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Trading Robbie Ray: Yay or nay?

There seems to be strong interest in our starting pitcher

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Atlanta Braves v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

When Paul Goldschmidt was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals last month, it seemed possibly to indicate the Diamondbacks going into a full-on rebuild. With Goldy-Goldy-gone, along with the departure of other signficant players such as Patrick Corbin, from a team which won only 82 games in 2012, it made sense that other players with limited control would be on the block, dealt for prospects who could help Arizona down the road. So far, however, GM Mike Hazen has downplayed that prospect, apparently being instead in favor of using the team’s many early draft picks this year to rebuild the farm. He said the following during the winter meetings:

“Given that we have multiple years of control with everybody else on the roster, there’s time to sort of step back and assess that situation. We don’t have to have everything done by this offseason. We don’t have to rush into something if we don’t feel like it’s the right thing to do. I’m not ruling anything out but I think we have time to think through what we’re doing and make sure what we’re doing is best.”

It is worth noting that this front-office has been considerably better than some previous versions, at keeping their cards close to their chest. While the Goldschmidt trade wasn’t exactly a surprise, for instance, there was very little chatter about any specifics before it was formally announced. So the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, with regard to further trade discussions. There are certainly some assets which would be of interest to other teams, with starting pitcher Robbie Ray and outfielder David Peralta likely be close to the top of the list. Ray, in particular, seems to have drawn interest from a number of suitors.

However, Hazen is correct in that there’s no need to sell Ray, especially not at any kind of discounted rate. That said, if someone were to make a good offer... As a ballpark of what that might be, Jeff Passan (now over on his new gig for ESPN) wrote with regard to Ray: “They're not looking to move him, but if a team wants to put together a package better than what the Seattle Mariners got from the New York Yankees for James Paxton, they're more than welcome to try.” MLB Trade Rumors describes the Paxton price as “an MLB-ready pitching prospect (Justus Sheffield), another young arm on the brink of the majors (Erik Swanson) and a promising lower-level position player (outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams).”

In particular, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe writes “The Phillies and Astros are very interested” in Ray, while David O’Brien of The Athletic notes that the Braves still needs both corner outfield and pitching help, and calls the Diamondbacks a “strong potential partner,” both for Ray and Peralta. Of those three, the Astros would seem in most need of pitching help, with very limited options at this point after Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Collin McHugh. However, our siblings over at The Crawfish Boxes do not consider Ray as valuable as Paxton, because the latter has “still managed a FIP below 3.25 and more than 3.5 WAR each of the last three seasons.”

They conclude, “A package centered around one or two of Houston’s top ten prospects still seems like the most plausible starting point in discussion, but the top two or three players in the system are basically safe.” Here’s the list of Astros prospects: presuming that Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker are both off-limits, there are still some interesting names there. The two who immediately follow, outfielder Yordan Alvarez and pitcher Josh James, both made the overall top 100 prospects list, at #42 and #95 respectively. The only D-back listed above either of those, was #80 Jon Duplantier, so Alvarez or James would certainly be a boost to the Arizona farm system.

In the event of Ray being dealt, the D-backs rotation for 2019 then becomes Zack Greinke, Luke Weaver, Zack Godley, Merrill Kelly and then one of the field, including Duplantier, Matt Koch, Matt Andriese, or possibly Josh James, if he is the center of the players received. With two years of control remaining, Ray’s value is likely only going to decline going forward, especially if the spike in his walk rate (a career-high 5.1 per nine innings last season) sticks around. He will also get more expensive: Robbie earned less than $4 million last year, and will probably get around $6 million in arbitration this winter. So, is now the time to strike, with multiple teams in need of his services?