The Arizona Diamondbacks signaled they’re tearing things down by trading star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.
After qualifying offers to left-handed pitcher Patrick Corbin and outfielder A.J. Pollock were rejected, they’ll get a pair of compensatory draft picks in return and the Diamondbacks will look very different going forward.
Just how different is dependent on what moves they make next. In order to re-stock the cupboard, they need to unload some major pieces and take advantage of next year’s draft, where they currently have seven of the first 70 picks in 2019, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports.
Here’s a look at three players the Diamondbacks need to trade – and their potential suitors – to fully kick-start their rebuild:
Find a new home for Greinke
Potential suitors: Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros
Zack Greinke signed a six-year, $206.5-million contract before the 2016 season, and with three seasons remaining on the deal, it’s time for Arizona to cut its losses. The 35-year-old has been his reliable self for the last two campaigns after a rough inaugural season in the desert, going 32-18 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9 over 410 innings since the beginning of 2017.
The trick will be finding a team with money and the ability to offer a tantalizing return. The more cash a trade partner takes on in the deal, the less likely they’ll be to give up a valuable prospect. With the Yankees missing out on Corbin, Greinke could be a formidable addition to their rotation. However, a return to California for the former Angel seems to be the best fit for him.
Los Angeles needs pitching more than any other potential contender, as Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch in 2019 and Garrett Richards left via free agency. Add Greinke to a rotation of Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, and Jaime Barria, and the team’s rotation suddenly isn’t so dire.
However, Greinke has a 15-team no-trade clause, which reportedly includes both the Yankees and Angels.
So, don’t count out the Brewers or Reds. Both clubs are in the market for pitching help, with Cincinnati seemingly connected to every available arm on the market.
Cash in chips on Peralta’s power surge
Potential suitors: Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics
David “Freight Train” Peralta crushed a career-high 30 home runs in 2018 while batting .293/.352/.516. His season served as a reminder that, even though J.D. Martinez left through free agency after 2017, Goldschmidt wasn’t the only premium bat left in the Diamondbacks’ lineup.
Really, other than an injury-plagued 2016, Peralta’s been remarkably consistent at the plate. He may be a more attractive option than the outfielders on the open market.
Peralta would be a perfect replacement for Nick Markakis in Atlanta, and could easily slide into the starting left fielder’s job in Houston. The Astros generally lack left-handed hitting, so he would solve one of their few glaring problems. Also in the market for pitching help, the Astros would shock baseball if they managed to snag both Peralta and Greinke.
The 31-year-old may not be getting any younger, but he’s only in his second year of arbitration eligibility and has two years of team control remaining before free agency, making him a perfect fit for either a short-term championship window or a team looking to fill a spot before a prospect gets the call.
Capitalize on Corbin leaving pitching market by dealing Ray
Potential suitors: Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics
While Greinke’s destinations will be limited to which teams are willing to take on some serious salary, the trade market could be more open for left-handed strikeout machine Robbie Ray.
Ray’s issue has always been his propensity to issue walks, exemplified during a frustrating 2018 season where he served up 5.1 free passes per nine innings. However, during his previous three seasons in Arizona since his arrival in 2015, Ray posted a 3.82 ERA (3.68 FIP) with a 1.32 WHIP and 555 strikeouts in 464 innings. He reached his first All-Star Game in 2017 when he went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA.
Like Peralta, he’s second-year arbitration eligible and is slated to be a free agent in 2021. Now that Patrick Corbin is with the Washington Nationals for the next six years, there aren’t many left-handed free-agent starters available. Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted a qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel, and Gio Gonzalez, all of whom are older than Ray.
The Phillies and Yankees missed out on Corbin, and Philadelphia is short-handed in terms of southpaw starters. Ray’s uneven 2018 shouldn’t taint his ability to force swings-and-misses at a near elite clip. His 12.8 percent swinging strike rate since 2016 is tied for 11th best among qualified pitchers in that time.
With the Diamondbacks pulling the plug on 2019 before it even starts, moving these three players needs to become the priority. Sure, Peralta and Ray could be fine pieces for a rebuilding team, but their paths to free agency don’t line up with Arizona’s realistic window to compete.