The Diamondbacks entered play tonight amidst a nine-game losing streak that has dropped the club to an NL-worst 18-31. It’s still relatively early in the year, but Arizona’s close to digging themselves a hole they can’t climb out of.
D-Backs general manager Mike Hazen addressed the team’s downturn with reporters (including Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic). While he stopped short of declaring them an eventual seller, Hazen admitted they “need to start playing better” if they’re to salvage this season. “I think June 1 is typically around the marker that we have to take some assessment on where we stand,” Hazen said of plotting the organization’s course (via Piecoro). “That’s coming upon us quickly. It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to act on that right away, but you at least have to be mindful.”
Hazen suggested there’s still some optimism the club could turn things around. The D-Backs have been hit hard by injuries in recent weeks, but they’re starting to get some help back, at least on the position player side. Star center fielder Ketel Marte was activated from the injured list last week after he missed a month and a half with a hamstring strain. Catcher Carson Kelly, who got off to an incredible start, was recently reinstated from a brief IL stint of his own. Arizona’s still without first baseman Christian Walker, infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera and right fielder Kole Calhoun, as well as starting pitchers Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver and Taylor Widener.
Even if the club gets back to health, it’s fair to wonder if they can work their way back into the mix at this point, particularly considering the strength of the NL West. Arizona already sits 13.5 games back of the division-leading Padres and 12 and 11.5 back of the Dodgers and Giants, respectively. FanGraphs pegs the D-Backs playoff odds at just 0.1%, so the most likely scenario is the Arizona front office will eventually have to turn their sights to 2022 and beyond.
If the Diamondbacks do wind up selling near the July 30 trade deadline, they have a few players who’d figure to draw interest from more immediate contenders. Cabrera is off to a blistering .289/.393/.474 start. It’s still not especially clear when the 35-year-old is expected to come back from his IL stint, but he’d certainly generate some calls if he returns in the next few weeks and continues to perform at the plate.
David Peralta is hitting well and controlled through 2022 on reasonable $7.5MM salaries. Eduardo Escobar is struggling to reach base (.230/.271/.471) but he’s popped thirteen homers, can play a couple infield positions, and is in the final season of his three-year, $21MM deal. Marte, Kelly and Josh Rojas are all controllable through at least 2024; it seems unlikely the D-Backs would part with any of that trio unless they embark on a full teardown, but each would have plenty of trade value. There are fewer obvious trade candidates on the pitching side of the equation (again, barring an unlikely full rebuild that would make Gallen available), but lefty Caleb Smith has taken fairly well to a bullpen conversion and could find himself on the move.