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Would a Robbie Ray, Kyle Schwarber trade make Arizona a playoff team?

Left: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Right: (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Baseball writers seem to believe the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs are good trade partners this offseason.

CBS Sports Baseball Writer Matt Snyder earlier speculated Arizona as Kris Bryant’s sixth most likely destination if the Chicago Cubs make their third baseman available.

Now columnist Jay Jaffe is saying the D-backs would be a playoff team in 2020 if they trade pitcher Robbie Ray to the north-side for outfielder Kyle Schwarber.

Jaffe’s proposed deal also included D-backs outfielder Steven Souza Jr. heading to Chicago with pitcher Tyler Chatwood coming back to the desert.

Right field was a gaping hole for Arizona in 2019 that featured a mixture of Josh Rojas, Tim Locastro, Adam Jones and Jarrod Dyson.

Dyson had the highest WAR at 1.3, according to baseball-reference.

Souza Jr., who was penciled in as the right fielder before the season, missed the entire campaign after a gruesome leg injury at the end of Spring Training.

The 26-year-old Schwarber, meanwhile, accumulated a 2.3 WAR in 2019 with 38 home runs, 92 RBIs and a batting average of .250.

Jaffe said Schwarber would fix the D-backs’ problem in right field by occupying left field and sending David Peralta to right field.

Over his six seasons with Arizona, Peralta has played 176 games in right field with a .992 fielding percentage and 12 defensive runs saved. The 32-year-old didn’t see any action in right field during an injury-shortened 2019 season.

Schwarber has only played four games in right field during his big league career.

Arizona’s front office has been known to prefer versatile players who can play good defense.

After a bottom-five finish in team defense during the 2017 season, the D-backs improved to a top-10 defense in the league during the past two seasons, according to ESPN.com.

Schwarber fills the role of a semi versatile player, seeing minimal time at catcher during his five seasons in MLB.

Jaffe says Schwarber was roughly a league-average defender last year. He finished the 2019 season with a fielding percentage of .974 and -1 defensive runs saved. However, Schwarber did have a .995 fielding percentage in 2018 with two defensive runs saved.

The question is whether Chicago would trade two years of Schwarber for one year of Ray.

Ray hasn’t matched his breakout 2017 season of a 15-5 record with a 2.89 ERA and 218 strikeouts.

After an injury-shortened season in 2018, the 28-year-old southpaw completed the 2019 season with a 4.34 ERA. He did, however, set a career-best in strikeouts with 235. It was also the third straight season finishing with at least 12 strikeouts per nine innings, proving his skill as a strikeout artist.

Ray would join a rotation that features Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish. Jaffe added the four disappointed last year but is forecasted to be a top ten staff in 2020.

Jaffe opinioned the outfield wouldn’t be Chicago’s strength, but they can make do with the likes of Jason Heyward, Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr. and the hopeful return of Souza Jr. from injury.

Heyward’s power returned in 2019 to the tune of 21 home runs. However, since signing an eight-year, $184 million deal before the 2016 season, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride in Chicago for Heyward based on yearly WARs of 1.3, 2.2, 1.6 and 2.0.

The 25-year-old Almora Jr. had a negative WAR last season after playing in 130 games with a .236 batting average, 12 home runs and 32 RBIs. 24-year-old Ian Happ played in 58 games in 2019 and hit 11 home runs with 30 RBIs and an average of .264, good for a WAR of 1.2.

Bryant has also seen time in the outfield and could be an option for Chicago, assuming he doesn’t get traded.

Souza Jr., meanwhile, has endured back-to-back injury-plagued seasons in Arizona since his 30 home run and 78 RBI season in 2017 with the Tampa Bay Rays. He played in 72 games with the D-backs in 2018, hitting .220 with five home runs and 29 RBIs.

The deal would work out well for Arizona as they would be dealing from a position of depth, even though their starting staff doesn’t feature any formidable stars.

In a season that only had a half-season of Greinke due to the trade at the deadline and featured extreme turnover, Ray and Merrill Kelly were the only two out of five Opening Day starters that ended the season on the staff, the D-backs still ranked 13th best in runs allowed per game (4.59) by a starting staff.

If Ray got traded, Arizona would still have Zac Gallen, Mike Leake, Kelly and Alex Young. The team also has Luke Weaver and Taijuan Walker figuring to return from injuries in addition to Jon Duplantier and Taylor Clarke who saw extended time at the big league level last season.

Jaffe said the acquisition of Tyler Chatwood would also aid the team in replacing Ray. The longtime Rockies pitcher was sent to the bullpen in 2019 after primarily being a starter. He accumulated a 3.76 ERA across 76.2 innings last season.

He’s had relative success pitching at Chase Field in his career, sporting a 2.90 ERA in 31 innings.

The D-backs made their first acquisition of the offseason on Monday, signing catcher Stephen Vogt to a one-year deal with vesting options for 2021.


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