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SnakePit Round Table: How low can you go?

VERY low, it appears.

LeeFest: The Neverland

Are you still paying attention to the 2021 Diamondbacks?

James: I am, especially now that soccer is over for a bit. But, my focus is far more on what they are doing with the minor leaguers and spending my time scratching my head, wondering why certain players are still on the 26-man roster at all, much less getting real playing time. Once the trade deadline passes, things might be different.

Makakilo: Yes. My focus is which players perform well despite circumstances.

DBacksEurope: Whenever I can I will watch a Diamondbacks’ game. I like baseball too much to not watch it. I have to admit that most starting times this year haven’t favoured watching the games live, but moving through a condensed game or watching highlights is enough to satisfy my venomous needs. First thing I do when I wake up is look at the result, box scores and read the Snakepit summary of the game. I thank my colleagues for the perseverance in their writing duties of recaps (and previews): they are even more appreciated than before.

Jack: Well, yeah, obviously. Changes are coming and there will be lots to talk about.

Dano: Not so much, honestly. There’s a bit of being transfixed by the slow-motion train wreck, and there’s always the Tuesday game to watch and write about. Other days I’ll look at the box score and read the Snakepit recaps, but that’s about it.

Steven: It’s hard to get excited when you have two opposites in the sports world in Phoenix right now. The Suns are successful and winning in the playoffs while the D-backs are struggling and an eyesore to watch. It would help if I could go to a game or two but living out of state means I need to actively choose to watch the team.

Who do you regard as untouchable at the trade deadline?

James: Short of getting a king’s ransom in return, Carson Kelly and Zac Gallen. There are a few prospects I would be irked to see moved, but then, if Hazen is able to pull off the sort of deal he did for Chisholm, I would be fine. As for Ketel Marte, I am at the point where I am ready to see them sell high. Marte being traded would result in the team being even harder to watch than they currently are (which is a difficult thing), but I also firmly believe that Marte will be in the final year of his team-friendly deal before this team is truly able to field enough talent to be competitive again. If the team can flip Marte for half a 2025 starting lineup or rotation, I’m all for it.

Makakilo: Looking forward, the Diamondbacks will likely build their core on two principles:

The Diamondbacks need a rotation of pitchers who have demonstrated the ability to pitch well in the Majors. This season’s best rotation pitchers based on average game score, who should therefore be untouchable are: Zac Gallen, Taylor Widener, Luke Weaver, Matt Peacock, Caleb Smith, Merrill Kelly, and Madison Bumgarner (in that order).

The Diamondbacks value defense highly. This season, the best defenders at each position (based on Fielding Bible’s DRS) should be untouchable. An exception was made at second base, where Ketel Marte was assumed best despite accumulating negative 5 DRS playing center field.

  • Catcher: Carson Kelly + 2 DRS.
  • First: Tie between Pavin Smith and Christian Walker with + 2 DRS each.
  • Second: Ketel Marte.
  • Third: Asdrubal Cabrera + 5 DRS (he is a FA in 2022, extension worth considering).
  • Shortstop: Nick Ahmed +3 DRS.
  • RF: Josh Reddick + 2 DRS (extension worth considering).
  • CF and LF: No untouchables: all D-backs with significant playing time had negative DRS.

DBacksEurope: Considering how hard it is to have a good catcher with defence and pop, I would consider Carson Kelly untouchable. As a matter of fact, I think this front office should try and make work of an early extension. Zac Gallen has to be untouchable as well, I guess. Other than that, I do not think this front office is in a position that they can deem any other player untouchable. With the current record and the second consecutive lost season, it is time to clean out the closet.

Jack: Untouchable for ME ? Nobody. I’d tear it completely down to the studs at the MLB level. This team is not going to be a contending team before 2024 at the earliest. And at this point that’s optimistic. The talent on the major league roster was projected to be at least a half dozen games under .500 to begin with, and injury and under performance, especially with the pitching, has exposed the weaknesses to be even more severe.

Injuries and underperformance from the top half of the minors (AA and AAA) show that we are unlikely to have enough good pitchers and hitters coming up from the farm capable of playing every day and producing at a high enough level to propel them into contention. The product at the MLB level is already unwatchable. So tear down what little is left standing. Rebuild.

Dano: Zac Gallen, Carson Kelly, and Ketel Marte, I should imagine.

Steven: I agree with Jack. There just isn’t enough talent in the organization to show they can support a playoff team with guys they have on the team now before needing to pay them. Build your team with controllable talent and pay FA’s to support those guys.

And which one player do you think is most likely to be gone?

James: If he is truly healthy and he picks up where he left off, Asdrúbal Cabrera. Hell, he may not even make it to the deadline. If Eduardo Escobar stays healthy and continues his current level of production, he should garner some interest as well.

Makakilo: David Peralta. Excluding the players I think are untouchable, he and Kole Calhoun (assuming his option is exercised) are the highest paid next season. Both are FAs in 2023. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors ranked Peralta as the #12 trade candidate in the Majors based likelihood of being moved and overall value as a trade chip.

DBacksEurope: Asdrubal Cabrera. He is on too cheap a contract and has proven he is worth more than that. He’ll bring any clubhouse a positive and fun presence, versatility on the field and RBI production. Especially with all these injuries in the MLB he will be easy to move to almost any team that considers itself to be in contention for playoffs.

Jack: It’s very difficult to project exactly what the team will do. However Mike Hazen has been consistent in his attempts to thread the needle to improve the major league club, if not for this season then the immediate subsequent season, while at the same time building his farm system slowly. I think this approach, while consistent, and one he’s been lauded for in the past, has clearly failed.

Eduardo Escobar has played himself into an easily marketable commodity. The team they are playing right now, the Brewers, are tied for 1st in the NL central and have great pitching. They are clear buyers and Travis Shaw is having a poor season and Shaw isn’t costing them anything so it won’t hurt them on that end to try to go for an upgrade.

Dano: Cabrera seems likely, assuming he returns to the form he showed before his trip to the IL. I would be very surprised if Escobar is still with us after the deadline.

Steven: I guarantee Merrill Kelly is gone by the trade deadline. He’s too cheap to continue pitching on this team and should be desirable even with his performance this season.

Is Torey Lovullo going to make it to the All-Star break?

James: I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb and say yes. With the rash of injuries, the dearth of talent, and the fact that there is little reason to expect anyone else in the organization to get better results, I think Lovullo makes it that far. Frankly, if I were making the call, I would just ride him out until the end of the season. Then, if a change still needs to be made, it can be made when there are actual candidates to fill the job, rather than just semi-warm bodies.

Makakilo: Yes. This answer is obvious - he is great at motivating his players and the team (known for its straight shooting) publicly said he is not the problem.

DBacksEurope: Yes, unless the front office thinks highly of Luis Urueta and they are willing to take a shot with him. No one from outside this organisation will be able to right the ship here and my feeling is the club knows that too. I am a bit concerned with the sloppiness though and the Lovullo outburst in Milwaukee. It might be a sign that he is losing that clubhouse but a firesale might resolve some lingering issues.

Jack: I have doubts he’s still the manager after the series with Oakland. But we’ll see. Also, lets be clear I’m differentiating what I think WILL happen vs. what SHOULD happen.

Dano: I honestly have no idea what’s gonna happen with Torey. I don’t feel like our current troubles are his fault, but that may not matter.

Steven: Until Hazen publicly disagrees with his decisions, he’s going to still be the manager of the D-backs. I’m still not sure what Lovullo is supposed to do with this team, it’s not a very good roster and young guys are playing well.

Does MLB need to clamp down on pitchers using foreign substances?

James: Yes. They also need to be 100% transparent about it and do so evenly. What they need to not do is key in on a few offenders and make examples of them. Just enforce the rule and make sure everyone sees how. Then, let the chips fall where they may. Anything else is simply going to create an entirely new set of problems.

Makakilo: Yes. What if MLB actions result in fastball spin rates being more consistent among MLB pitchers? Could the comparison of Diamondback and Dodger pitchers be more competitive? To see how much of a possible impact, let’s compare this season’s average fastball spin rates of the top six starters of the Diamondbacks and Dodgers (there may be differing opinions of who should be on the lists):

  • Madison Bumgarner 92nd percentile...Trevor Bauer 100th percentile
  • Luke Weaver 87th percentile...Walker Buehler 97th percentile
  • Zac Gallen 68th percentile...Clayton Kershaw 93rd percentile
  • Merrill Kelly 67th percentile...Julio Urias 88th percentile
  • Taylor Widener 25th percentile...David Price 68th percentile
  • Matt Peacock 7th percentile...Dustin May 68th percentile

DBacksEurope: Of course. What you don’t do as a junior, shouldn’t be allowed as a senior either.

Jack: They will. But as usual, they’ll botch it all up. Some guys will be made an example of while most get away scott free. Rules will be confusing, conflicted, and enforced in an inconsistent manner. There will be unintended consequences and lawsuits.

Dano: Yeah, they do. But if it’s truly as widespread a problem as the SI article suggests, I’m not sure how you solve it.

Steven: The rules they’ve created to examine whether foreign substances are used are already confusing as is, and I have no faith in the MLB’s ability to get this right.

Who is the most famous person you have ever spoken to?

James: I guess that depends on the demographic. I’ve spent time with Barry Bonds and Reggie Jackson. I’ve spoken to Pete Rose. I’ve also spoken with and spent time with William Shatner. I’ve met Barry Goldwater and also Bill Clinton. I have indeed spoken to Neil Gaiman. I’ve been blessed to at least meet a number of famous figures from across all sorts of different walks of life.

Makakilo: Not necessarily the most famous, but the most memorable was meeting Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura on Star Trek) because she was very much an optimist and talking to her was extremely inspirational.

DBacksEurope: There are some football players and executives I have talked to who are famous worldwide, but when I was active in youth politics I met and spoke to a lot of Dutch politicians, because I was a spokesperson for defence and foreign affairs for our party. Many of those politicians have left the stage now (or even this world), but the current prime minister of The Netherlands, Mark Rutte, is one of those I have met and talked to. He has been in office for the last 10 years and met with a couple of US presidents: I am two handshakes away from Donald Trump and Barack Obama and probably just three or four handshakes away from James. Those of you who are really into politics might know Clifford Sobel. He was a US ambassador to The Netherlands. We visited him once in the American Embassy, which was an adventure in itself, so I am also just two handshakes away from George W. I love that thought.

Jack: Outside of baseball, one guy I got to speak with for a long time when I was a kid was Jack Dempsey, the iconic boxer who reigned in the 1920’s. He was second only to Babe Ruth in status as an athlete of the era and while not the best, was probably the most famous boxer until Joe Louis and then of course Muhammed Ali. I was about 9 or 10 and Dad took me to his restaurant in Manhattan. I guess my Dad must have known him, because after greeting us at the entrance and shaking hands with the man, who had the biggest and most gnarly hands I had ever seen, he came and sat right next to me at our table. I didn’t really know who he was actually, but my Dad explained he was one of the best boxers in history, and there was of course pictures and boxing stuff all over the walls, so my brain started to figure it out. He was really nice and paid special attention to me and we actually got around to having a conversation about sticking up for yourself. I had been getting bullied a lot in school, and I guess my Dad set this up as his way of trying to help me. It was an issue for me for a couple of years, until I hit puberty.

Dano: I suppose it would be Neil Gaiman, who I got to spend a week working with when he taught at the Clarion Workshop in the summer of 2008. We had a long talk one afternoon about locked-room mysteries, and why mystery fiction in particular is so difficult to write successfully in the short story form. Neil’s a really good guy.