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The Best Way to Improve the Arizona Diamondbacks

It may be an understatement to say that 2010 has not turned out the way the Diamondbacks faithful had hoped. The Snake's 26-41 record is already 12.5 games behind the division leading Padres and Dodgers (38-28). With the fourth place Rockies (34-32) a mere 4 games back and the Giants (37-28) a win from a 3 way tie for first, it would take a couple medium sized miracles to turn things around. The Diamondback's warts have already been discussed ad nauseam. I'll sum it up by saying the bullpen is bad, the rotation doesn't quite rotate, and the offense, while good, is a bit all or nothing.

Josh Byrnes has seemingly gotten the memo and is reportedly warming the coals for a fire sale. He struck the first blow of trading season by shipping Conor Jackson to Oakland for reliever Sam Demel. This post will look at what else the Diamondbacks have on offer and will highlight some teams that may have an interest in those pieces. Due to a preponderance of prospects at the corners, the Diamondbacks will be looking for up-the-middle type prospects in every trade.

First, I'll be continuing under the assumption that the Diamondbacks consider themselves potential contenders in the near future (say 2012). With that assumption, it seems likely that franchise icons Dan Haren and Mark Reynolds won't be going anywhere. It goes without saying that face of the franchise Justin Upton will survive the firesale. Pretty much everything else is probably open for inquiry (even Dan Haren could potentially go). I'll profile the five best on sale.

Please note this is by no means meant to be exhaustive. It's a cursory overview from the perspective of June 18th.

Adam LaRoche
Most Likely Suitors: New York Mets, Texas Rangers, LA Angels, Oakland Athletics

Known for his slow starts and strong finishes, Adam has been decent this season with a .353 wOBA. Teams that look to buy him will be getting a guy who routinely catches fire in about one month and will probably be banking on that. He'll be owed about $2 million for the balance of 2010 with a 1.5 mil buyout or 9.5 mil mutual option on 2011. The Angels are the best match for LaRoche as they currently are using catcher Mike Napoli at first base. Napoli is no slouch himself with the stick, but adding LaRoche gives them more flexibility between 1b, C, and DH. The Mets and Rangers are in a similar boat. They're in the midst of a playoff race with rookies manning the corner. The Mets are probably the best match for LaRoche on paper, but Ike Davis has gotten so much hype now that they may be reticent to acquire something more stable. The Rangers for their part appear to be thinking bigger. If the Athletics stick around in the division and they decide not to promote Chris Carter, they may like the idea of moving Barton to DH.

Kelly Johnson
Most Likely Suitors: New York Mets, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals

Kelly Johnson just might be the biggest surprise of the season. For what it's worth, I was one of the Kelly Johnson doubters, so his .387 wOBA entering the second turn is a shock. After displaying all kinds of power in April, that trend has cooled down. ZiPS projections have fallen in love, calling for a .371 wOBA from here on out. Our own Oliver projections expect a .351 wOBA and I'm willing to bet major league clubs have similar expectations. Kelly is likely to draw wide and varied interest from many clubs. The Mets have been linked to him by BPro's John Perrotto. If the Tigers continue to hang around, they could look to upgrade over the fragile bodied Carlos Guillen and the so far unproven Scott Sizemore. I speculate the Cardinals may be interested in finding some stability in the middle infield since the Reds seem intent on hanging around. The Dodgers, Padres, Giants, and White Sox could all end up as potential landing spots. Johnson will be owed about $1 million for the balance of 2010 and if I'm not mistaken has one remaining year of arbitration.

Chris Snyder
Most Likely Suitors: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds

Miguel Montero's early season knee injury pushed Chris Snyder back into everyday play. He ran with the opportunity (ran is probably the wrong word) and posted a league average .334 wOBA while demonstrating health and adequacy behind the plate. Snyder was linked to the Red Sox early in the season when baserunners were having a field day. With Big Papi performing in spurts and the AL East pennant within reach, the Red Sox may opt to add Snyder. That would give them seven players (Adrian Beltre, Kevin Youkilis, Victor Martinez, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, and Snyder) to spread around 3b, 1b, C, and DH, but that's probably not a bad thing. The Yankees for their part should probably be interested in pushing Francisco Cervelli back to part time duties. Cervelli has been decent so far, but Oliver pegs him as a .300 wOBA true talent hitter. I don't mean to gloss over Jorge Posada, but I'm doubtful he can stay healthy as a non-DH. I don't think the Reds will get a shot at him, but they're likely to be looking for whatever upgrades they can find. I expect them to focus on acquiring pitching.

Stephen Drew
Most Likely Suitors: LA Angels, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres

The former top prospect can only be described as frustrating. Drew appears to be off to a solid start this season, posting a .354 wOBA. A closer inspection reveals that his peripherals remain virtually identical to last year's performance with the only substantial change coming in the form of a 45 point boost to BABIP. So while Drew remains cheap to the club, now might be the prime time to cash in on him while he's showing some signs of life. Today, John Perrotto noted that the Angels were considering Drew (among other SS's). With Maicer Izturis out and Erick Aybar questionable for the foreseeable future, the Angels certainly need help up the middle. The Twins may not seem like a perfect fit, but incumbent J.J. Hardy has not exactly set the world afire (.267 wOBA) and mediocre players like Matt Tolbert and Brendan Harris have been getting way too much playing time. The Padres have their own hole at SS, but I doubt they'll be looking to buy. The Cardinals could have interest too for the same reason they may look in on Kelly Johnson. There's even an outside shot the Braves get fed up with Yunel Escobar and decide to inquire.

Chris Young
Most Likely Suitors: Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants

The outfielding variety of Chris Young has had himself a strong start to 2010. His .374 wOBA is supported by an improved strikeout rate (now just 24.7%), a leap in BABIP (from .268 to .329), and a modest increase in power. The most encouraging number is that his infield fly rate has dropped from an unheard of 22.4% to a league average 8.9%. This means that the huge leap in BABIP isn't necessarily based on luck (that of course assumes the lowered IFFB% isn't luck, tricksy huh?).

Even with the improvements, Young doesn't look like he's going to be quite as good as the D-Backs were hoping for when they inked him to a 5 year 28 million deal in 2008. Young is owed about $22 million between now and 2013 with an $11 million club option for 2014 (1.5 million buyout). Rather than ride the roller coaster with Young, the Diamondbacks brass may opt to cash in and free themselves of the future obligations. The Rangers strike me as a solid landing place. Their payroll should open up considerably once the new ownership grabs the helm. Young is owed the balance of $3.25 million this season, so MLB can't refuse a potential trade. With Julio Borbon's season long struggles, the Rangers are probably eager to secure a CF for the playoff push. The Reds outfield is solid enough despite being cobbled together, but there's going to be pressure on Walt Jocketty to make a trade. As I said, look for them to focus on pitching and if they miss out on some of the big names, they may go after players like Young. The Giants may try to add Young as a permanent patch to Andres Torres/Nate Schierholtz/John Bowker.

Read more great baseball stuff at The Hardball Times.


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