It is never too early to start talking about the trade deadline, especially when we can talk about would-be contenders that might unexpectedly end up being sellers rather than buyers at the deadline. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at many of these such teams, and there is a surprisingly large amount, and what exactly they might be looking to sell if they don’t turn around their season in a hurry.
Even with the upstart LA Dodgers coming back to earth in the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks, last year’s NL West upstart, just can’t seem to close the gap. Sitting in third place nine games back of the division lead is a bad position to be in, even with two-thirds of the season still left to play. At some point, Arizona management is going to have to start wondering if their NL West title last season wasn’t the result of well-timed overachieving and that maybe this current roster is actually playing to its true level now. If things don’t turn around soon for the Snakes, they could very well end up being sellers at the trade deadline.
So, what can the Diamondbacks potentially offer to the rest of the league?
Big Chips: Joe Saunders
Yeah, I know, calling Saunders a “big chip” but as it currently stands, he is their biggest trade chip since Arizona had to go and lock up Miguel Montero to a long-term extension and totally throw off what I had planned for them in this article. Considering that Saunders was non-tendered in the off-season and couldn’t find anyone willing to give him a long-term deal, there obviously isn’t a huge demand, but he is having another rock solid season and, at a minimum, can step in to the middle of a contender’s rotation and chew up a whole lot of innings. That sure sounds like the kind of pitcher contenders have been known to overpay for even if Saunders isn’t a “sexy” name.
Money Moves: Jason Kubel
The Diamondbacks only just signed Kubel to a two-year deal this last off-season, but he could be a prime trade candidate if Arizona decides to blow things up. Kubel has arguably been Arizona’s best hitter this year, but he has always been a strange fit since his true destiny has always been to be a DH. He gets on base and has solid power, so he should have plenty of suitors, especially since he won’t be a short-term rental. It certainly wouldn’t be the worst idea for Arizona to unload Kubel and the $7.5 million he is owed next season while picking up a decent prospect at the same time.
Solid Pieces: Gerardo Parra
If Arizona holds on to Kubel, Parra could well be the one getting shipped out. Several teams tried to pry Parra loose before the season since he was getting squeezed into a reserve role despite being a very good on-base guy and an elite fielder in left. There is undoubtedly still plenty of interest in his services. Given that Parra is still under team control through 2015, Arizona could hold out for a more tantalizing package than any other player they might be willing to part with.
X-Factor: J.J. Putz
The previous two season, J.J. Putz was one of the most effective and reliable closers in all of baseball, but this season, well, yuck. His ERA is at an even 6.00 and there have been questions about his job security plaguing him for a month. But even with his monumental struggles, all he really has to do is pitch like his old self for a few weeks before the deadline and teams will be more than happy to take him off Arizona’s hands, especially given the massive amount of closer turnover we’ve seen throughout the league this year. What could make Putz extra attractive is that he has a very reasonable $6.5 million club option for 2013, assuming he can get back to pitching well enough to merit the option being picked up. For Arizona, moving Putz is a no-brainer if they think his struggles are a sign that the 35-year old closer is nearing the end of the line.
Warm Bodies: Ryan Roberts, Lyle Overbay
Roberts has been miserable this season and looking like a non-tender candidate. However, given that he can play multiple positions, he could interest some teams looking to beef up their bench for the stretch run. If so, Arizona would be wise to get something for him now rather than cutting him loose for nothing this winter.
Lyle Overbay was picked up off the scrap heap by Arizona last season, but he has turned out to be a surprisingly potent semi-platoon partner with Paul Goldschmidt since then. He’s been in this league too long for anyone to actually think he can sustain his current .987 OPS, but team’s looking for a lefty bat off the bench that can work a count and show a little pop could do a lot worse than picking up Overbay on the cheap from the D’Backs.
But what they’ll probably do is… spit polish Saunders and put him on the trading block. One thing Arizona has an abundance of is pitching prospects, so they can easily afford to give away a starting pitcher and still make it look like they aren’t raising the white flag on the season. Other than that, Arizona doesn’t have much impetus to start selling of spare parts. They are a very young team and their payroll outlook for 2013 is strong, so holding the line and reloading in the free agent market after the season is the most sensible strategy.