Of Gunslingers and Prospects: The Diamondback Hot Stove

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

With only a month until the non-waiver trade deadline, trade speculation is going to be heating up. Here's a place for trade thoughts so that other threads don't get hijacked.

With less than 5 weeks to go before the trade deadline, the hot stove talk is going to heat up. So, rather than have multiple threads get hijacked during the season, I thought it might be best to simply put together a place for all the trade talk that is inevitable.

With Kevin Towers as the General Manager, it's hard to imagine that the Diamondbacks can get through the trade season (both pre and post deadline) without pulling the trigger on some sort of trade. The gunslinger moniker is one that Kevin Towers has cultivated for a number of years now, and there is little reason to believe that his ways are suddenly about to change. However, making a trade that improves the team could be substantially more difficult this year than it might at first seem.

Let's take a look at the trade/upgrade options, beginning with the offense.

The Diamondbacks currently provide the 4th best run support in the league. However, if one were to toss out a few huge outbursts, the numbers suddenly look a lot less promising. Yet, the Diamondback offense has also seen a number of key injuries and under-performances hinder the overall results, so there is still reason to be bullish about the future even with the current crop. Here's a positional breakdown with regards to trade/upgrade possibilities.

Catcher: Miguel Montero / Wil Nieves

Chance for upgrade: Zero

Even given Montero's early-season struggles at the plate and his decline in CS%, Montero may still be one of the top 5 backstops in baseball. It also doesn't hurt that Montero's bat has been improving for nearly three weeks now. There really are no better options out there, especially not once Montero's contract is considered as well. An upgrade over Nieves is possible, but given the number of innings Montero catches, an upgrade there is pointless.

First Base: Paul Goldschmidt

Chance for upgrade: Laughable

The season is nearly half over and Goldschmidt is currently a top three NL MVP candidate. Is there really another 1B in all of MLB (other than the possible exception of Joey Votto) that any team would want over Goldschmidt?

Second Base: Aaron Hill

Chance for upgrade: Zero

Aaron Hill is likely the very best 2B in all of baseball not attached to a contract of $100 million and then some. Once one eliminates Cano, Kinsler, Pedroia, and Phillips from the mix, Aaron Hill stands out as the first-best option to be the starting second baseman. Hill has just returned from a broken hand, but the reigning silver slugger plays above average defense and is still expected to provide pop to the top or middle of the order.

Shortstop: Didi Gregorious

Chance for upgrade: Only slightly more than zero

Although Gregorius has cooled down significantly from his early hot start, his bat is still better than was advertised. The young SS has started to have trouble handling LHP, but he is still very young and in his first full season in the bigs. There is no question his defense if phenomenal however, and so long as his glove continues to play at such a high level, the team will take whatever bat he has. It's far too early to put him into a platoon situation. He is still very young and has many years of control left. Outside of his "untouchable" fellow countrymen, Jurickson Profar or Andrelton Simmons, there are no young shortstops in the game that are a clear upgrade over Gregorious.

Third Base: Martin Prado/Eric Chavez

Chance for upgrade: Low to average

There's simply no way to deny it any longer. Since the big trade that sent Martin Prado to the Diamondbacks, he has been terrible. With that, the Diamondbacks once again find themselves with a significant power void at third base. Eric Chavez has been wonderful in part-time play. Although he is currently on the DL, it looks promising that he will return within a week or so. If left as a part-time platoon player, Eric Chavez will be hard to improve over as a solid backup, leaving the only room for improvement to replace Prado as the main starter at third. Strong upgrade options at third base, especially ones with any power are very few and far between. The cost of acquiring any possible upgrade would likely be prohibitively high, especially since Prado will be remaining on the team. If the real desire is to add a power upgrade, the Diamondbacks may be better served to simply promote Davidson and see what he can provide before selling off valuable assets to try and address the situation.

The Outfield: Kubel, Ross, Parra, Pollock, Prado Eaton (DL)

Chance for upgrade: Fair at best

There is no denying that the Diamondback outfield has decidedly lacked any sort of real power output. A big portion of that lack of home run power has been the continued struggles of Jason Kubel and Cody Ross. Kubel's contract is up at the end of the season, and it is unlikely that the Diamondbacks are going to pick up the team option for next season. Cody Ross was just signed to a pretty lucrative deal though. Neither player is performing well enough to bring anything back in a trade, and at least one would need to be moved to clear up some playing time for whatever bat was acquired. Parra is having a career year and is on pace for 200 hits. His flexibility in being able to play any of the OF positions means it is unlikely the Diamondbacks move him. Pollock could be moved, but likely only as a complementary piece in a larger deal. Eaton is currently on the DL and may or may not be back this season. Until he does come back, Pollock seems to remain the second best OF the Diamondbacks are currently fielding.

So yes, power would be nice to add, but there simply is no room, nor is it likely that any young(ish) power could be had for anything other than selling off the farm. The Diamondbacks are likely stuck with the current OF situation at least until after next year's spring training.

Utility/Bench: Pennington, Hinske, Bloomquist

Chance for upgrade: high

Outside of Pennington being a glove-first switch-hitter, he brings little to the team. His bat is questionable at best. But, he is still on the right side of 29 and has a contract for one more year. Bloomquist is the prototypical KT player and unlikely to go anywhere. While his defense is not at Pennington's level, his bat is significantly better (but still not terribly good). Bloomquist may be headed back to the DL soon however, so there is that to consider. Hinske has been a fair LH bat off the bench and is an experienced pinch-hitter that can give Goldie a day off. With the return of Eric Chavez, Hinske looks infinitely expendable. Although it would be relatively easy to upgrade over Hinske, the reality is that Paul Goldschmidt is unlikely to take any sort of significant time off, and is a better defender than most late-inning defensive replacement 1Bs. This means upgrading over Hinske, while it might be nice, will have very little impact in the grander scheme of things.

Given the current view of the Diamondback offense, and considering the presence of Davidson in the wings, it is hard to see any place in which the Diamondbacks could upgrade via a trade. Certainly there are potential names out there (like Giancarlo Stanton that Miami insists is going nowhere) but the price to acquire such talent is so high as to make the net result still a loss for Arizona.

Now, on to the pitching.

The Diamondbacks are enjoying a CY Young consideration worthy year from Patrick Corbin this season. Meanwhile the rest of the rotation has seen extreme ups and downs. However, the (likely) career-ending injury to Daniel Hudson makes moving veteran pitchers around a bit of a tougher ordeal. Let's have a look.

Starters:

Ian Kennedy

Chance for upgrade: Fair to average

Ian Kennedy is either really good, or he is very mediocre. Unfortunately he has still to prove which he is. I tend t think he is very close to the pitcher he was in 2012. If that's the case, he is a strong #2/3 pitcher that will give 200 IP. Those are hard to argue with. However, this year he has had more command problems than usual and is no longer getting as deep into games as a result. Add to the situation that he will be going into another arbitration year and has Boras for an agent and IPK is quite likely going to be gone this winter. However, so long as the Diamondbacks are still in first place, it would be hard to see the team moving IPK during the season unless somehow they do acquire a true TOR ace as the potential Kennedy brings to be dominant and the innings eating he could also bring will just be too valuable to let go.

Trevor Cahill

Chance for upgrade: Average

Trevor Cahill is still very young, and has had an extended run of success that says his troubles this season are an anomaly. Given his ability to eat innings, and his ground ball rate, it's hard to see Cahill being moved during the season. Even if Cahill drops down to the spot of the team's #5 starter, that makes him one of the best #5s in all of baseball. If Cahill rebounds and has a Cahill type second half, he could be quite a popular target come winter, but not right now.

Brandon McCarthy (DL)

Chance for upgrade: High

Brandon McCarthy took a while to find his form, then wound up back on the DL. However, going into the season, with the number of pitchers the Diamondbacks had waiting in the wings, along with the expected return of Daniel Hudson, everything over 12-15 starts on the season was going to be considered gravy coming from Brandon McCarthy. McCarthy may not have enough time before the deadline to show he is recovered from injury when/if he returns in mid-July. However, if he is able to pick up where he left off, his contract and ability will be easy to move. This will make room for whichever Diamondback minor league pitcher has most asserted himself as ready to be in the show while possibly bringing back a strong bullpen arm or two or perhaps a AA pitching prospect worth developing.

Wade Miley

Chance for upgrade: Average to high

Though a number have been somewhat tenuous and some down-right ugly, the fact of the matter is that we are about half way through the season and Wade Miley still has 10 quality starts. Miley began the season looking much like his ROY runner-up self. Then he hit a particularly nasty patch. Now, his last two outings have been improvements, with his last outing being a solid and convincing quality start. He seems to be returning to form. However, he is still young, left-handed starter, with high upside and a few years of team control left. This makes him a very valuable piece, and given the current state of the Diamondback pitching staff in regards to contracts and veteran needs, Miley may be the single-easiest part of the rotation to part with. Given his ups and downs, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the organization may look for a more consistent arm that regularly will go deep into the 6th to 8th inning. Of course, the risk is that he returns to 2012 form and stays that way, but that is the nature of trades. Given that Miley is still on pace for 20 quality starts, it is not very likely the team moves him, but the expected return for moving him would be quite high, the sort of return that could be a difference maker.

Patrick Corbin

Chance for upgrade: None

Corbin is a pre-arbitration player in the midst of a Cy Young-type season. Though there is no doubt that at least some regression is on the horizon, the amount of regression is looking to be far smaller than previously anticipated. At his very worst, Corbin is one of the better #3s in the game. At his very best, he goes head-to-head with the Strasburg or Kershaw and at least matches them and sometimes out-pitches them.

Randall Delgado

Chance for upgrade: Undetermined

Delgado was horrible this spring and had a rough go of things early on in Reno. In two starts so far for the big club this season, he has had 2 bad pitches which combined, led to his rough outing in his second appearance. The sample size for Delgado makes it impossible to know what the Diamondbacks have. Is he a MLB-ready rotation arm? Or does he need more seasoning in the minors? Or is he destined to be a bullpen guy? There is simply no telling at this point. He is close enough to ready however, that any trades involving him would almost have to be part of a larger package and thus be for talent a full tier above him. There really doesn't appear to be much of that out there on the market.

Skaggs:

Chance for upgrade: Low

Because Archie Bradley is the closest thing there is to untouchable, any trade for true, difference-making talent will almost certainly have to involve the Diamondbacks parting ways with Tyler Skaggs. The real danger there is that Skaggs still showcases the stuff to be a truly solid #2 pitcher with flashes of #1. This season he has had one dominant start and two shaky ones. Something to keep in mind though is just how young he is. Any trade of Skaggs needs to be for MLB talent that slots in as a strong #2, or it simply is overpay. Skaggs could be ready as soon as August or as late as next spring. Perhaps he doesn't pan out as anything more than a #4, but that is his basement. Meanwhile, with the years of control left, and the potential upside to Skaggs, it is hard to move him for anything short of that same upside being brought to the team today since Skaggs is so close to ready anyway.

So, long as the Diamondbacks remain in first place, it is difficult to see the Diamondbacks making a trade in their starting rotation. With the lone exception of Wade Miley, the most likely rotation trades are ones destined to happen this winter. However, the quality of pitcher that would be a clear upgrade over Miley would likely cost a franchise changing price.

Bullpen:


Brad Ziegler

Chance for upgrade: zero

It's Brad "I only induce GIDPs" Ziegler. Enough said.

Tony Sipp

Chance for upgrade: High

Part of the Trevor Bauer trade, Tony Sipp is simply the wrong kind of pitcher to call Chase Field home. There is nothing special about him and the only reason he is still on the team is he throws from the left side. Currently he is the only LHP in the Diamondback bullpen.

David Hernandez

Chance for upgrade: Low

Like almost everyone in the bullpen, Hernandez has been bitten a few times this year. No one is going to forget his gopher ball troubles that cost the Diamondbacks some early games in April. However, when Hernandez has been good, he's been filthy good, and those times have become more frequent of late. With Putz returning, Hernandez will continue to work as the set-up man.

Heath Bell

Chance for upgrade: Average

The Heath Bell Experience has been a hard one to stomach and wreaked havoc on blood pressure levels since it began. Unless the Diamondbacks are willing to eat a significant portion of his contract, it alone makes him untradeable. Given Putz's injury history, it is nice having another experienced closer on the staff, but David Hernandez is quite possibly a better option. As a middle reliever, Bell is overkill, so long as he really has "fixed" his issues. IN that case, outside of his contract, it would be hard to upgrade. However, if the HBE continues, Brad Ziegler is going to get overused.

Will Harris

Chance for upgrade: High

The sample size for Will Harris is a very small one. He has, so far, mostly gotten the job done. The reality is though, he's simply a 29-year-old arm that can come in and get 1 or 2 guys out. In 18 appearances so far this season, he's only pitched 15.1 innings. He isn't a dominant arm, so he doesn't strike many guys out. A team could easily do worse, but it wouldn't really take too much to do better either.

Zeke Spruill

Chance for upgrade: Low

Zeke Spruill has just arrived on the big club. However, he is only 24 and has had a very strong season in the minors; starting off in AA, working his way up to Reno, and now onto the big club. It is still unclear what his future is with the organization. He could be a legitimate candidate for a future #4/5 slot pitcher, or he could be destined to be a multi-inning guy in the bullpen. Young talent like this is hard to let go, especially when he is meeting every challenge the team has put in front of him.

Charles Brewer

Chance for upgrade: Low

Brewer is in pretty much the same boat as Zeke Spruill.

Joe Paterson

Chance for upgrade: Average to high

Paterson was stellar in 2011. He was historically bad in 2012. He has had decent numbers in AAA this year and did his job well-enough during his brief stint on the big club earlier this year. IF the 2011 Paterson has returned, then the team has a solid LOOGY. If not, then it would not be hard to find just about any LHP that is currently having success in the majors that would not be a clear upgrade over Paterson.

J.J. Putz

Chance for upgrade: Low

Despite trouble early this season, Putz looked like he was starting to turn things around before heading to the DL. Putz had early trouble last year as well before he went on to save 32 games (and 77 over the last 2 years). Even an 85-90% Putz is better than a vast majority of closers in baseball. With the additional help Putz can expect from having Hernandez and Bell around to lighten his load, it would be hard to upgrade over Putz without taking on a serious contract, and perhaps not even then.

Josh Collmenter:

Chance for upgrade: Zero

Josh Collmenter may be the best pitcher on the team not named Patrick Corbin right now. The only way Collmenter gets moved is if it is part of a superstar-acquiring package.

Clearly, out of the offense, rotation, and bullpen, the bullpen provides the biggest opportunities for improvement. The acquisition of a strong LHP out of the pen would be quite useful, as would the addition of another arm that could come in with runners on the bases. Although such arms won't come cheap, the fact that they are bullpen arms still means that they should still come at a reasonable cost and should not require the Diamondbacks to part with any significant chips.

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