The Diamondbacks are currently 11.5 games out of first place in the NL West and seven games back due to their 29-38 record on the season, prompting speculation that the team could emerge as a seller this summer (as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently noted in profiling the top trade candidates in the game). However, while GM Dave Stewart acknowledged to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (links to Twitter) that he’s getting calls on right-handers Daniel Hudson and Brad Ziegler, both of whom are free agents at season’s end, he added that the D-backs will consider extensions for each player in advance of their arrival on the open market.
Stewart says that he plans to meet with ownership to determine how to proceed with the relievers, so there’s nothing set in stone. Certainly, the possibility exists that Stewart’s hope is to bolster the trade value of each reliever by feigning interest in a new deal. However, the D-backs have operated largely in a win-now capacity since Stewart, Tony La Russa and De Jon Watson have been positioned atop the front office, with a series of costly additions (including reliever Tyler Clippard, who also looks like a plausible trade candidate).
It’s fair to wonder whether it’s sensible for Arizona to pursue new contracts with the right-handers at this juncture. Ziegler is 36, and his 2.93 ERA isn’t fully supported by the peripherals; in particular, he has probably been fortunate not to surrender a home run on the year. He’s still a groundball machine, and is unquestionably a useful reliever, but it may be an opportune time to cash him in. You could say the same of Hudson, who is pumping 95 but remains a long-term injury question mark due to his string of Tommy John surgeries. Any opportunity to build out farm depth would surely be welcome for a team that has parted with some significant young assets in recent years, and Arizona has long said that it’s high on some minor league arms.
On the other hand, there is some potential logic in a holding strategy — at least if there’s a reasonable plan in place to make these hurlers part of a hopeful contender for 2017. Teams know their own players better than others, of course, and there could be some cost savings to be had by agreeing to terms before Ziegler and Hudson reach the open market at the end of the season. This brings to mind the Rockies’ decision not to trade LaTroy Hawkins back in 2014. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted at the time, the return on a less-than-premium reliever may not always be worth parting with a player you hope to have on hand for the following season. In that particular case, Hawkins provided value in the ensuing campaign and ultimately was shipped out as part of the Troy Tulowitzki deal.
It’ll certainly be interesting to see how things shake out. The greatest appeal to an extension might be the chance to avoid an overly lengthy commitment to either pitcher. But Arizona surely ought to at least check and see whether another organization is willing to cough up anything of interest in a trade scenario.