The Diamondbacks are in a strange zone of purgatory right now when it come to their ambitions. Their offseason moves acquiring Madison Bumgarner, Kole Calhoun and Starling Marte signaled a desire to be competitive for at least this season. However, even with the additions of those veterans as well as the presence of a handful of experienced players on the roster, Arizona is still among the youngest teams in the league. Regardless, my hunch is that the Diamondbacks are in more of a win-now mode than a building-for-the-future mode, so any potential movement between New York and Arizona will be operating within that framework.
As for the Yankees, well... let’s just say they could use some reinforcements. Injuries to DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres have potentially thrust Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada into starting roles, reducing the offensive expectation of the middle infield from All-Star caliber to replacement level. Losing Tommy Kahnle and Zack Britton to the IL has transformed the bullpen from an area of strength to one of uncertainty. James Paxton’s upcoming IL stint leaves the team with only four starting pitchers. These are the three areas the Yankees are most likely to address should they become active on the trade market.
No Yankees-Diamondbacks trade speculation would be complete without the obligatory Robbie Ray rumor, so we might as well kick things off with the long-time target of many a Yankees fan. If I could give you only one statistic to speak to the merits (or lack thereof) of targeting Robbie Ray, it would be this: He leads all of baseball with 20 walks in only 22 innings pitched. That’s basically a walk per inning, and almost double his walks per nine rate from a season ago. Yikes!
Ray is in the final year of arbitration, and thus would only be a half-season rental. And despite the need for starting pitching, Ray frankly does not represent much of an upgrade over any in-house options, be it a bullpen game or a prospect call-up. His HR/9 rate of 2.9 is more than double his career average. He is allowing over half a baserunner more per inning relative to his career mark. And his 8.59 ERA and 7.71 FIP are about on par with J.A. Happ’s season performance. Stay away Yankees.
The far more intriguing option to fortify the starting rotation is Merrill Kelly. He has been the D’Backs best starter in the early going, pitching to a 2.59 ERA, 3.97 FIP, and 0.989 WHIP in 31.1 innings pitched. He also comes with two club options for 2021 and 2022, making him an attractive candidate to potentially replace the Yankees’ pending free agent starting pitchers.
It is exactly these reasons that make a potential Yankees trade for the righty nearly impossible. The D’Backs would request a haul in exchange for the arm currently anchoring their rotation, and their positioning in the standings means they might not pull the trigger even if such a package was sent their way.
Bradley stepped into the closer role halfway through last season, and has picked up where he left off this year. He’s been one of the game’s steadier relievers since he converted to the bullpen in 2017. Over that stretch he owns a 3.00 ERA, 3.18 FIP, and just over 10 strikeouts per nine, while averaging around 72 innings pitched per year.
As with Kelly, it is hard to envision Arizona letting go of one of the few productive arms in their bullpen. Bradley still has another year of team control after this season, and could be an integral piece in the D’Backs’ quest for postseason contention.
The other bullpen options the Yankees could take a look at include Andrew Chafin, Junior Guerra, and Stefan Crichton. Chafin is currently on the injured list with a sprained finger, but could be healthy by the time the deadline rolls around. He has struggled this season, but from 2017-2019, he averaged a 3.46 ERA, 3.11 FIP, and 10.7 K/9 in 51 innings/year. Guerra has given up two runs in ten appearances this year while allowing less than a baserunner per inning. Crichton owns a 1.42 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 12.2 innings this year, but would be the most expensive of the three as he is still in pre-arbitration.
The longtime Arizona third baseman appears to have fallen out of favor, with Eduardo Escobar taking the majority of reps at third base. Lamb has always had a good eye at the plate, registering a 12.4% walk rate from 2016-2019, though is a subpar defender at third. Additionally, his abysmal .125/.243/.156 triple slash line, 12 OPS+, and 20 wRC+ means the Yankees will probably turn to the depth options at the alternate site, like Matt Duffy and Jordy Mercer, before considering Lamb as a reinforcement to the infield.
The Diamondbacks are currently on pace to nab one of the final two playoff spots in the NL. As such, it his highly unlikely they would trade any of the pieces (i.e. their best starting pitcher and their closer) that would help push them to that achievement. I do not expect to see any significant transaction between Arizona and the Bombers, but it was still useful to evaluate the players that could tempt the Yankees now that the New York outfit is once again beset by an injury crisis.