The unsettling nature of the Arizona Diamondbacks rotation

Now, there are two. Perhaps, one.

From a full contingent of five starters to complete a reliable, major league pitching rotation, the Arizona Diamondbacks may be down to a sample of that number. Plus, the trade deadline is looming and given the Diamondbacks present predicament, that the number could further dwindle.

When the season began, starters, under new pitching coach Brent Strom and his history of success, broke out of the gate with a vengeance. Right-hander Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen quickly rose to the top of the National League leader board with low ERAs and quality starts.

Others did not achieve to that level. Veteran Madison Bumgarner was pitching into high pitch counts and not gaining victories. Veteran Luke Weaver began the season on the injured list and that left manager Torey Lovullo without another potential starter. While Lovullo scrambled to fill the other locations, spot starters, such as Humberto Castellanos (3-2, 5.86 ERA in 9 starts) filled in adequately. Now, that all has unraveled, and the future is not hopeful but clouded.

Only Gallen and Kelly now stand atop of the Diamondbacks leader board and with trade rumors circulating around Gallen, Kelly could be the last man standing,

Despite the team now hovering around 10 games under .500 and the rotation depleted, Lovullo remains optimistic.

“We have guys that are stepping up and getting the job done,”, Lovullo said before a recent game. “We’ve had some tough luck with injuries to (Castellanos) and now Zack Davies. It’s the next guy up and an opportunity to show what they have. We have some really good arms in the minor leagues and we’re not looking externally at the Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 9.64 ERA in two starts; 12 earned runs in 9.1 innings) situation. We’re looking internally to fill the spot that we need.”

Lovullo’s selection for game two of the current series against the San Francisco Giants in Chase Field validates his approach. With a fifth starter slated for that July 5 game, Lovullo turned to lefty Tyler Gilbert, who entered the game, with an 0-3 record and a 7.88 ERA for three starts. In four games in 2022 at the major league level, Gilbert allowed 14 earned runs in 16 innings.

All of which puts the 28-year-lefty in a precarious spot in the rotation.

Given the Diamondbacks potential position as sellers and not buyers in the weeks leading to the Aug. 2 trade deadline, Gallen and Bumgardner have been mentioned in potential trades.

If Arizona general manager Mike Hazen can secure somewhat of a future stock of players for Gallen, he could be dealt. Not a likely scenario for Bumgardner, whose future in the desert could be tenuous.

Because his numbers have declined in recent years, the value of Bumgardner comes into focus. The veteran lefty has not had a winning season in the majors since he went 15-8 for the 2016 San Francisco Giants.  His current 3.74 ERA remains relatively high, and his last lowest ERA was, for a season, 3.26 in 2018 for the Giants. For 2022, he is currently 4-8 with that 3.74 ERA in 17 starts.

In 2019, Bumgardner inked a five-year deal for $85 million and he is owed approximately $48.8 million through the 2024 season. To complicate matters, Bumgardner is reported to have a no-trade clause to five undisclosed clubs.

While Lovullo points to arms in the Diamondbacks farm system, that may be unrealistic.

At AAA Reno, starters are putting up numbers that would not justify a call to The Show. Right-hander Corbin Martin, up for parts of the past three seasons, has a 4-3 record with the Aces and a 6.46 in 10 starts. Consider others as well in lefty Tommy Henry (4-5, 3.89 ERA for 16 starts), righty Ryne Nelson (6-5, 5.83 ERA for 16 starts), righty Drey Jamison (2-6, 7.15 in 11 starts), and veteran righty Dan Straily, 2-3, 7.44 ERA in 11 starts.

At AA Amarillo, two prospects could be considered. Both are right-handers and include Slade Cecconi (4-3, 4.36 in 14 starts) and Brandon Pfaadt (5-5, 4.54). The issue here is both are 23-years-old and likely a few years away from major league consideration.

With more than half the season still to complete, Lovullo is now in a quandary. His question, how can I hold a viable and productive starting rotation together? Signing a one-year contract for the 2022 season, Lovullo could be left with both an uncertain starting rotation and an uncertain future in the desert.

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