Who are the sellers? A lot to unfold before D-backs hit MLB trade deadline
Jun 15, 2023, 1:55 PM | Updated: 4:15 pm
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Arizona Diamondbacks have positioned themselves to be buyers at the trade deadline with a 41-28 record as of Thursday, the second-best in the National League.
At three games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers, management is hearing media questions on what this deadline could look like after years of trading away well-known players.
Amiel Sawdaye, senior vice president and assistant general manager, said on Wednesday the D-backs are far enough into the season where the front office has a grasp on what it is working with.
But the outlook of trade season is murky considering the state of the league and how much time remains before Aug. 1.
A major question: Who are the sellers?
“I think you’d walk into every trade deadline every year and almost every team is looking to bolster their bullpen and almost every team is looking for starting pitching,” Sawdaye told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Wednesday.
“This year looks like it’s going to be very challenging because there aren’t a ton of obvious sellers. Now, again, things can change in the next six weeks. But there are a couple of divisions that are really stacked and close. … It’s our job to be creative and opportunistic and see how we can improve this team.”
Only five teams as of Wednesday were at least seven games out of a playoff spot, be it in the Wild Card or division. Those were the Athletics, Royals, Nationals, Cardinals and Rockies. The expanded playoffs with seven teams in each league reaching the postseason factors in here.
That’s not to say there will be only five sellers, a lot over the next 5-6 weeks will change the outlook. Teams on the fringes with stars due contracts will be at a crossroads.
Look to the central divisions in both leagues. Neither has a club more than three games above .500 or among the top five teams in their respective leagues.
Will a former Cy Young winner like Brewers ace Corbin Burnes or Guardians RHP Shane Bieber move? They each have a year of team control left after this season.
Shane Bieber's 7th, 8th and 9th Ks. pic.twitter.com/JuFB5iVbKk
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 11, 2023
The D-backs are set to face both pitchers in the next week and get a closer look.
D-backs general manager Mike Hazen told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta last week that pitching will probably be his biggest area of focus, although anything can change with injuries.
“We’ve started talking about those things. I don’t quite know yet,” Hazen said. “First of all, we have a long way to go. So you know injuries are going to dictate some of your paths as you move through the next month and a half.
“But I think we probably could stand to shore up both areas (rotation and bullpen).”
What do the 27-42 Cardinals, a team that made the postseason in each of the last four seasons, do? They have a slew of veteran pitchers such as RHP Miles Mikolas, RHP Jack Flaherty and LHP Jordan Montgomery.
The 30-39 White Sox similarly have veterans like RHP Lance Lynn, 2022 Cy Young runner-up Dylan Cease, RHP Lucas Giolito plus relievers Liam Hendriks and Kendall Graveman who could come up in rumors. Chicago is 5.5 back of the division-leading Twins.
Dylan Cease's 2Ks in the 4th. pic.twitter.com/lm1BJFzPdx
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 3, 2023
The D-backs will be far from the only team looking to add to their pitching arsenal, but they had the No. 3 farm system in the league entering the year to pull from.
Hazen said he needs to be careful about dealing younger players who could be stalwarts of the organization but acknowledged the Diamondbacks will not be shy about being aggressive.
“Without having to say this team is going to win the pennant or this team is going to make the playoffs, I think there are things that we can really grasp on and buy into,” Sawdaye said.
“And there are things that we know we need to improve … whether it’s externally through trade or whether it’s internally through maybe some players that come up and bolster our bullpen or a starting rotation or even maybe a position player group.”
The D-backs are No. 19 in starting pitcher ERA at 4.60 and No. 21 in bullpen ERA at 4.28.
Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly have solidified the top of the rotation at No. 1 and No. 21 among pitchers in WAR by FanGraphs, respectively. Arizona has experienced growing pains and progress from young pitchers in the back end of the rotation.