Diamondback's Acquisition of Martinez Brings the Question of Buyer vs Seller to Others
This Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired outfielder JD Martinez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for, of course, a bunch of prospects. The move signals the Dbacks willingness to go for broke this season, a somewhat questionable move given the fact that they sit 10.5 games out of first and only .5 a game ahead of third.
However, that’s not to say they can’t make a Postseason run. The successes of previous wild card teams have been well-documented. From 2002-2004, all three World Series winners were wild card teams (Angels, Marlins, Red Sox). In 2014, the San Francisco Giants had their own magical run to the championship, trouncing the Pirates 8-0 in the Wild Card game, a foreshadowing of how they would ride Madison Bumgarner to glory.
The trade does bring up an interesting prospect: how should other “bubble” teams handle the Deadline? Obviously everybody wants to see their team pull a Diamondbacks, but they all know in the back of their minds that it’s probably best to wait until next year. In the same division, the Colorado Rockies are experiencing some newfound success, though they still reside in the three hole in their division. Other teams in this category include (but are not limited to) the Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though the fans (and possibly players) may be eager to finally get something going, the best course of action may be a continuation of their recent activities: stockpile prospects, find key guys to build around, and let the team morph itself into a contender. After all, that process must’ve worked up until that point if the team is even asking themselves this question. So, let’s break down each of these “bubble” teams.
Arizona Diamondbacks Though the Dbacks do have a very talented team that showcases a sizzling desert lineup, they do sit in a precocious position. They currently hold a Wild Card spot along with fellow division mate Colorado, sitting 6.5 games over the next closest team, the Chicago Cubs. However, they are still 10.5 games behind the division-leading Dodgers (as mentioned before), meaning they are most likely to make the playoffs as a Wild Card team. If the season were to end today, the DBacks would first have to win the Wild Card, then face their old friends from Los Angeles. This season Arizona is 4-6 against LA with a run differential of just -1. Though this means they could possibly get past them as well, a deeper run into the Postseason seems unlikely given their inexperience and the talent of the Washington Nationals (should Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle prove to be effective at closing out playoff games).
Verdict: Stay Put (and see how far you can get)
Colorado Rockies The Rockies are currently in a situation quite similar to that of the Diamondbacks. They hold a comfortable Wild Card spot, yet have a small chance of winning the division. Bud Black seemed to have tamed the Coors Field beast, but since the early season Rockies pitchers have returned to form, posting a 4.59 ERA for the year. If the Rockies can’t figure out their pitching and their offense continues to perform at surprisingly subpar levels, they stand no real shot of doing much for the rest of the year. They do have a solid group of kids together centered around Nolan Arenado, DJ Lemahieu and Trevor Story, but their pitching is a need that trades alone won’t solve.
Verdict: Stay Put (and work on those young arms)
Milwaukee Brewers This is one of baseball’s cinderella stories (on more levels than one). The Brewers, who currently hold the lowest payroll in the MLB, are leading what was considered one of the toughest divisions, the NL Central. This is thanks in no small part to the underwhelming performances of their compatriots. At this time last year, the Cubs were 56-36. They currently sport a 49-45 record. However, the Brewers have done their part by playing good ball. They enter the day with a 52-45 record, much improved from the 39-51 record they had at this time a year ago. That does make you wonder whether they can sustain the pace (or if their opponents will continue to struggle). They have gotten unlikely production from players such as Eric Thames, Travis Shaw, Eric Sogard, Orlando Arcia, and Domingo Santana. They’ve also had some young pitchers step it up, most notably Chase Anderson and Jimmy Nelson, as well as All-Star reliever Corey Knebel (Ka-ne-bul). However, as noted earlier, the path through the NL this year is thick with talented clubs, turning many off a potential shot.
Verdict: Sell (try to sell some veterans, garner more prospects. You’re close Milwaukee!)
Pittsburgh Pirates This is tough to write about. The Pirates have had their chances to sell the past few years, yet have never pulled the trigger on a full rebuild. Now, they sit mired in a mediocre stretch, fielding a team that is good enough to win but hasn’t been. One could argue a rebuild never took place because Pittsburgh was so enamored with making the playoffs for three consecutive years after 20 years of losing that they couldn’t tear down what they took so long to build. Now, former MVP Andrew McCutchen has boosted his trade value closer to what it once was, and ace Gerrit Cole looks very appealing for teams needing a front line starter. They also control lefty specialist Tony Watson, one of the better available relievers. With a farm system that currently ranks 16th in the Majors (or, should I say, the Minors), the Pirates need to look to the future and add young talent while shedding off veterans who may have reached their end in Pittsburgh.
Verdict: Sell (and commit to a rebuild)
New York Yankees This is where it gets fun. The American League currently houses seven teams within five games of a Wild Card spot. The Yankees are fortunate enough to have hold on one of those spots (as it stands), yet they have experienced a major cooldown since their red-hot start. Of course, the outlook for this club changes tremendously with the White Sox deal. They now have two great bullpen pieces, a commodity no team can ever seem to get enough of. They also added the New Jersey native Todd Frazier, a player who will (hopefully) provide stable defense AND offense at third base. Many felt the Yanks should stay in touch with the A’s, as they have both Sonny Gray (the best available starting pitcher) and Yonder Alonso (a man who could solve their first base woes). With this trade going down, the Yanks must question whether they really want to push it this season with a group of Baby Bombers, or simply wait for their dominance next year.
Verdict: Buy (add a starter, some veterans, let the kids loose)
Kansas City Royals Oh Kansas City. They had a magical run in both 2014 and 2015, going to then winning the World Series, respectively. However, the team is getting older, all their key players are approaching free agency, and they have the worst farm system in the MLB. This is clearly a sell situation, yet… GM Dayton Moore has insisted that the team is in fact looking to buy at the Deadline (with who knows what). He wants to try and put together one last run for his ole’ Band of Brothers before they all (possibly) leave in free agency. In this year’s AL, everyone feels they have a shot (well except for the White Sox). It is, to say the least, a head scratching proposition.
Verdict: Sell (not your players, but the idea of playing for your ballclub next year)
Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto’s wheeling-dealing with little success to show for it reminds me of a certain NL West GM...and we all know where that team is now. The Mariners have been so close to breaking the MLB’s longest playoff drought numerous times, yet they always find themselves a few games short. That would make one think that they are one piece away from contending. And those people may be right. Though some of their core players like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Felix Hernandez are aging, the Mariners have a respectable ballclub, and may be just a trade or two away. God knows Dipoto is willing and able.
Verdict: Buy (and put those demons to rest, maybe)
Minnesota Twins I really don’t understand. They just don’t seem that good, yet they are right there with the Indians as well as the rest of the field. However, I don’t think they can keep it up. They do have numerous outstanding young pieces, such as Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, and Jose Berrios (and Byron Buxton if you still believe in him), but they are far from a team that can compete. With a decent farm system and a solid group of young Major Leaguers, the Twins should continue to add for the future (or continue to win and shut me up).
Verdict: Stay put (and let your prospects develop)
Tampa Bay Rays If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. The last “bubble” team is the Rays. Coming into the season, many picked them as a dark horse, and they were right. Although overshadowed by fellow AL East teams New York and Boston, Tampa has put together a very nice season after deciding to hold onto Chris Archer (and not Logan Forsythe). They hold the other Wild Card spot, and look like a well-mixed team ready to compete now. They aren’t quite at championship level yet, but with some nice-looking prospects and a good big league club, the Rays have reason for hope.
Verdict: Same as Dbacks (buy and see how far you can go).