- With Zack Godley now pitching out of the bullpen, the Diamondbacks will give rookie Taylor Clarke a shot at the starting rotation, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Clarke is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against the Rays, and there certainly seems to be opportunity for Clarke to stick if he pitches well, as manager Torey Lovullo said “we haven’t looked past Tuesday” in terms of a long-term rotation plan. A third-round pick for the D’Backs in the 2015 draft, Clarke is ranked by MLB.com as Arizona’s 10th-best prospect. The 25-year-old righty has a 3.55 ERA, 7.8 K/9, and 3.06 K/BB rate over 492 1/3 career minor league frames, and he made his MLB debut earlier this season, a three-inning relief outing on April 20.
- In another piece from Piecoro, he talks to Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen about the team’s good start, and how Hazen’s reluctance to fully rebuild (even while parting ways with the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and Patrick Corbin) kept the D’Backs in position to potentially contend in 2019. While the losses of those big-name players drew the most headlines, Arizona has gotten some excellent early results from somewhat unheralded offseason pickups, i.e. Adam Jones, Greg Holland, Merrill Kelly, Luke Weaver. As to whether the D’Backs could be buyers or sellers at the deadline, “we are hoping this team tells us what to do – directs us what to do – as we move through the season. To this point, we’ve played good baseball,” Hazen said.
Per a team release, the Diamondbacks optioned catcher Caleb Joseph to Triple A Reno. Tim Locastro has been recalled to take his place on the roster, while right-hander Matt Koch – DFA’ed over the weekend – has been outrighted to Reno.
While playing all three outfield positions, Locastro went 4-11 over nine games (.364 AVG) in his first stint with the big league club this season. He has continued his hot hitting in Reno, going 17-43 (.395 AVG) with a .458 OBP and five home runs. He was sent down just two weeks ago to make room for Taylor Clarke as the team awaited the arrival of Blake Swihart from Boston. While Clarke only stayed long enough to record one scoreless, 3-inning save, the Diamondbacks have cycled through a number of players in their 25th roster spot since Locastro’s demotion, including Jimmie Sherfy, Jon Duplantier, and Koch before activating lefty T.J. McFarland from the 10-day IL for his first action of the season. Despite the rotating clubhouse door, the D-backs have soared in that time, going 7-2 in their last nine games and 12-4 over their last sixteen.
Joseph, 32, returns to Triple-A as Arizona will make due with only two catchers on the 25-man roster for a time. The former Oriole started five games behind the dish this season, hitting only .176/.176/.235. Carson Kelly (.182/.211/.309) and John Ryan Murphy (.222/.317/.500) should benefit from additional playing time in what is already a fairly widespread timeshare. Kelly has started a team-leading 12 times through the season’s first month, with Murphy starting ten times, Joseph five, and injured veteran Alex Avila starting four times. There’s certainly something to be said for avoiding undue pressure on Kelly early on after he was acquired for team icon Paul Goldschmidt, but after starting slowly with the bat, manager Torey Lovullo may be ready to give Kelly a bigger slice of the pie moving into May. Joseph’s demotion aught to at least temporarily afford Kelly opportunity for regularity, though the Diamondbacks generally prefer to carry three catchers and it’s safe to assume Kelly/Murphy have a limited window to take advantage of the two-man game. Swihart, of course, could serve as a third catcher, but the club has been pretty forthright about their plans to use Swihart primarily in the field.
Koch, meanwhile, heads to Triple-A after struggling through nine games out of the Diamondbacks bullpen. He did soak up some volume for the Snakes, spanning 20 2/3 innings with five multi-inning outings and three appearances of at least four innings. All in all, four home runs allowed certainly contributed to a 9.15 ERA, but he also surrendered more than a hit per inning while striking out only 3.5 K/9. Fun fact: the 28-year-old heads to Reno tied with Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull as the current league leader in hit batsmen with five.
The Diamondbacks are removing right-hander Zack Godley from the rotation and placing him in the bullpen, manager Torey Lovullo said in an appearance on the Burns & Gambo show on 98.7 FM Arizona Sports. A replacement for Godley in the rotation has yet to be decided upon.
It’s been an awful start to the season for the 29-year-old Godley, who has seen his walk rate increase as his strikeout rate and velocity have decreased over the past couple of seasons. Through six starts (29 2/3 innings), he’s limped to a 7.58 with 25 strikeouts against 18 walks, two hit batters and three wild pitches.
Control has obviously been a significant struggle for Godley, but his ground-ball rate is also down a whopping 14 percent from his career year in 2017. He’s also seen his average fastball dwindle from 91.9 mph in ’17 to 89.9 mph this year, and his swinging-strike and opponents’ chase rates rates have each dipped at least three percent. Sending Godley to the minors to try to get back on track wasn’t on the table, as the righty is out of minor league option and would’ve needed to pass through outright waivers in order to be sent down.
As far as in-house options, top prospect Jon Duplantier is the most appealing potential replacement for Godley, but as 98.7’s Kevin Zimmerman notes, Duplantier was just optioned to Triple-A on Sunday and would need to remain in the minors for 10 days before he could be recalled (unless he came up as an injury replacement). Well-regarded prospect Taylor Widener is off to a dismal start in Reno this season, and that’s largely true of the team’s entire collection of starters in Triple-A. Righty Emilio Vargas has thrown well for Double-A to open the season and is already on the 40-man roster, but his experience above A-ball is limited.
The struggles for Godley could scarcely come at a worse time. The late-blooming righty fell just weeks shy of arbitration eligibility this past offseason and came into the season with two years, 112 days of MLB service. A solid — or even passable — season in the rotation would’ve set him up for his first seven-figure salary in pro ball. While it’s certainly possible that he’ll return to form and move back into the rotation by season’s end, the ugly start and a move to what figures to be a low-leverage relief role won’t do his earning power any favors — assuming he sticks on the roster and ultimately qualifies for arbitration.
Koch has been with the Diamondbacks since they acquired him from the Mets in a 2015 trade centering on Addison Reed, but the former has since struggled in the majors. Dating back to his 2016 debut, Koch owns a 4.88 ERA/5.99 FIP with 4.95 K/9, 2.23 BB/9 and a 42.2 percent groundball rate in 125 1/3 innings (36 appearances, 16 starts). Koch got off to a brutal start over 20 frames this year prior to his designation, as he logged a 9.15 ERA with 3.92 K/9, which offset an impressive walk rate (1.74).
The 28-year-old Koch has also fallen flat at the Triple-A level, where he carries a 5.79 ERA with 5.0 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 146 innings. And he’s out of minor league options, which further takes away appeal.
- The Diamondbacks will discuss whether to drop right-hander Zack Godley from their rotation, manager Torey Lovullo told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic and other reporters Saturday. Lovullo’s comments came on the heels of Godley’s latest clunker, in which he yielded five earned runs on four hits and three walks over 2 2/3 innings in a blowout loss to the Cubs. Having surrendered four or more earned runs in four of six starts this year, Godley’s ERA sits at an untenable 7.58, thanks in part to declining strikeout, walk and groundball rates (7.58 K/9, 5.46 BB/9, 41.3 GB%). The 29-year-old entered the campaign off a respectable two-season run in which he logged a 4.10 ERA with 9.45 K/9, 3.62 BB/9 and a 51.6 percent grounder rate across 333 1/3 frames, making his 2019 output all the more concerning. Demoting Godley to the minors likely isn’t on the table for the Diamondbacks, as a team could claim the out-of-options hurler on waivers. If the D-backs do remove Godley from their rotation, though, Piecoro names Matt Andriese, Taylor Clarke and Jon Duplantier as potential replacements.
- The Diamondbacks plan to utilize just-acquired catcher Blake Swihart in the outfield corners on occasion, according to manager Torey Lovullo (via Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic). Lovullo added that the Diamondbacks will use the 27-year-old Swihart there to spell veterans Adam Jones and David Peralta, both of whom are in their 30s. The outfield’s not foreign to Swihart, who played 48 games there as a member of the Red Sox, as Piecoro notes. While it’s rare for any catcher to line up in the grass, Lovullo says Swihart is “a pretty special athlete.”
Locastro got a start at each outfield position this season while appearing as a pinch-hitter five times and once as a pinch-runner. For what it’s worth, he had a good run, if short-lived, as he knocked four singles in eleven at-bats, stealing a pair of bases and scoring four runs. Locastro’s utility role will presumably be assumed by new arrival Blake Swihart.
Clarke was the Diamondbacks 10th ranked prospect per MLB.com, and though he’s not as heralded as fellow right-handers like Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener, Clarke is nonetheless an intriguing arm with stellar control and a hopeful future in Arizona’s rotation. He has struggled to kick off the season for Triple-A Reno, going 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA, but he put in a solid campaign in 2018 with an overall 13-8 record and 4.03 ERA over a full season in Reno.
Clarke provides the bullpen with an extra arm while they await Swihart’s arrival from Boston. Swihart will likely join the team on Monday in Pittsburgh, per MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (via Twitter). The former catcher will shed his shinguards in Arizona, who already have three catchers on the roster.
The Diamondbacks have acquired catcher Blake Swihart from the Red Sox, per a club announcement. International pool money is also going to Arizona in the deal — $500K in spending capacity, GM Mike Hazen tells reporters including Zach Buchanan of The Athletic (Twitter links) — with outfield prospect Marcus Wilson going to Boston in return.
Swihart had been designated for assignment recently. He’s now heading to an interesting situation with the Snakes. Hazen is among several top D-Backs executives that came over from the Red Sox; needless to say, the team is amply familiar with Swihart.
The Diamondbacks are the one organization in baseball that has been most dedicated to carrying three catcher-capable players on its active roster. That’s particularly relevant for Swihart, given that his questionable abilities behind the plate have thus far limited his chances in the majors. But the plan doesn’t appear to be for the out-of-options Swihart to displace a current D-Backs receiver (Carson Kelly, John Ryan Murphy, Caleb Joseph). Rather, Hazen indicates that the club intends to utilize him in some kind of utility capacity.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the Arizona organization is better able to draw value out of Swihart than were the Sox. Prior attempts at moving him around the field didn’t work out. And his well-regarded bat hasn’t yet done much damage in the majors, though to be fair opportunities have come in fits and starts to this point. In 626 career plate appearances at the game’s highest level, Swihart carries a .255/.314/.365 slash with nine home runs, ten steals, and a combination of a 25.7% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate.
The Red Sox won’t come away with what they hoped for out of Swihart, who was once considered quite a high-end prospect. But they were able to add an interesting player in Wilson, who was taken 69th overall in the 2014 draft. He has some swing and miss in his game but also has drawn his share of walks and has produced solid numbers at times in the low minors. An intriguing athlete, Wilson is off to a nice start this year at Double-A and is seen as possessing a relatively lofty ceiling.
- Lefty T.J. McFarland is on the mend for the Diamondbacks, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports. He’ll launch a rehab effort tomorrow as he seeks to finish off a return from a bout of shoulder inflammation. Once he’s deemed ready, McFarland will join Andrew Chafin as a southpaw combo in the D-Backs pen. The 29-year-old produced strong results last year after several rough seasons, working to a 2.00 ERA over 72 frames. Though he carried a typically uninspiring blend of 5.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9, McFarland also posted an eye-popping 67.9% groundball rate.
- Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald chatted with D-backs GM Mike Hazen and assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye (both former Red Sox execs) about the team’s current standing and unwillingness to plunge into a full-fledged rebuild. “Teams do that to pick at the top of the draft, more for a monetary perspective,” said Sawdaye of the growing trend of aggressive tanking. However, the Diamondbacks knew they’d have a huge bonus pool this year by virtue of qualifying offers to Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock, and they were able to land a second Competitive Balance draft selection in the Paul Goldschmidt trade. Hazen acknowledged that it’s “cleaner and easier” to declare that a team is either rebuilding or “all-in” on winning, but the Arizona organization is trying to walk the line. Hazen cites the unexpected success of the Athletics and Rays in 2018 as a means of pointing out that even clubs tabbed by projection systems as middle-of-the-pack teams can make strong postseason pushes. Sawdaye voiced a belief that the D-backs inherited a team that had more talent than the Astros or Cubs at the time those teams opted for a full-scale teardown, while Hazen stressed the importance of fostering a “culture of winning” even in times of possible transition. Both execs offer insight and perspective that go against some of the game’s common trends right now, making for an interesting interview that’s well worth a read for fans of any club.