Monday, June 23, 2014

Trade Winds: The Gritty Arizona Diamondbacks

Last year, I would usually just pick a player or two who fit the profile of a guy they Braves might trade for. Even profiled Scott Downs before he was acquired (link). I'm going to change it up a little and instead look at teams that are in rebuild mode that could look to sell off assets. Let's start with the disappointing Diamondbacks. After a 4-1 loss to the Giants in a rubber game of a three-game matchup, the D'Backs are 15 back in the West and also 15 games under .500. The struggles are despite a rise in payroll of about $15M from last season. No wonder they called in the Bullpen Ruiner to help.

Certainly, the D'Backs are sellers, but are any of their future free agents attractive for the Braves? Well, starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy has been miserable in his second season with the D'Backs. After a nice return to form in Oakland, McCarthy leads the league this season in a few unfortunate categories - losses, hits allowed, earned runs allowed, fan tears. While his FIP of 4.06 with an xFIP of 2.97 is much better than his 5.38 ERA and we should expect his HR/FB rate of 22% to fall, McCarthy can't be counted on to provide much use to a team trying to compete. That said, if they wanted to take Dan Uggla off our hands - done.  McCarthy is due about half of $10.25M for the remainder of the season.

Another upcoming free agent is corner infielder Eric Chavez, who is making $3.5M. Also in his second season with the D'Backs, the often-injured former A is back on the DL with a sore/sprained left knee that could limit any trade interest. It's a shame because he still has plus power and good on-base skills coming off the bench. Could be an intriguing option if he shows himself to be healthy. Also of interest is left-hander Joe Thatcher, who I profiled last year when he was a Padre. The Diamondbacks surrendered Ian Kennedy to get Thatcher and a minor league reliever at the deadline last year, but that's when they were trying to compete. Now out of the race, they themselves might try to get something for the LOOGY. The Braves need to address their bullpen, especially since Luis Avilan has not been nearly as productive as he was last season. Thatcher is very limited (righties OPSing .826 against him), but he gets left-handers out (.231 OBP). That means he gets Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche out. He gets Ryan Howard and Chase Utley out. He gets...I'm sure the Marlins have left-handed hitters and when I learn what their names are, I bet Thatcher can get them out, too. Of all the Diamondbacks the Braves could target, Thatcher is likely the most useful. Due about half of $2.375M, he won't break the bank.

But maybe the Braves would prefer attainable players. Guys who they could pencil into their plans for 2015. I'm inclined to believe Brad Ziegler (due at least $6M after this season) is out of their price range, but if the Braves think the amount of talent Thatcher would require is similar to Oliver Perez, the Braves might go for the former Mets starter instead. Like Thatcher, I profiled him last year when he was a Mariner. Perez is due $2.5M next season, but the problem here is that unlike Thatcher, Perez has been hit pretty regularly by left-handers this year. They're hitting .271/340/.396 against Perez, OPSing about .150 points higher than righties. Since moving to the pen, Perez has not been especially hard on left-handers in the LOOGY role. While that could theoretically improve his value as he can be left in against right-handed batters, shutting down left-handed hitters is a bigger concern for the Braves so Thatcher would appear to be the better target.

Outside of the players mentioned, I don't see the Diamondbacks as a place to try to mine for gold. They have a lot of long-term contracts or guys just hitting arbitration who could prove to be expensive. More pressing is that many of those same guys have been a big reason why the Diamondbacks have sucked this season so why would the Braves be interested? I would definitely kick the tires on Thatcher, though.

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