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Nightengale: Bumgarner signing helps D-backs’ Ray trade market

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray throws against the San Diego Padres during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Before agreeing to a deal with starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, the Arizona Diamondbacks had a full stable of a rotation.

Robbie Ray, Mike Leake, Merrill Kelly, Luke Weaver and Zac Gallen were likely in line to fill out a full rotation. Alex Young, Jon Duplantier and Taylor Clarke could’ve provided depth.

So adding Bumgarner not only gives the D-backs an ace of sorts — even if he does appear past his prime. It forecasts that Arizona could move one of its starting pitchers for either immediate outfield help or prospects.

Ray had been mentioned as an intriguing trade candidate over the past two seasons, and his name is resurfacing again after the Diamondbacks reportedly agreed to add the fellow lefty Bumgarner to a five-year, $85 million contract on Sunday.

“I still believe they’re going to trade Robbie Ray … now you just took away a pitcher from the free-agent market,” USA Today baseball reporter Bob Nightengale told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“So it’s almost like, hey, except for (Hyun-Jin) Ryu, who is still out there, you now got to make a trade (to acquire a left-handed starting pitcher). What they’ve done is increase Robbie Ray’s trade value.”

Ray, who has gone 46-42 in a five-year career with the D-backs, will make $10.8 million in 2020 before becoming a free agent heading into the next MLB season.

The 28-year-old has proven himself as one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball, averaging 12.0 per nine innings or better in each of the last three seasons, including his 2017 All-Star campaign.

Ray has also developed the reputation of relying too much on the strikeout and reaching high pitch counts early in games. That’s limited his upside and kept him from becoming a dominant starting pitcher.

Nevertheless, Nightengale believes Ray’s value remains, whether or not he’s starting or coming out of the bullpen.

With one year on his contract, it makes sense for Arizona to listen to offers. The Bumgarner deal only accelerated that thought.

“A lot of teams want this guy just because of the strikeouts. American League guys are more wary of him … just because it’s a tougher league to pitch in,” Nightengale said. “A lot of teams want him for their bullpen. I still think there’s a huge market.”


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