Diamondbacks Open To Trading From Outfield Depth

The Diamondbacks enter play Thursday with a 37-45 record, six games back of the Cardinals and Phillies for the National League’s final playoff spot. Barring an unexpected strong run over the next three and a half weeks, they seem likely to move shorter-term players for future value for a third consecutive season.

That’ll lead to a fair bit of speculation about veteran trade candidates like Zach Davies and Ian Kennedy, but Arizona could find themselves in position to move a player with a bit more club control in recognition of a mounting outfield surplus. The D-Backs have gotten encouraging early-career showings from Daulton Varsho and Alek Thomas, who look to be blossoming into members of the club’s next long-term core. They’ll be joined by Corbin Carroll, one of the sport’s top overall prospects, in the not too distant future. With that trio reaching or nearing the majors and warranting regular playing time, some of Arizona’s other outfielders could get squeezed out of the mix.

General manager Mike Hazen acknowledged as much, telling Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic the club is “open to discussing” trades involving some of the outfielders on the roster. Arizona has a few generally unproven but affordable depth options. Jake McCarthy and Pavin Smith are former solidly-regarded prospects who have reached the majors over the past couple years. Both had seen their stocks drop in the eyes of most evaluators by the time they reached the big leagues, and neither has hit especially well in limited MLB time to date. Cooper Hummel, whom Arizona acquired from the Brewers in last summer’s Eduardo Escobar trade, doesn’t have much of a prospect pedigree but owns a .316/.439/.539 line in a bit more than 400 career Triple-A plate appearances.

With each still in their mid-20’s and more than a season away from arbitration-eligibility, it’s easy to envision teams having some amount of interest in any or all of that group. (The chances of a Smith trade were dealt a blow when he fractured his right wrist in a minor league game over the weekend). Certainly, none of that trio would bring back a massive return. As Piecoro notes, all three are generally viewed by evaluators as fourth or fifth outfield types at this stage of their careers. Each could hold a bit more value and find an easier path to long-term playing time with another team that doesn’t have as much of a glut of upper minors options as the D-Backs do, however. Piecoro suggests Arizona could look to balance the organization by dealing one or more for an infield or pitching prospect of interest.

There’d of course be plenty more calls if the D-Backs were willing to make any of Varsho, Thomas or Carroll available. That’s less likely, as Hazen expressed a desire to build a core for the fanbase to “latch onto.” He’s spoken in past deadlines about “anchoring” around certain players, culminating in a Spring Training extension for Ketel Marte and a reluctance to part with staff ace Zac Gallen. While he didn’t explicitly rule out dealing anyone on the roster, Hazen downplayed the possibility of parting with a potential core piece. “Constantly rolling out young players for the next young player, I don’t really foresee that being the strategy we’re going to take,” Hazen told Piecoro. “You never want to be close-minded to the things that could happen, but that wouldn’t be a scenario I would chase.

In addition to the unproven but controllable collection of outfielders, the D-Backs have a pair of veteran role players who could draw some interest from 2022 contenders. Jordan Luplow, acquired from the Rays over the offseason, isn’t having a great season overall but he’s popped seven home runs in 68 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. He’s a career .237/.352/.545 hitter against southpaws and could hold some appeal as a right-handed platoon corner outfield option. Luplow is playing this season on a $1.4MM salary and remains controllable via arbitration through 2024.

David Peralta, meanwhile, has spent all nine of his MLB seasons with the D-Backs. After a few down years offensively, he’s rebounded to post a solid .250/.318/.470 line with 11 longballs in 258 plate appearances. Peralta has seen a dramatic uptick in both his fly-ball rate and hard contact percentage. The new approach has come with a career-high 12.7% swinging strike rate, but the veteran is hitting for more power than he has since a 30-homer 2018 campaign.

Peralta turns 35 years old in August, and he’s playing this season on a $7.5MM salary (a bit less than half of which is still to be paid out). Between his well-regarded clubhouse presence and solid offensive showing, contenders looking for left-handed outfield help but unwilling to meet the Royals’ asking price on Andrew Benintendi could view Peralta as a decent fallback option. At his age and with the aforementioned stockpile of younger options in Arizona, a trade seems likelier than another contract extension.

In a chat with Piecoro earlier this week, Peralta acknowledged that his run with the franchise could be nearing its end. “Like I always say — and I’m not going to get tired of saying it — I want to stay in this organization,” he said. “But I know that on the other side it’s a business, right? You have to think of it that way. If something happens, it’ll hurt, because this is the only organization I know. But if it happens, I’ll just have to take it and move forward.”

Peralta noted that a trade would afford him the opportunity to compete for a playoff spot this season, but he indicated his preference would be to stick with Arizona for the long haul. After joking he could start to play worse to reduce his own trade value and ensure he finishes out the season with the D-Backs, Peralta more seriously indicated he’s willing to stay with the club beyond this year. “It depends on what the Diamondbacks are going to do, what their goals are,” Peralta said about the possibility of re-signing. “I’m always going to be open to playing here. I would love to stay here for the rest of my career. It would mean a lot to me. But we’ll see what’s going to happen.

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