Can The D-backs Keep Control
Of NL West Crown?
In Order For The Surprising Diamondbacks To Stay Ahead Of The Los Angeles Dodgers And Other Division Foes, Finding A Power Bat To Protect Goldschmidt Is Paramount
Images courtesy of MLB.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
July 16, 2013 — With over half the season in the books, the Diamondbacks are in the midst of a hotly-contested battle with the Dodgers for first place in the National League West. While Arizona still holds a slight lead over Los Angeles, the team needs to make a few moves in order to lock up the division.
Some of these moves are evident, while others are not.
On the surface, the D-backs look like a team that is a few pitchers away from securing a playoff spot. With the backend of the bullpen a mess and Ian Kennedy in the midst of a full-fledged career meltdown, Arizona definitely needs to add a few arms if it has any real playoff aspirations.
Beyond the obvious fixes, the Diamondbacks have a few other areas that could use shoring up.
This is not the sexiest move, I know. But the Diamondbacks could really use a competent bat off the bench that can also fill in at multiple infield positions. Arizona currently employs a solid roster of infield reserve players in Eric Chavez, Cliff Pennington and Willie Bloomquist. However, all three have checkered injury histories (Bloomquist is on the 15-day DL) and Pennington’s bat is questionable so adding insurance here would not hurt. Additionally, injuries to the middle infield and Martin Prado’s struggles make this a position of need.
The Phillies just might be sellers at the deadline, which could mean the Diamondbacks could get guys like Michael Young or Chase Utley if Arizona is willing to absorb a good portion of their salaries. That’s probably not likely a long-term solution but might be a good rental scenario — both are in the last year of their contracts.
Paul Goldschmidt (.313/.395/.557) is raking this year, but it is highly unlikely that he will keep up this level of production as a mixture of fatigue and a lack of protection in the lineup sets in. Between the disappearance of Jason Kubel’s power (he has only five home runs this season), Aaron Hill’s injuries and Miguel Montero’s offensive struggles (.224 batting average), Goldy has been a one man show at the plate for most of the season. The D-backs have effective table setters in Gerardo Parra, AJ Pollock and Adam Eaton, but no one has helped Goldschmidt drive them in.
Between the lack of sluggers on the market and salary constraints, Arizona is probably going to have to take a chance on a veteran on a down year or a young and unproven player. Given that the team already has more than a few slumping veterans on the roster, they should probably opt for option two. One possible target could be Angels prospect CJ Cron, who may be available due to the logjam at first base in Anaheim. Arizona has the prospects to pull off a trade for a top-tier talent like Cron.
While Cron is a first baseman just like Goldschmidt, power has a way of finding a spot in the lineup. The Diamondbacks could use the Arizona native over the defensively-deficient Kubel. Reports also suggest the Angels have considered trying him behind the plate. Arizona could use Cron at catcher to spell Montero and provide pop, although Wil Nieves has been a more than adequate backup thus far.
This sounds crazy, right? The middle and long relievers have performed generally well for Arizona this season. The starting rotation and the back end need the real help. While this is all well and true, it is going to be much easier for the Diamondbacks to find middle and long relievers on the open market.
GM Kevin Towers may pull off a great trade that brings a good starter or closer to the Valley. But it is unlikely that he will be able to pull off trades that bring a starter AND a closer to Chase Field. In that event, manager Kirk Gibson is going to have to turn to the team’s farm system or the current crop of pitchers on its roster to replace the ineffective players. Middle relievers like Brad Ziegler and Will Harris could see more time closing. Josh Collmenter (2.55 ERA, 1.09 WHIP), who has been fantastic in long relief out of the bullpen, might get a few chances to start if Kennedy (5.42 ERA) cannot get his act together.
If any of those scenarios play out, Arizona is going to need effective relievers to step in and take the place of those players. The middle and long relief market is always rife with product, and the Diamondbacks could pull a decent arm without giving up more than a backup position player or low-ceiling prospect.
The middle of the season has come and gone and the Diamondbacks are currently kings of the West. But if they really want to keep it that way, Towers is going to have to make a couple of moves to bolster the roster.
Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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