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SnakePit Round Table: Trade Deadline Edition

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Buy, sell or stand pat?

Michael: Dbacks probably don’t do much at the deadline, might be similar to last year where they’re selling shorter term pieces (Robbie Ray, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte, Archie Bradley) and potentially looking to buy an underrated prospect who dominated under the radar like Zac Gallen.

Isaiah: I say sell due to the D-backs’ play at this point of the season. Being in last place in the division doesn’t help and there’s some short term pieces they could at least test the market on. Plus, it will add to the farm system, which gives me more to write about.

Jack: Hazen always blurs the lines between Buy and Sell, so it’s tough to say exactly how this will look. I mean clearly he is NOT in traditional buy mode as in go all in to go for it in 2020. But that does not preclude him from giving up assets to get a player he likes with control years beyond 2020. On the flip side it’s hard to imagine him doing any hardcore selling of veterans under contract. Not at this moment anyway. But I do believe he’ll need to move a contract or two during the offseason.

Steven: I don’t see Mike and Co. trading anything of value and will give these guys another shot next season while improving areas of need, pitching most glaring. Or who knows, maybe Kendrick forces a salary dump season in order to get out of the red that 2020 is bringing.

Makakilo: Stand pat. Keep the core players, many of whom are controlled for years. I am confident that Carson Kelly, Eduardo Escobar, and Nick Ahmed will improve their hitting soon, and are worth keeping as much as others who are hitting better. Two exceptions to stand pat:

  • September (perhaps October) is Robbie Ray’s last month with the Diamondbacks. This season, he won’t help the team reach the playoffs because his value is below replacement level (his bWAR is negative 0.6). Surprisingly, trade rumors indicate several teams are interested. I am confident that Hazen will find a trade that improves the team.
  • Pitching has little impact if the team scores 3 runs or less per game (17 of first 35 games). Be open to acquiring a clutch power hitter. The usual caveats are budget friendly and compatible with the Diamondbacks.

Dano: I would hope that they stand pat, broadly. If they can get some good prospects cheap without having to give up someone who matters in the longer term, sure, yes, and yay. But the 2020 season is a big ole asterisk already, so I would hope that, even if we have a late-breaking winning streak, we don’t do anything stupid. I trust Hazen, so I think we won’t.

James: I imagine that they elect to stand pat. At this point, there is far less incentive to look for trades to bolster the team for a playoff run. If they do make a trade, I would expect it to be more about clearing salary. I suppose it is possible they trade someone like Eduardo Escobar or Kole Calhoun. Although, I don’t see either of those as likely. Robbie Ray entered this season as an intriguing trade target, but that ship has sailed. At this point, I would rather have the starting innings he can provide (such as they are), that some 21-year-old lottery ticket that has been languishing in A-ball for two seasons already.

Wesley: As noted Mike Hazen’s MO is not to traditionally buy/sell, but more swap. I would bet too that that they stand pat, but it’s just as likely that Hazen swaps out some of the guys who won’t be here after 2021. Selling is my preference. Robbie Ray aside, I see him maybe trading Archie and Starling Marte, since they have value only through next season, if he can get a good enough return. I’m sure Jake Lamb is being floated on the trade market.

What would be the Diamondbacks’ biggest need?

Michael: Short term is bullpen, they have maybe 2 pitchers that aren’t a dumpster fire right now (Crichton, Bradley). Long term, this team definitely could stand to get more SP depth. The team is currently projected to end the season with Bumgarner, Ray, Gallen, Weaver, and Young/Clarke as the starting 5.

Isaiah: Bullpen is huge right now, but I’ll go with a power bat in the lineup. The Diamondbacks rank 25th in all of baseball with just 28 home runs and they’ve yet to find a long term option for the National League designated hitter addition. Arizona needs to produce more runs, so if it chooses to buy, some sort of offense can help immensely.

Jack: Short term, if they do decide they want to do anything in 2020, they need a left handed reliever. Long term they need so much. Where do you start ? Because they are so locked in with their position players base, for better or worse, I guess starting pitching. But it’s pretty hard to find the next Zac Gallen. Team’s usually don’t make those kinds of mistakes.

Steven: This bullpen has been awful and the offense hasn’t been much better. You were expecting another huge year from Ketel and the same type of production from your veterans (Escobar, Peralta, Vogt/Kelly) but neither have done much to live up to the contracts they have.

Makakilo: Acquire a clutch power hitter (see my answer to previous question).

Dano: I find this an oddly hard question to answer, because I continue to have the feeling that this weird little excuse for a season has screwed everything up. If we were trying to win 2020, a power hitter would be good, as would be starting pitching that can go more than three or four innings, and can get through the first without giving up multiple runs. I continue to believe, though, that in a normal season, with normal prep and normal rhythms for preparing to play, we’d be far better than we’re looking right now. One thing we definitely need, though, and have for the past few years and will going forward, is more investment in the bullpen. This is one area where I don’t trust Hazen—the “dumpster diving” approach to filling out our bullpen really needs to stop.

If they do make a trade for this season, the team needs pitching. They don’t really have the assets to improve the rotation. They will need to hope MadBum is able to recover and provide quality, while Ray and Weaver finally figure out how to make it to the end of the fifth inning. That means finding bullpen pitching. The current bullpen is a hot mess. If they could find a solid innings-eater for the bullpen, that might change things significantly.

Wesley: Acquire relievers, a power bat, a starter? Those are all areas of needs. the team is better off selling now, and maximizing returns.

Will Robbie Ray still be in Arizona after the deadline?

Michael: I’ll put 75/25 odds that his last pitch as a Dback is in September.

Isaiah: I’m going with yes because I just don’t see too many opposing teams offering that much for him. Ray hasn’t been good this season, but he’s still 28 years old and a hard-throwing lefty. He’s struggled with location and command, but he’s looked a bit better together over the last couple weeks. Come next offseason, the Diamondbacks may just wait and see what happens then. They may be better off with a compensatory pick if he leaves.

Jack: Ray will be moved. He’s not pitched well enough to risk a QO and the team just can’t afford it. So they’ll take whatever they can get and we will be disappointed by the return and complain about it bitterly.

Steven: I’m going with yes, the value he currently has pales in what the D-backs are expecting from him in any trade. I just don’t see Hazen accepting a low 40 FV minor leaguer who has no chance of sniffing the MLB.

Makakilo: No. For the Diamondbacks, his value before the deadline greatly exceeds his value after. A trade will capture that value.

Dano: I’d say no, very much due to the thinking that Makakilo articulates, but at the same time, who the heck is gonna want to trade for Robbie right now, with less than 30 games left? Even when the only thing they’re giving up is a deeply questionable lottery ticket?

James: For the second season in a row, the rotation is in such bad shape, that the team really cannot afford to move Ray unless the return includes a starter. This is not the Dan Haren deal. Ray is not going to return a decent MLB starter plus another asset. Since the team is already strapped for starting innings, I expect that they will elect to keep Ray and simply let him walk, taking whatever starting innings from him that they can get.

Wesley: Ray may not return MLB ready prospects, but you could certainly trade him for a couple ptbnl lottery tickets, or a reclamation project. I don’t see the team giving him a QO, since he’s likely to accept it, so you want to get something in return. I think he’s likely to stay though, since we need warm bodies in the rotation.

Did the eight-game losing streak kill off the D-backs playoff hopes?

Michael: Not completely, but it’s on life support. Another 6-game win streak and this team is alive again although the team doesn’t have the pitching to sustain another run other than through good luck and offense.

Isaiah: The Diamondbacks may have another lengthy winning streak, but I just don’t see the postseason happening with the Dodgers and Padres on a roll right now. Not to mention, the Giants and Rockies have still been competitive, which makes the division even tougher. The eight game losing streak certainly hurt their chances of making it, but the overall depth of the division is what will eliminate the Diamondbacks’ playoff hopes in my opinion.

Jack: No, it didn’t. It exposed further the deficiencies of this team that were already evident prior to the streak. But in this strange season, they are still not completely out of a 8th slot chance. What difference does it make though ? Does ANYONE think this team is capable of advancing to the NLCS, let alone the W.S. I realize playoffs are a crapshoot. But the odds of them doing anything in the playoffs even if they somehow get the 7th or 8th spot are minimal.

Steven: I think they’re done. There’s no energy out there and they’re being steamrolled from all sides of the game. Bring up the youngsters and see what you have.

James: Not entirely, but close enough. A while back, I said the Diamondbacks needed to go 12-8 to get back into the hunt and to be sitting pretty for a playoff push at the deadline. Right after that, they went 7-1 and were looking good. Now, they have since gone 1-7. They need to complete the season at slightly over a .700 winning percentage now in order to be a realistic playoff contender. A four-game winning streak would still give them that 12-8 record that I said they needed. Given recent play though, I am not bullish on them running off that four-game streak.

Makakilo: Three predictions of season wins for the Diamondbacks:

  • 538.com model: After peaking at 32 predicted wins, it stood at 26 wins after Saturday’s loss to the Giants.
  • Pythagorean model: After peaking at 30.7 predicted wins, it stood at 25.9 wins after Saturday’s loss to the Giants.
  • Wins better than my preseason prediction of 33 wins: After peaking at 1.4 wins better, it stood at 4.4 wins worse (28.6 predicted wins) after Saturday’s loss to the Giants.

Although two models(538.com & Pythagorean) now predict 26 wins, which would end playoff hopes, I am more optimistic. Although the losing streak showed my predicted 33 wins was unrealistic, currently my view is that 29-30 wins are realistically possible, which would keep playoff hopes alive.

Dano: Yeah, kinda. That said, one of the deeply stupid things about this 60-game “season” is that any sort of random change of fortunes could turn it around for us, or turn it around for the teams that we’re chasing. There’s what, 26 games left at this point? Anything could still happen.

Wesley: They’re out of it. I was joking about them going 0-60, but I always had the expectation that the team didn’t seem as good as last year. It’s possible, but unlikely they get an 8th seed, but realistically I don’t see them advancing far.

Is Zac Gallen as good as he has seemed?

Michael: You can make an argument that he’s pitched above expectations this year and has vastly exceeded his expectations as a prospect. After a short start for his first of the year, he’s rattled off 6 straight starts of 6+ IP and 2 R or less. His present-day stuff profiles as a #2 starter although any jump in his curveball and/or cutter could have him as one of the game’s 10 best pitchers. He mixes all four of his pitches well, all of which are above-average or better offerings in my opinion, and batters have not picked him up this year. Compared to last year, there are a lot of improvements across the board. Compared to last year, his walks are down 3%, EV down 0.5 MPH, Hard Hit Rate (95+ MPH EV) down 6%. He still has some room to grow, although less than a year from now we should know what level of pitcher we’re getting.

Isaiah: I’m with Michael that he’s certainly pitched above expectations this season. There’s plenty of potential and he can certainly blossom into a top-of-the-rotation starter for years to come. He’s already shown it this year. I don’t see Gallen’s ERA staying below 2.30 for much longer along with a 1.02 WHIP, but he’s been great and you can’t be more pleased with his performance. Does anyone miss Jazz Chisholm?

Jack: Depends on how you want to measure “good as he has seemed” Is he as good as his current ERA ? No, not yet. Clearly his peripherals do not support his ERA. But he can and probably will improve his peripherals going forward. He seems like the type of guy that will continue to elevate his game. He just has that vibe. But there is a fair amount of regression likely in his near future. Don’t be discouraged by it though if/when that happens. He’ll handle it and come out the other side a better pitcher.

Steven: He’s pitched tremendously and been the one bright spot this year but it’s too bad we’re wasting this good year on a shortened and bad season. I know it’s easy to see him sitting atop the rotation for years to come but think of the return we’d get if Hazen decided to blow everything up.

Makakilo: I looked for clues.

  • BABIP is lower than last season (.248 vs .284). So perhaps is he luckier this season. On the other hand, perhaps his pitching caused the better BABIP.
  • FIP can sometimes predict future ERA because it removes fielding unpredictability. His FIP is higher than his ERA (3.83 vs 2.09). FIP of 4 is about average(below 3 is Cy Young territory). His FIP indicates he is better than good, but overall he is not as good as his ERA.
  • His 29.6% hard-hit percentage ranked 64th among qualified pitchers(starters and relievers). That is outstanding! That is as good as it seems.
  • His 6.5% barrels per batted ball event ranked 163rd among qualified pitchers. That’s backed up with his HR/9 was higher this season (1.3 vs 0.9). A stat called xFIP uses a standard HR/FB%, removing chance variation in HRs. His xFIP of 3.68 is better than his FIP, showing some HRs were due to luck. His xFIP indicates he is well above good. So he is as good as he seemed.

Dano: Probably not, or at least not yet, which seems to be a point that many of my colleagues have been making above. He’s better by far than the rest of the dreck that has comprised our starting staff thus far, aside from that awkward first start, and at this point that’s good enough for me.

James: Is Zac Gallen one of the ten best starters in baseball? No, I don’t think so. Right now, he is over-performing his peripherals by a good margin. I expect him to come back down some. On the other hand, I do expect that his peripherals will also improve somewhat. I think Gallen may very well settle in as a James Shields (circa 2011-2014) type #2, the sort that is a high caliber #2 that can have stretches of ace-like performance.

Wesley: He’s looked stellar to me. He may very well fall back to earth, but there’s a chance he is this good.

What’s the best way to make a grilled cheese sandwich?

Isaiah: That’s a good question, and honestly I’m not sure. I’ll go with tomato soup for the dunking aspect and the sheer combination of flavors. Another underrated option is canned green chiles inside the sandwich itself, try it out.

Jack: I don’t make those any more. Carb and Calorie bombs.

Steven: Good bread, lots of butter and lots of cheese.

Makakilo: Sourdough bread, cheese (vegan preferred), sprinkles of nutritional yeast, and four strips of arugula lettuce. And Isaiah’s idea of canned green chiles is delicious!

Dano: Very much on board with the green chiles as well. Also, I think a sandwich press is essential, if you’re doing this sort of business at home. I think a layer of relatively thickly-cut dill pickles at the bottom might improve things as well, as would a couple of slices of crispy bacon.

James: Start by using sturdy bread. English toasting bread or sourdough is great. Skip using butter. Instead, use mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip). A hearty sliced cheese helps. I usually go with sharp or extra sharp cheddar. Often it is one of those paired with something else. For variety, add a slice or two from a crisp tomato, or (as Isaiah suggests) sliced hatch green chili.

Wesley: Butter and fry the inside of the bread too. Makes it so much better. proceed as normal with whatever grilled cheese you like.

Dano’s Addendum: If a Biopic of Your Life Were to Be Made, What Actor Would You Want to Have Playing You?

Dano: This was a question that was wandering around in my mind tonight, mainly with regard to a friend of mine, so I thought I’d share it with you all. For me, actors of choice would probably be Anthony Stewart Head or Gabriel Byrne. For the friend I was initially thinking about, it would definitely be Bruce Campbell. I have brilliant friends.

Makakilo: First choice is Jimmy Stewart, but he died. My next choices are Denzel Washington and Ben Kingsley.

James: From any era, probably Bogey or Peter O’Toole (for different reasons). Among the living, either write my life as an oddball comedy and cast Jack Black, or go with the more outlandish drama and then it would be Clive Owen or Tom Ellis.

Wesley: Ryan Reynolds.