5.

  9. shoewizard says:

    D Backs don’t have the chips to get any of those high end bats, and even if they did, they shouldn’t. I mean I guess if they put Banda, Duplantier and Lugo all together in a package, they could get a good player. But I wouldn’t want to see them do that. And any of those guys as the headliner, with 2 or lesser guys added to the mix. And you have Pavin Smith listed here. What, ? , we are going to trade our first round pick again ? All this talk about D Backs being aggressive this trade deadline makes zero sense to me. They almost have the WC locked up, a .500 record the rest of the way puts them in that playoff, and whether they are in it by 1 game or by 10, it’s virtually a coin flip regardless if home or away. And what one impact player is going to make them a better bet than the Dodgers in a 5 game series ? Answer NONE !. You just gotta hope you get the playoff magic, and go with the guys that brought you to the dance. If there were a C Grade prospect you could move for a right handed bat that might help off the bench I could see that. The Kendrick option looked like a good fit before he got hurt. But beyond that, JUST SAY NO.

    • Dan42 says:

      Agreed, but I’d dream about a scenario where a team like Pittsburgh would be interested in trading a McCutchen type vet for Tomas with the hope of catching lightning in a bottle.

      • shoewizard says:

        why would they want Tomas ? He’s expensive and bad. McCutchen only gonna cost them 6-7 Million more if they don’t trade him. Tomas is still owed 50M through 2020 and is a net negative player for his career with -2.2 WAR in 1169 PA’s. There is no “lightening” with Tomas. Maybe some homeruns, but accompanied by so so OBP at best, and really lousy defense and base running. He is unmovable. An albatross contract that will eventually result in a DFA. Even if the D Backs told Pittsburgh they would absorb 100% of his salary, which will never happen, the Pirates probably wouldn’t want to waste a roster spot on a guy they know is a replacement level player at best. And now an injury risk too due to poor conditioning

  10. Dan42 says:

    Moot point, but Cespedes was a pure rental after that season, the opt out was the next season when the Mets signed him to a 3 year deal, with the opt out, which he exercised before signing his current deal.

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