Yesterday was the MLB trade deadline. Coming into this season, there was a good deal of speculation regarding what veterans the Diamondbacks would be selling to bolster the roster to get down to business in 2024. Then, a funny thing happened on the way to the deadline. The Diamondbacks got off to a strong start and entered the deadline as banged up and struggling playoff contenders. Suddenly, the narrative was about who the Diamondbacks might go out and acquire to help them make a deep postseason run in 2023 rather than looking to offload the likes of Evan Longoria, Nick Ahmed, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
As to be expected when a team reaches playoff competitiveness ahead of schedule, the Snakes entered the deadline with more than a few holes remaining on the roster. Recent and on-going injuries have not helped matters, especially of late, where the Diamondbacks have been one of the lower-performing teams in all of baseball when it comes to wins and losses.
- Right-handed power bat
- Starting pitching
- High leverage relief pitching
- Stable relief pitching
Pitching was in high demand at this deadline, as it is in most seasons. Early trades for starting pitching quickly escalated the price of acquiring any starters, even rentals, into a very pricey realm generally reserved for teams with massive financial budgets. That doesn’t mean Arizona needs to stand on the sidelines though. So, what did Arizona do and how does it impact both their immediate and long-term futures?
Arizona receives Paul Sewald (RHRP) from Seattle for Josh Rojas (INF), Dominic Canzone (OF/DH), and Ryan Bliss (2B, AAA):
While the price paid by Arizona was a steep one, especially with including Ryan Bliss as well as Rojas, the team directly addressed one of their core needs, both for this year and for the all-important run in 2024. Paul Sewald comes from Seattle with a reliable track record as a full-time closer. While he does not have the typical high velocity arsenal of many quality closers, Sewald’s 52 saves since the 2021 trade deadline indicate he has what it takes to help settle things in the back end of Arizona’s bullpen.
Arizona receives Jace Peterson (UTIL) from Oakland in exchange for Chad Patrick (RHP, AA):
On the surface, this feels a great deal like trading for a direct replacement for Josh Rojas. Like Rojas, Peterson is a left-handed utility bat who can play many positions. The reality is, Peterson is able to play more positions than Rojas and is a superior defender while being less of a sparkplug. If he was five years younger, Peterson would be a hybrid replacement for both Rojas and Bliss. As it is, Peterson is 33, meaning he has already reached the age at which many utility infielders drop off a cliff. The Diamondbacks do have control of Peterson for 2024, with Oakland picking up $2 million of his projected $5 million salary. This trade, on the surface, does not address any of Arizona’s needs listed above. However, the trade does effectively change the math of the Sewald trade, with Peterson acting as a capable substitute for Rojas. If one swaps out Josh Rojas for Chad Patrick in the Sewald deal, the price is still a bit steep because of Bliss, but much less steep as only one MLB talent is leaving.
Arizona receives Peter Strzelecki (RHRP, AAA) from Milwaukee for Andrew Chafin (LHRP):
When Andrew Chafin is going right, he’s one of the game’s better left-handed relievers. This would explain why he has nearly 300 appearances with the Diamondbacks alone. However, when Chafin is off his game, it can get ugly in a hurry. Of late, Chafin has been off his game. The fact is, Chafin’s recent performance all but assured that his 2024 option was going to be declined. Milwaukee was in desperate need of a left-handed reliever. This is Arizona getting out from under 100% of Chafin’s deal while also quite possibly creating improvement in an addition by subtraction move. While Milwaukee was reportedly also kicking the tires on Joe Mantiply, it seems they preferred Chafin’s much longer track record of success. In exchange, they sent a change of scenery candidate who has been mostly good for about a year and a half now. His current MLB results paint him as a slightly above average middle reliever. The upside is not one of a high leverage arm, but he should add reliability and stability in the middle innings. What’s more is, Strzelecki is under team control through the end of the 2028 season. He won’t even reach arbitration until 2026. With minor league options and MLB success both in the bag, this trade should improve the 26-man roster’s relief corps this season as well as for at least a few seasons to come.
Arizona receives Tommy Pham (OF/DH) from New York Mets for Jeremy Rodriguez (INF, Frn Rk):
Arizona’s final move of the trade season was to acquire themselves a right-handed bat with some pop. Here is an excerpt from Pham’s current Baseball Savant page.
On the surface, that would seem to work. Pham got off to an abysmal start to the 2023 season. He has, of late, seemed to have turned things around. The Diamondbacks are banking on that being the case and that Pham will return to his usual form to finish out the season. Pham’s ability to play the outfield is questionable at best these days, but it seems likely he’ll get a fair number of opportunities on the corners over the last few months of the season. Rodriguez is a 17-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic. The Snakes signed him for $1.25MM just a few months ago. Ben Badler of Baseball America praised his left-handed swing and infield actions in reviewing Arizona’s international signing class. At best, Rodriguez is still four to five years out with a decent but not special upside profile. That makes this trade almost entire about absorbing Pham’s remaining salary and little else. That’s where the icing on the cake comes in. Pham is due roughly $1.6 million for the rest of 2023. The Mets and Diamondbacks will be splitting that in half. While there are plenty of warts associated with Pham (both on and off the field), the cost to acquire a bat to be strategically deployed against left-handed pitching in a platoon DH situation seems too good to pass up for a team looking to make a playoff splash a year early. While Pham may not be a prototypical right-handed power bat, he ticks enough boxes given the other options out there and the cost of acquisition.
The Bard’s Take
The Diamondbacks managed to add talent both for this year and for next year without trading from any of their top-10 prospects of impact players on the 26-man roster. They also managed to do so without adding any significant salary, something that should please Ken Kendrick and will hopefully lead to Kendrick having more faith in investing in a larger payroll for 2024. The failed to address the team’s need for starting pitching. This could end up being a blessing in disguise. On one hand, the cost to acquire starting pitching went through the roof at this deadline, with teams coughing up significant, franchise-altering returns for quality starters. On the other hand, the Diamondbacks still have some pitchers that need some exposure to the Majors and the inability to land a starter for the right price may now very well force the team to start giving some of these pitchers a look. That starts tonight with Slade Cecconi, though he would have received tonight’s start regardless due to Arizona’s injury situation.
While it would have been nicer to see Arizona eeven more aggressive during this trade season, these trades effectively make the current team a better one today while not sacrificing from the depth needed to make a definitive run at late-October baseball in 2024. It is not often a GM can navigate that many moves without touching the organization’s top-10 prospects, but Hazen pulled it off, further cementing Hazen’s general reputation as a savvy trade maker.
Overall grade: B+
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