(statistics up to date as of 6/23/23)
Patrick: Welcome to Bleacher Bums. I’m Patrick.
Derrik: And I’m Derrik.
Patrick: Derrik, baseball is weird. Who would’ve thought that the Cincinnati Reds would top the NL Central while the St. Louis Cardinals plummeted to last place? No one! Who would’ve thought that the Arizona Diamondbacks would lead the NL West? Well, you did!
Derrik: I may or may not have called the D-backs being good. I don’t think I said leading the NL West, but I did believe they could be a playoff team in 2023 back in September of last year when they went on that winning streak. They are an exciting young team with veteran leadership that is performing well. It’s a good mix of youth and experience, and they have made it work.
Patrick: We should probably start with the obvious, Corbin Carroll.
Derrik: The guy who is probably the only person close to Ronald Acuña Jr. when it comes to the NL MVP race. Carroll actually leads all of MLB with a 3.5 fWAR. He has been extremely dynamic for the D-backs offensively with 16 homers and 22 stolen bases, but he has also been solid defensively as well. He is probably the biggest single reason why the D-backs have made the jump to where they are now.
Patrick: How badly did this team need that shot in the arm? Well, they have a .571 winning percentage with him in the game. It’s what I like to call “The Adley Rutschman Effect.”
Derrik: The thing is with this D-backs team, it’s not just Carroll who has made a difference. Yes, his addition has been huge. But when you look at the team, their story may start with Carroll, but it doesn’t end with him. Geraldo Perdomo has had massive improvements this year, going from a 58 wRC+ to a 138 wRC+. Ketel Marte has been healthy, and he’s having his best year since 2019, when he finished fourth in MVP voting. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is having his best year ever. Christian Walker has been consistent. And when he has played, Evan Longoria has done well. It is a total team effort, and they have one of the most entertaining lineups in baseball.
Patrick: And how about Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly at the top of that rotation? They are pitching to a 152 and 149 ERA+ respectively. Kelly hasn’t lost a game since April! I wouldn’t be nervous at all putting those two guys out one and two in a playoff series.
Derrik: They have been really good, and Gallen is definitely around the Cy Young conversation, especially since he was in the NL Cy Young conversation last year. The rest of the rotation hasn’t been that good, but at least they have a clear weakness to target at the trade deadline.
Patrick: I had the pleasure of attending a game at Chase Field recently (the impetus for this piece), but had the displeasure of seeing what I will now and forever refer to as “The Zach Davies Game.” Eight earned runs in 3.2 innings, and everyone wanted him gone earlier. The game was over before it began. You can’t have a guy like that making starts in the same rotation as those other guys.
Derrik: Another thing with their pitching staff is their bullpen. There aren’t any massive names, but they make it work. Scott McGough, Miguel Castro, and Andrew Chafin have split the save opportunities. The three of them have only blown seven of their save opportunities – all three were free agent signings this past winter.
Patrick: That’s really the thing for this Diamondbacks team. If they want to make some noise: moves. They have pieces, but it’s a largely inexperienced playoff team. Even Evan Longoria feels like he would have some playoff chops, right? But he’s a career .182/.245/.447 playoff hitter…and that’s when he was an MVP candidate. So Derrik, who/what do you think the Diamondbacks should be looking for during the upcoming trade deadline?
Derrik: This team needs starting pitching badly. One guy might not be enough. The ideal situation for the D-backs is to get two middle-of-the-rotation arms to slot in behind Gallen and Kelly. There are the bigger names that might be on the trade market, such as Marcus Stroman, Dylan Cease, or even our old friend Eduardo Rodriguez. But they don’t need to target those guys. With Gallen and Kelly at the top of the rotation, the D’Backs have the luxury of targeting starting pitchers who won’t cost as much in a trade, allowing them to trade from the strengths of their farm system, which is one of the better farms in all of baseball.
Patrick: I’ve got two names for you: James Paxton and Michael Kopech. One, a half-season rental if they really want to make a push. The other, a multi-year, team-controlled guy who won’t bust out, but won’t embarrass you in the fourth rotation spot either.
Derrik: Paxton is obviously a trade candidate should the Red Sox sell, but I think the better option is from the White Sox in Lucas Giolito. Another name is Jordan Montgomery, as the Cardinals aren’t good this year. And if they want multiple years of control, Paul Blackburn is a decent option because he won’t cost much and the A’s have no use for him. The D-backs will have options, and they have the ammo to make moves if they are really going to go for the division title this year.
Patrick: It wouldn’t be a Bleacher Bums piece without at least one crazy idea, and I’ve got that covered this time around. Are you ready? I doubt it.
Derrik: Depends. Are we talking Ohtani?
Patrick: It’s an idea that might actually be worse.
Derrik: Trading for Alek Manoah? That’s one bad idea.
Patrick: Reuniting with Paul Goldschmidt. HEAR ME OUT…
Derrik: Only problem is where does he play? Christian Walker is the best defensive first baseman in baseball and the DH spot is taken by Gurriel, who I doubt they would want to put in the outfield.
Patrick: I told you it was a bad idea! But the Cards have nothing to lose at this point, other than baseball games. Split 1B/DH with Walker, and put Gurriel in the OF. I know they like a rotating DH sometimes, but Pavin Smith plays way too much. It’s a bold move with a ton of salary, sure. But can you THINK of the jersey sales? I can. Can you THINK of Paul Goldschmidt, NLCS MVP? I can. Give me Paxton and Goldy and this team wins THIS YEAR. I know, I know. That’s dumb. They don’t need to win this year and probably won’t. They’re looking at the long game. But that’s no fun in hypotheticals!
Derrik: If they were swinging big with the Cardinals, they’d be better off trying to get Nolan Arenado to waive his no-trade clause. They could use a third baseman. And that’s why I would suggest going after Ryan McMahon from the Rockies. Yes, he recently signed that six-year, $70 million extension with the Rockies. But he’s 28 years old, and the Rockies have no signs that they are going to do anything anytime soon. Plus, McMahon is an elite defender at third with a plus bat. As of right now, the D-backs’ everyday third baseman is Emmanuel Rivera, and he has a 101 wRC+ and is slightly below league average defensively. And Josh Rojas, who I love, was just sent down to Triple-A due to his 67 wRC+. The Rockies stink, and the D-Backs have prospects to trade to the Rockies, so a trade can work.
Patrick: One final question: how far will they go this year?
Derrik: That is an extremely hard question to answer not knowing what their roster will look like by the end of the season, but my safe guess is that they’ll go out in the NLDS. But my real answer is that they’ll get to the NLCS and fall to a team like the Braves. Although, if they make the right moves at the trade deadline, that answer could very much change as they could very easily go all the way.
Patrick: Here’s what I’m thinking: Bring back Randy Johnson and they win the World Series. Until then, I’m Patrick…
Derrik: And I’m Derrik…
Patrick: And we’re a couple of Bleacher Bums.