Normally, being a .500 team at the trade deadline would have management leaning toward selling. But the way things are shaking down in the National League, that’s far from a death sentence. Despite an even record, the D-backs sit just one game out of a wild-card spot, so there’s no certainty they’ll necessarily be letting players go down the stretch. We may know more by the end of the week, after six games against teams who currently have winning records. If things go well, then yesterday’s article on how the D-backs can improve will become more relevant. But should things go south, then it’s wise to have a plan B. So let’s put our ear to the ground and hear what Arizona players are being whispered as targets.
While Greinke may be the best pitcher the D-backs have to offer, Ray is perhaps the one most likely to be moved. That’s because his salary is a fraction of Greinke’s: Ray is due only a smidge over six million dollars this season, before entering his final year of arbitration this winter. This makes him far more affordable than Zack. Even though Ray leads the league in walks, that has been offset by stellar strikeout numbers (145 in 111 IP), which have helped keep the runs down: his ERA+ of 117 makes him an attractive option for any contender in need of a starting pitching upgrade, with that extra year of control making him more than just a rental. Here’s a selection of the rumblings round Robbie.
While the Yankees are clearly looking to upgrade their rotation, there’s no guarantee they’ll add anyone — let alone a significant piece like San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner or Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer, which is why they could also be interested in Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray. Tim Wilken, the Diamondbacks’ special assistant to the general manager, has been in Tampa, scouting the Yankees’ Single-A team. The Yankees and Arizona have done business in the past, such as when the Yankees acquired Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks in spring training last year. — Dan Martin, New York Post
For months, Madison Bumgarner has dominated much of the trade speculation in the starting pitching market. Today, barely more than two weeks before the July 31 Trade Deadline, he may not be the most coveted left-handed starter in his own division. Some in the industry believe that distinction belongs to Robbie Ray of the D-backs, who sources say has drawn recent interest from the Phillies and Astros. — Jon Morosi, MLB.com
The latter report echoes the same teams interest over last winter, when the Phillies and Astros were said to be “very interested” in Ray.
Yankees are among teams interested in Robbie Ray. There are surely quite a few teams interested.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 16, 2019
“I think Robbie Ray will upgrade a lot of clubs,” said another AL scout. “It’s just a matter of how much they see him as an upgrade and what the acquisition cost is going to be. I would imagine it’s going to be pretty good.” That same scout believes that in return for Ray the Diamondbacks would seek at least two of a rival club’s Top 10 prospects – and that’s for starters. He said he would expect them to want another prospect or two, as well, seeing as how Ray will be arbitration-eligible next year, meaning he can impact multiple pennant races. — Nick Piecoro, Arizona Republic
Our colleagues over at Pinstripe Alley also looked at what Ray might bring back and concluded, “With 1.5 years of control left, one could expect a Sonny Gray type of haul for the left-hander. That would mean a back-end top-100 prospect and two organizational top-30 prospects. The bidding might go even higher if there’s competition.”
Much like Ray, Greinke has time left on his contract, as well as what remains in this season. And he’s probably a better pitcher, with a 151 ERA+ that’s the best he’s had since becoming a Diamondback after the 2015 season. But there are a couple of reasons why moving him will be tougher. Well, the first is actually about 80 million reasons: that being the number of dollars left on his contrast, including $35 million for 2020 and 2021. While he has lived up to his price-tag so far, past performance is no guarantee of future results. There’s also a limited no-trade clause, which gives Greinke veto rights over trades to a number of possible suitors, including the Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals - as well as the entire NL West!
Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote, “The D-backs can publicly downplay it all they want, but they would love to dump” the remainder of Zack’s contract, though admits that and the no-trade limitations make things considerably more difficult. Later though, he adds that Arizona “want to sell. They’d love to trade Greinke and shed his salary.” Jeff Passan of ESPN agrees, saying, “rival executives believe it’s a matter of days before they declare themselves ready to trade.” However, “because of Greinke’s excellence, the Diamondbacks also would want a prospect haul in return. They could achieve that by paying down some of Greinke’s salary” but Passan also considers “holding on to Greinke an entirely reasonable proposition.”
On the other hand, Thomas Harrigan of MLB.com considers Greinke a long-shot to be traded, believing teams “may be hesitant to take on the $70 million owed to Greinke over 2020-21.” There’s no reason that both of the above things can’t be true. The D-backs may well want to deal Greinke, but finding a team prepared to take on the entire salary, who is not on Zack’s veto list, and is ideally prepared to offer prospects in return, will be a challenging proposition.
As I mentioned yesterday, Peralta’s return could prove a significant boost to the team if they keep in the wild-card hunt. But if not, he’s another player who, like Ray, would hit the free-agent market at the end of next season. He also turns 32 in August, though the D-backs’ farm system is a bit light on outfielders at the upper end in terms of finding an immediate replacement. He’s due $7 million this year before going into arbitration for the final time, so isn’t exactly cheap. The health issues which have seen him hit the injured list twice already this year would also need to be demonstrated to be a thing of the past, before he can be sold. I suspect if he is sold, it might well end up being very close to the deadline.
The Chicago Cubs in particular have been rumored to be interested in Peralta. Fox Sports’s Ken Rosenthal said, “The Cubs are among the teams that will be interested if the D-backs sell and make Peralta available. Peralta is the type of professional hitter the Cubs need. He would increase their outfield depth [and] bolster their lineup against right-handed pitching.” However, Cam Ellis of NBC Sports Chicago noted, “the Cubs haven’t been terrible against right handers this year. As a team, they ended the first half with a .797 OPS and a 105 wRC+ off righties. In fact, among OF’s who’ve had at least 200 AB’s against right-handed hitters this season, Jason Heyward has the 9th-best wRC+ (131). Peralta has the 11th-best (129).”
And the field...
If the team is looking at 2021 on to be their next window of contention, you can more or less pencil in the names of just about everyone who is not under contract past 2020 as being potentially available. The Diamondbacks who will become free-agents at the end of this year are Alex Avila, Jarrod Dyson, Yoshihisa Hirano, Greg Holland and Adam Jones, while those who would hit the market in 2020, in addition to Ray and Peralta, are Wilmer Flores, T.J. McFarland, Jake Lamb, Steven Souza, Nick Ahmed, Andrew Chafin and Caleb Joseph. Obviously, the market for these varies dramatically, but relievers like Chafin and Holland might be the most obvious candidates to move.