Arizona took advantage of the travel day to make another pair of transactions on Thursday, one that relieves one logjam while addressing what is still a potential problem area elsewhere. Kole Calhoun traveled with the Diamondbacks to Chicago, but then his ride from O’Hare headed north to Wrigley, while the Diamondbacks headed to Guaranteed Rate Field to face the White Sox. Calhoun, along with his entire salary went to the Cubs in exchange for lefty-hitting utility third baseman/utility infielder Carlos Asuaje. Although Calhoun was signed to a multi-year deal before the 2020 season, his strong defense just could not make up for his 86 OPS+, driven by a dismal .277 OBP. With Josh Rojas having firmly taken hold of the position, and another defensively gifted outfielder now in the mix (more on that in a moment), it was time to mix things up a bit, and to look towards saving some salary. Asuaje is no world-beater. He currently is on his way to Reno, where he will continue to get work at third base while Munoz continues trying to make the third base position for the Diamondbacks his own.
The second move made by the Diamondbacks was one that materialized fast and furious, coming out of right field (literally). The Washington Nationals, suddenly in need of catching help, sent Michael A. Taylor to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Stephen Vogt and 18-year-old rookie utility infielder, Daniel Torres. In his half-season in Arizona, Vogt did an admirable job as Carson Kelly’s backup. Defensively, Vogt held his own, while at the plate, he was responsible for posting a triple slash of .250/.309/.466, good for 95 OPS+. Taylor goes to the bench as Arizona’s fourth outfielder, as he is capable of fielding any of the three positions. As a bench player for Washington, he has posted a 102 OPS+ this season. No one is expecting him to maintain that level of performance, but he will not need to do much to replace Calhoun. At the very least he is still in his arbitration years, so the cost is significantly less. If he does continue to hit, he becomes a steal. As for replacing Vogt, the Diamondbacks feel quite secure. The announced the long-awaited promotion of Daulton Varsho to the Majors. Varsho is expected to possibly see time in left and at first in addition to his duties as Carson Kelly’s new back-up. The left-handed hitting Varsho .326/.393./548 in Reno, merely biding his time until an opportunity arose.
It’s beginning to look as though few in baseball are more looking forward to the upcoming break than Arizona’s starters. On Friday, it was Luke Weaver’s turn to stumble. After being gifted with a two-run lead (courtesy of solo home runs by Ketel Marte and Christian Walker) before ever taking the mound, Weaver gave it all back and then some in the bottom of the first. A timely/lucky double play on a hot shot off the bat of Jose Abreu in the fourth ended the White Sox scoring in that inning, allowing Weaver to come away with only one more run allowed in that frame. Weaver then gave up another run and had a runner on third when Junior Guerra finally took the ball to finish off the fifth inning.
Alas, things did not go so well for Guerra either. In the fifth inning, the White Sox were able to score again, thanks to two walks and two hits allowed by Guerra, who has been slipping a bit in his high-wire act of late. It took Andrew Chafin coming in and inducing a groundball to Ahmed at short to keep the White Sox from piling on more. From there on though, Arizona’s dominant bullpen shined. Chafin, Will Smith, Archie Bradley, and Kevin Ginkel provided Arizona with five runs of scoreless ball during which the White Sox only managed a single base runner. This complete and total shut down of Chicago’s lineup allowed the Snakes to chip away with single tallies in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.
The Diamondbacks then needed until the eleventh inning to score again. Daulton Varsho saw his first career at-bat in the tenth, when he was brought in to pinch hit for Nick Ahmed with a runner (Tim Locastro) in scoring position, looking for the platoon advantage. This was a somewhat questionable move, given Ahmed’s recent success, but not entirely out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, the move did not work, and the game went on to the eleventh. This time, the offense, along with an error by Yasmani Grandal allowed the Diamondbacks to score two in the frame. The inning started with Brandon Marsh working an eight-pitch single. He then stole second during David Peralta’s at-bat. Peralta singled, putting runners on the corners. Ketel Marte then singled to center, scoring Marsh. Peralta took third on the play, keeping runners on the corners. That brought up Christian Walker. Walker struck out on three pitches. Rojas took five pitches to do the same. Carson Kelly then stepped to the plate. The Arizona backstop hit a high chopper off the front of the plate that was fielded by Grandal. Grandal’s throw to first was errant, allowing Marte to score and the inning to continue. Yairo Munoz then ended the inning by grounding out to second.
Final Score: AZ 8 - CHW 6 (11)
The same two teams are at it again tomorrow. The match-up is expected to be Madison Bumgarner against Michael Kopech.