Several potentially interesting nuggets of information around, regarding players in whom the team might have an interest, or be looking to trade.
According to this video report from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Diamondbacks are among the five teams most interested in pursuing the outfielder. The other four listed by Morosi are the Cardinals, Braves, Reds and Rangers. Ozuna turned 29 earlier this month, and is coming off two seasons in St. Louis where had OPS+ of 106 and 107, and posted bWAR of 2.9 and 2.2. Before that, he was with the Marlins, for whom he was an All-Star in 2016 and 2017. He certainly has the potential to be an everyday player: over the last four years, Ozuna has averaged 146 games. In the first of those, he occupied center for the Marlins, but he has been a left-fielder the past three years.
He declined a qualifying offer from the Cards, which means signing ould come with a draft pick penalty. However, the D-backs would be less affected than some others: we receive revenue sharing so would only lose our third-highest selection. The Reds are also in that category, while the other three teams above would lose their second-highest picks plus $500K from their international bonus pool. MLB Trade Rumors ranked him the #11 free agent this winter, and projected a three-year $45m deal for Ozuna. They noted, “Ozuna’s average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage were both in the 93rd percentile or better this year, suggesting that his current skill level will produce better results in the future.”
Signing Ozuna would, most likely, lead to Steven Souza being non-tendered, with David Peralta moving back to right field. That does seem a bit of a sub-optimal solution, not least for the Freight Train.
Another LH starter to keep an eye on: Robbie Ray.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) November 22, 2019
Has one year left before free agency, with a projected 2020 salary thru arb of $10.8M (via Spotrac).
Other teams say the Diamondbacks seem more open to moving him than in the past. Seeking (what else?) controllable pitching.
With hindsight, the best time to have traded Robbie Ray was probably two years ago. He was coming off an All-Star season, where he went 15-5 with an ERA+ of 163. At that point, with three years of control left, the team could certainly have received a very sizeable package in exchange for him. Since then, however, Ray’s star has dimmed a bit. Over the 57 starts and 298 innings in 2019-19, Robbie has an ERA+ of only 104. The strikeouts have still been there. He’s one of just a handful of pitchers to have thrown 100+ innings each of those two years with a K-rate better than 12 per nine IP, and the others are Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Gerrit Cole. But so have the walks, at 4.7 per nine IP.
However, Ray will enter free agency at the end of 2020. As we saw with Paul Goldschmidt, Mike Hazen would rather get something than nothing, even at the risk of potentially hampering the team’s competitive potential this year. Not that the Goldy trade worked out too badly, but it’s likely fair to say the return for Ray would probably be lower, making threading that needle a bit more difficult. “Controllable pitching” suggests another like Luke Weaver may be the kind of candidate, who can pitch in Arizona’s rotation this season, but also help them in the longer term. Though with the D-backs overperforming in 2019, perhaps Ray might be worth holding onto, for a qualifying offer at the end of next year?
Perhaps a little further out there, we find this, where the speculation is entirely external in nature, rather than coming from within the team. Writer Matt Snyder of CBS Sports listed all 30 of the potential landing places for the Cubs’ third-baseman, and ranked the Diamondbacks at #6, in the second tier of candidates. He wrote: “They have the prospect and financial wherewithal to get a deal done for Bryant. This would require Eduardo Escobar moving to second base, which is fine, or Bryant playing right field (again, this is fine). The question here is... do the D-Backs really want to be so aggressive for two expensive years of Bryant right now? I can see arguments for both sides.”
This would mean Ketel Marte staying permanently in center, if Escobar went to second. It might also mean the end of the road for Jake Lamb, though as a left-hander he might be worth holding onto for strict platoon purpose at both third and first. However, even Snyder admits the most likely deal is none at all, saying “The more I sifted through all the information and reporting available, the more I just don’t see a realistic option where 1) the Cubs deal Bryant and 2) it makes the Cubs a better team right now.” So file this one under unfounded rumors for now.