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D-backs’ Robbie Ray comes into focus with trade deadline approaching

Robbie Ray #38 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the bottom of the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on August 21, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

For more reasons than one, Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray has been a big part of the story of the team’s 2020 season.

First, his sharpness in summer camp — also known as spring training 2.0 — was drawing attention from those who knew this would be a big year for him because of his upcoming free agency. Then, his struggles early on in the season made him a target of criticism and a cause for concern. Now, as the Aug. 31 trade deadline approaches, he might be their biggest likely trade chip.

For that final reason, as the Diamondbacks have lost seven straight games and counting, general manager Mike Hazen was asked whether Wednesday will be Ray’s final start with the D-backs when Hazen joined Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf.

“Yes, I do [think he’ll pitch again for us],” Hazen said. “It’s a good question. I don’t think it’s that tough of a question. Like yeah, the value of going into the offseason is something that we need to factor into our decision-making. I don’t think the stakes on either side — when you kind of get down to this level, in terms of time left — are that crazy in either direction.”

Hazen said Ray has pitched better recently (five earned runs allowed total in last two starts) and he hopes he’ll continue to do so.

The general manager did seem to indicate that Ray was almost certain to leave in free agency. He asked whether he has fear that this could be another Max Scherzer situation; the D-backs previously had Scherzer but traded him, only to see him go on to win Cy Young Awards.

“No. I can’t have that human fear, I think, with somebody that is, every expectation is going to walk off in free agency,” Hazen said. “So that’s just sort of where this is all boiled down to. I think at the time — and refresh my memory — when you’re dealing with Max Scherzer and you’re dealing with levels of control that you’re trading him away for years and years of, if you clicked it on — that’s not what you’re dealing with now. It’s just a different context.

“If we’re not in a position to make a run for the playoffs, then I can’t be concerned with what we trade, necessarily, off of the team, and what they might do somewhere else. That’s just going to be the cost of doing business of what we have to deal with. We have to focus more on what is there for the Diamondbacks than what could be there for somebody else.”

Hazen indicated that the resources that owner Ken Kendrick and team president Derrick Hall put into this year’s roster — like signing Madison Bumgarner and trading for Starling Marte — were going to make it hard to buy at the deadline regardless of the D-backs’ place in the standings.

He also thinks that part of Ray’s struggles could be solved by just more time. After all, the circumstances this year were unique. Ray has an 8.66 ERA through six starts this season entering Wednesday.

“He’s got elite stuff,” Hazen said. “And our hope, knowing that it was probably going to take some ramp-up into the season for guys that have elite stuff -and I think we have seen that across the league with certain guys — that it’s going to click at some point. And we’re hopeful [Wednesday] is another step in that direction.”


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