With just over six weeks to the trade deadline, speculation has begun on the direction teams may take. In the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks, they remain within striking distance of an NL wildcard spot and that reason should influence their direction.
Coming into this weekend series in Chase Field against the Minnesota Twins, the Diamondbacks were 6.5 games out of a wild-card spot. While it is realistic to think their chances of qualifying for the post-season are remote at best, the reasoning holds as long as there is light, there is hope. All of which will likely dictate the direction club general manager Mike Hazen will go.
If the Diamondbacks remain playoffs contenders, Hazen will likely hesitate to move players whom he believes could aid in the stretch run. In the past, the Diamondbacks have executed few moves at the trade deadline. Circle that date on the calendar because the trade deadline of Aug. 2 is the difference between a “for sale” sign on your house or seeking a long-term residence.
Since becoming the club’s general manager after the 2016 season, Hazen, in retrospect, made only one deal that significantly influenced a potential stretch drive by Arizona. That’s when the Diamondbacks acquired outfielder J. D Martinez from Detroit on July 18, 2017, for three minor leaguers.
With the Diamondbacks in 2017, Martinez hit .302 in 62 games, slammed 29 home runs, and drove in 65 runs. His stay with Arizona was memorable for hitting four home runs in a game at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 4, 2017. His contribution propelled Arizona into the post-season, helped generate a wild-card win over Colorado and a date with the Dodgers in the Division championship series.
With six weeks remaining before the 2022 trade deadline, the Diamondbacks began the annual tradition of positioning players for a potential playoff run.
First, shortstop Nick Ahmed is likely lost for the season with a right shoulder operation and that influenced a series of moves. Earlier this month, field manager Torey Lovullo expressed optimism that Ahmed could return sometime before the end of the season, but he is currently on the 60-day injured list. Geraldo Perdomo (hitting .230, 2 homers, 14 RBIs prior to the start of the Twins series) is adequate and in the lineup every day. Just before the series with Minnesota, the club called up infielder Buddy Kennedy from Triple AAA Reno.
For the Aces, Kennedy was hitting .296 with eight doubles, four homers, and knocked in 24 runs over 54 games. With Reno, he made 28 starts at third base and 16 at second. Lovullo immediately put Kennedy in the lineup Friday night and the native of Millville, N. J. batted sixth as the DH. He is the grandson of Don Money, a former major leaguer with Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
Then, there is the starting pitching. Right-hander Luke Weaver has been thrust into the rotation and, despite a strain in his right shoulder that kept the veteran on the 60-day injured list, he continues the trend of Lovullo and Hazen which seeks an experienced pitcher to fill spots in the rotation.
Plus, lefty Madison Bumgarner needs to turn around a declining season. Despite a strong start, the veteran lefty is currently in a tailspin in which he is 0-5 in his last six starts. To be fair, the Diamondbacks have scored no runs on his behalf over his previous three starts and his only victory in this stretch was a 7-6 decision over the Cubs on May 21 in Wrigley Field.
Bumgarner opened the Twins series Friday night.
For the Diamondbacks to remain competitive, the bullpen must elevate its collective game. Closer Mark Melancon has been less than stellar and unreliable.
Lefty Joe Mantiply has been the most consistent. Coming into the Twins series, he has not allowed a run in his previous 15 appearances, and that’s currently the fourth-longest streak in the majors. Among NL relievers, his 0.37 ERA is second and held opponents to no runs in 42 of his last 44 appearances dating back to Aug. 30 of last season
As the trade deadline approaches, Hazen will likely act as a fortune-teller than a baseball executive. At this point, there is a necessity to try and forecast in which direction the Diamondbacks are heading. If he guesses correctly, then the trade deadline will likely pass quietly in the desert.