Even in the best-case scenario, the Diamondbacks will now have to handle life without scheduled Opening Day starter Patrick Corbin for several months. If Tommy John surgery is needed, he'll be gone for the entire season. Either way, a replacement needs to be found, either internally or externally.
Bradley is going to be part of the Diamondbacks rotation before too long - even while Corbin was healthy, most people expected that to happen at some point this season anyway. Doing so at the very start of the season would simply accelerate the time-table. But is Bradley ready? We've seen in spring-training how dominating he can be. But we have also seen how he can be wild, with six walks in 8.1 innings of work. Blah blah, spring training stats, but even in the minor leagues last year, he was walking 4.1 batters per nine innings - NL average was three. So, is Bradley ready for prime-time?
His control is improving: his 2012 rate for walks was 5.6 per nine IP, and it's not a stretch to expect that to continue. Worth bearing in mind, he's only 21, an age at which many prospects still haven't even been drafted. That's also a very young age for a pitcher to come up and pitch an entire season: teams are a lot more cautious with young prospects than they used to be, and with good reason. Jose Fernandez was the sole qualifying pitcher of Bradley's age in the majors last season, and there have only been nine in the National League since 1986. Archie threw 152 innings last season., so even a best-case scenario could be capped around 180.
Young pitchers who dominate are equally rare. Even if we set the bar at a relatively-low three bWAR (produced by 27 pitchers in the NL last season), only four in our league have reached the mark over the lifetime of the D-backs. Apart from Fernandez, there's Clayton Kershaw (2009), Rick Ankiel (2000) and Kerry Wood (1998) - the last two names aren't exactly Exhibit A for rushing Bradley to the majors, are they? Looking at the projections for Bradley, Oliver and ZIPS both have him pegged for a 4.29 ERA. over 107 and 130 innings of work respectively. PECOTA has him at a slightly-higher 4.35 ERA, in 55 innings.
Using Delgado instead will provide one immediate benefit outside of anything else: it'll unclog the bullpen log-jam. Before Corbin's injury, the acquisition of Bronson Arroyo had effectively pushed Randall out of the rotation. With no minor-league options remaining, the most likely scenario had him joining Josh Collmenter as a long man in the bullpen, certainly far from an ideal scenario. Moving Delgado back would open up a bullpen spot for someone more used to the role, and potentially more useful - retaining Joe Thatcher as a second left-handed reliever behind Olver Perez would now be possible.
Delgado is also much more of a known commodity, and we know how Kevin Towers appreciates those. It's worth remembering Randall is still much of a sapling himself, turning 24 just last month, which actually makes him seven months younger than Corbin. Yeah, I'd kinda forgotten that too. If he wins the job, he would be almost two years the junior of Trevor Cahill, the next-oldest member of the rotation. Looking at his numbers last season, there were two which were clearly responsible for driving them, in opposite directions, and how Delgado performs in 2014 will likely depend on what happens with them this year.
Most obviously, his home-run rate of 1.86 per nine was the highest in the NL by any pitcher with more than 75 IP - and it wasn't close, with Dan Haren second, all the way back on 1.49. I don't think we're ever going to stop Randall from being a fly-ball pitcher, but if balls keep flying out of the park at the same rate, he's in trouble. That's going to be even more the case, if his walk-rate were to regress. Last season, he showed impressive control, walking only 1.8 per nine innings, which helped limit the damage of the home-runs. However, his rate with Atlanta in 2012 was more than double that, at 4.1/9 IP. Couple that with the same homer rate and he'd be in serious trouble.
Trade for a starter
This is the other possibility, with one of our young shortstops, Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings being the moat obvious candidates. Previously, trade chatter around them had generally focused more on a young catcher, with the New York Yankees' Francisco Cervelli being the name most-often mentioned in rumors. However, obviously, team needs for the Diamondbacks have changed drastically over the weekend. But do we want to pull the trigger on our one remaining significant trade chip? [unless we want to go deeper into the system for the likes of Braden Shipley, who can't be dealt until June anyway, plus I don't think that's a good idea] And if we do, who could we target?
Al of Bleed Cubbie Blue floated the possibility this morning of Jeff Samardzija, a name which has been linked to the Diamondbacks in previous discussions this winter, before we signed Arroyo. However, they don't have any need for a shortstop, with Starlin Castro under club control through 2020, and so a third team might need to be brought into that equation. The Tigers have also been mentioned as a possible partner, since their expected shortstop Jose Iglesias could be out until the All-Star break or after with shin problems. Ironically, another ex-Diamondback could be the alternative there, with Stephen Drew still currently looking for work.
There probably won't be any significant movement on this front immediately, until a final decision has been made on whether or not Corbin requires surgery. If not, and the team "only" needs to cover two or three months of rehab, then Arizona will be less likely to make a trade. But if the second opinion is as apparently problematic as the first one was, and Tommy John surgery is necessary, which would wipe out all of 2014, then the gunslinging GM may feel the need to pull the trigger on a trade. But it strikes me, that it may be kinda fortunate Towers does now have job security - who knows what might happen if this was still the last year of his contract.