When Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen looked ahead to the July 31 trade deadline in mid-June, he called for more consistency from his up-and-down club. A month later, he hasn’t gotten it. The Diamondbacks owned a 36-33 record at the time and closed the first half of the season with a 10-12 mark. Although the 46-45 D-backs have hovered around .500 for a large portion of the year, they’re still just 1 1/2 games out of playoff position.
The general mediocrity of Arizona and the rest of the National League wild-card contenders is setting up for what Hazen told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic will be “a complicated decision.” Three weeks before the deadline, Hazen’s preparing to buy, sell or even do some of both.
“I don’t think it has to be as drastic as buy/sell,” Hazen said. “Like in this offseason, there may be some creative things we need to do to help us now and in the future and I think those possibilities exist.”
Rewinding to the offseason, the Diamondbacks traded the face of their franchise – superstar first baseman Paul Goldschmidt – but got back the major league-ready duo of right-hander Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly from the Cardinals. Weaver and Kelly have been instrumental in the Diamondbacks’ success this year, but the hurler hasn’t pitched since late May because of a forearm strain. Thanks to injuries to Weaver, Jon Duplantier and Taijuan Walker, the rotation’s the prime place the Diamondbacks figure to upgrade if they do any buying this month. They’ve had difficulty finding answers in their starting staff behind Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Merrill Kelly, though Alex Young has been almost spotless through his first couple appearances.
Speaking of Greinke and Ray, they may be among the Diamondbacks’ trade chips if the club goes the other way. Dealing Greinke would be complicated because of the money left on his contract (he’s owed around $15MM more this year and $32MM per annum over the next two seasons), not to mention a 15-team no-trade clause. And the 35-year-old Greinke happens to remain a fantastic starter, so moving him would also seemingly weaken the D-backs’ near-term outlook. At the same time, however, it would presumably give the mid-payroll team a chance to wipe a lot of his money off its books.
Meanwhile, finding a taker for Ray wouldn’t be complex – he’s making $6.05MM and controllable for another season. Whether giving him up would hurt the D-backs from a competitive standpoint is another matter. The club also has relievers Greg Holland and Andrew Chafin; outfielders David Peralta, Adam Jones, Jarrod Dyson; shortstop Nick Ahmed and catcher Alex Avila among other potential trade pieces who are affordably priced and under control through either this season or next. Peralta is currently on the injured list for the second time this season because of right shoulder problems, but he has nonetheless drawn interest from the Cubs and possibly other clubs.
If the Diamondbacks were to trade any of those players away, the front office’s mission would likely be to acquire “young talent that can help the roster now,” as team CEO Derrick Hall said this week. Ultimately, the path the organization chooses in the coming weeks will be up to Hazen. Whatever Arizona does, it’s not “going to behave irresponsibly,” Hazen told Piecoro. Hazen suggested an NL West crown is likely out of reach because of the Dodgers’ stranglehold on the division, so the Diamondbacks’ best hope is to earn a spot in a one-game playoff. With that in mind, they’re not in go-for-broke mode.