Diamondbacks trade deadline: Breaking down potential fits, needs, best targets, trade chips
The D-Backs need another bat to stay in the NL West race
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in an interesting position. The NL West is very winnable and the D-Backs' window to win may not be open much longer with Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock becoming free agents after this season, and Paul Goldschmidt becoming a free agent after next season.
Arizona went for it last year with the J.D. Martinez trade. Will they do something similar this year? Let's break down their situation leading up to the trade deadline.
Truth be told, the D-Backs need the players currently on their roster to get healthy and/or perform better more than anything. That includes Jake Lamb, Steven Souza Jr., Robbie Ray, and Zack Godley, among others. Getting those four to perform as expected would do more than any one trade deadline addition could for the D-Backs.
Now, that said, Arizona does have some needs that will have to be addressed through trades. The D-Backs need another bat -- they still rank among the worst offensive teams in baseball -- and the most obvious spot to add one is shortstop. Nick Ahmed is an outstanding defender, truly one of the best in the game, but he's never been much of a hitter. John Ryan Murphy has shown enough pop to stick behind the plate and Ketel Marte's strong recent play has helped settle down second base. Shortstop it is.
Even after getting Ray back from his oblique injury, there is room for another starting pitcher. Scrap heap pickup Clay Buchholz is on the disabled list and Shelby Miller, who returned from Tommy John surgery recently, left his last start with an elbow issue. Even if he comes back soon, it's tough to count on him to stay healthy or provide high-end performance. Another starter wouldn't hurt. Ditto bullpen help.
Possible trade targets
Marte's ability to play shortstop frees up the D-Backs to acquire a second baseman. They don't have to replace Ahmed with another shortstop. Brian Dozier is having a down season by his standards, but he's a much better hitter than Ahmed, so much so that it should more than make up for the defensive downgrade even if Dozier doesn't return to his 2016-17 form. Dozier's a rental and might not cost a ton of acquire despite his name value.
Thanks to Corbin and Ray and Zack Greinke, the D-Backs do not need an impact starting pitcher. Would they take one? Absolutely! But, more than anything, they need someone to settle down the back of the rotation behind the top three. Cole Hamels has not pitched well at all lately and his contract may be too pricey for Arizona, which could quell their interest. At the right price, there are worse ideas than bringing in a veteran like Hamels to improve the back of the rotation.
Similar to Hamels, J.A. Happ has really struggled the last few times out -- Happ has allowed 25 runs in his last five starts and 26 1/3 innings -- and it may cause his price to drop leading up to the deadline. You needn't look back too far to find the last time Happ was effective, however, plus he's a rental with an affordable contract. Can Happ out-pitch Godley and Matt Koch the rest of the season? It's not an unreasonable bet, even with his recent struggles.
Dozier is a more recognizable name than Twins teammate Eduardo Escobar, but Escobar has outplayed him this season, and not by a small margin either. Escobar is among the league leaders in extra-base hits and he's versatile enough to play pretty much anywhere, infield or outfield. The D-Backs could use him at shortstop, or put him at second and Marte at short if they consider that the better defensive alignment. Point is, Escobar's bat would really help the offense, and it'd be easy to squeeze him into the lineup given his versatility.
Could the Twins be a one-stop shop for the D-Backs? Dozier and Escobar are attractive infield targets and Lance Lynn is a potential rotation upgrade. He turned his season around in mid May and is now pitching like the Lance Lynn we saw all those years with the Cardinals. He's on a cheap one-year contract and it likely wouldn't take much prospect capital to acquire him either. Lynn's a potential bargain addition for someone at the deadline. Might as well be the D-Backs.
Alright, now we're talking. The D-Backs have been connected to Manny Machado in recent weeks and it doesn't seem like just due diligence. There's apparently serious interest here. Arizona has an opening at shortstop and a need for more offense, and Machado would address both weaknesses. I don't think it would be fair to expect anyone to do what J.D. Martinez did after the trade last year, but if there's a player who can have that sort of impact this year, Machado would be my pick. He's an elite hitter and a good enough defensive shortstop. The big question: Can the D-Backs win a bidding war?
The D-Backs got a firsthand look at how effective Tyson Ross can be earlier this season, when he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning at Chase Field in April. Ross, like Happ and Hamels, hit a bump these last few weeks, though he pitched well last time out, and he appears healthy after years of shoulder trouble. I can't imagine the Padres would be against an intra-division trade with Ross on a one-year contract.
Arizona does not have a good farm system -- Baseball America ranked it as the 25th-best system in baseball before the season -- and to get a star like Machado, they'll have to give up someone like top pitching prospects Jon Duplantier or Taylor Widener, or 2017 first-round pick Pavin Smith. Other trade targets like Escobar or Lynn figure to cost considerably less and may be more up the D-Backs' alley. There are enough pieces here to make a competitive offer for pretty much any player. But, if a bidding war gets out of hand, the D-Backs figure to be at a disadvantage.
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