The Diamondbacks’ loss to the Rockies last night pushed their losing streak to eight games, and general manager Mike Hazen offered a less optimistic outlook on the trade deadline than he did a week ago when he spoke of adding bullpen help and perhaps an upgrade at the DH spot. “We’re going to have a lot of conversations around a lot of different things, but I’m not sure how aggressive we’re going to be on the buy side,” Hazen told reporters Wednesday (link via Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic).
Beyond the team’s poor play over the past week-plus, Arizona also learned that right-hander Merrill Kelly, one of the team’s most effective starters, isn’t likely to return in 2020. Kelly was found to have a blood clot in his shoulder, which necessitated surgery earlier this week. For a team that has seen its starters combine for a 5.26 ERA, losing a right-hander with a 2.59 ERA through his first 31 1/3 frames on the season is a particularly impactful blow.
The D-backs have regularly blurred the lines between the conventional “buyer” and “seller” labels under the Hazen regime; they dealt prospect Jazz Chisholm to acquire a controllable young arm, Zac Gallen, while swapping out ace Zack Greinke for a four-prospect package within hours of each other in the run-up to last year’s deadline. Those moves came just months after trading away franchise cornerstone Paul Goldschmidt in a package that focused more on controllable, MLB-ready talent (Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly) than on top prospects who’d yet to debut. The 2016 Jean Segura/Mitch Haniger-for-Ketel Marte/Taijuan Walker swap focused on exchanging controllable young assets. A full rebuilding effort has never appeared particularly close under Hazen’s watch.
That’s likely still the case, although the Diamondbacks will surely have the opportunity to sell off some shorter-term asset in the days to come, should they find offers to their liking. Left-hander Robbie Ray is a free agent at season’s end, and while his control has been awful in 2020, he’s still missing lots of bats. He’s reportedly drawn some interest as a bullpen piece. Closer Archie Bradley is a free agent after the 2021 season and would hold clear appeal to contending teams.
To be clear, there shouldn’t really be much in the way of urgency to shed payroll — at least not beyond the revenue losses that all teams are facing. The Diamondbacks entered the 2020 season with a payroll sitting at about $116.5MM (prior to prorating for the shortened season). With Ray, Jake Lamb, Mike Leake, Andrew Chafin and Yasmany Tomas all coming off the books, plus options on Hector Rondon, Junior Guerra and Stephen Vogt each looking unlikely to be picked up, Arizona has just over $51MM committed to next year’s payroll.
Granted, that number will rise when club options over Starling Marte ($12.5MM) and Kelly ($4.25MM) are picked up, and Bradley would be due a notable raise in arbitration (as would Kelly and Weaver). All told, though, the D-backs’ payroll shouldn’t be expected to check in at more than $75MM with the current group. So while players like Bradley and perhaps even Starling Marte figure to draw inquiries given their status as post-2021 free agents, there should be no financial pressure to move those players.