D-Backs That Could Be Dealt: Pitchers

As the Diamondbacks have emerged as arguably the summer's most aggressive seller, we over at BtB thought it would be a useful exercise to look at the different pieces that other teams could potentially target. We covered the position players yesterday, so today we'll delve into the pitching staff.

Now, there probably isn't going to be nearly as much interest in Arizona's pitchers as their position players. The Diamondbacks are currently dead last in the majors in ERA. The staff's peripheral numbers don't do them many favors either, as they're second-to-last in the game in FIP and roughly middle of the pack in xFIP. But even so, they should have a few guys worth targeting, and possibly even one very big fish. 

And as we noted before, Jon Heyman reported that Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy are off-limits in trade talks, so we'll hold off on discussing them for now. Obviously, I could see someone prying Kennedy from Arizona far easier than Upton, who could very well be one of the few truly untouchable players in baseball.

RHP Dan Haren - owed $4.89M for 2010, $29M for 2011/2012 with 2013 club option at $12M

Arguably the most valuable asset that could possibly be available this summer, Haren is Arizona's undeniable ace and one of the best pitchers in the NL. In the past five seasons, he's never pitched less than 216 innings, with an FIP or xFIP mark over 4 just once, back in 2007. He's been worth at least 4 WAR in all five seasons, peaking in 2008/2009 with consecutive 6+ win seasons. 

Haren and Roy Halladay are the only pitchers to put up strikeout-to-walk ratios better than 5 in 2008, 2009 and 2010, and he's shown few signs of stopping so far in 2010. He's currently got an underwhelming 4.61 ERA, but his xFIP sits at a much more impressive 3.26, reflecting that he's been the victim of some not-so-good luck so far. His K/BB ratio sits at 5.71 at the moment, second-best in the game behind Cliff Lee, and he's still flashing a solid groundball rate at roughly 44%. 

He's just had some awful luck on fly balls (15% HR/FB) and batted balls in general (.345 BABIP), but he's showing few signs of statistic decline so far, which makes sense as he's only 29-years-old. Considering his exceptional performance (ZiPS projects him for a 3.28 FIP for the rest of the season) and reasonable contract (~$34M through 2012), the Diamondbacks could presumably land a huge haul for Haren if they were interested in dealing him.

He's the kind of durable, productive arm that's hard to replace, but he's really the one piece in that organization outside of Upton that could really bring a legitimately impressive haul of talent in return.

RHP Edwin Jackson - owed $2.49M for 2010, $8.35M for 2011

Expected to help anchor the pitching staff after coming to the desert with Kennedy in exchange for young pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth, Jackson's actually done a pretty good job if you look at his peripheral statistics. But the 3-6 record and 5.18 ERA aren't so encouraging, particularly from teams that were so excited about his 13-9, 3.62 ERA performance last season.

Jackson, 26, has actually improved his xFIP compared to last season, with a 4.10 xFIP in 2010 after putting up a 4.39 mark in 2009. He's walking batters at a slightly higher rate, but it appears that some improved pitch sequencing has helped Jackson to miss more bats and get more strikeouts. Combine the improved strikeout rate with an increase in ground balls induced (46% in 2010, 39% in 2009), and it's not surprising that Jackson's metrics are superior this season.

He's on pace for a roughly 3.5 WAR season right now, which would be essentially a repeat of his 2009 in terms of value. He probably will never take that next big step forward to bring even more efficiency and consistency to his performance, but he's still a solid No. 3 starter being paid significantly less than that. The D-Backs will probably want Jackson around for next season, particularly if they have any interest in moving Haren. But he could definitely be one of the more valuable pitchers put on the market this summer.

RHP Brandon Webb - owed $5.04M for 2010

Yeah, he hasn't pitched yet in 2010, but I got to at least acknowledge the possibility, right? The 31-year-old right-hander just threw a 75-pitch session in front of D-Back officials yesterday, and his current timetable has him returning some time in late July. So yeah, he probably won't have much of a chance of being dealt.

But there's always a chance that he shows some signs of health in his return this season, passes through waivers in August, and has some team willing to take a shot on him. I mean, we all know what Webb can do when he's healthy. I mean, all you have to do is look at his year-to-year WAR marks from his healthy years: 4.8, 3.1, 5.3, 7.0, 6.9, 6.1. That's 33.2 WAR total and an average of 5.5 WAR per season. Prettyyyy, prettyyyyy good.

That being said, he probably won't be healthy, and he probably won't have much of a chance to be traded. I just didn't want to ignore the possibility.

RHP Rodrigo Lopez - owed $385K for 2010

You know, you tell yourself that a contender couldn't possibly go after a guy like this to shore up the back of their rotation, and then the Cardinals go out and hand their No. 5 spot to what's left of Jeff Suppan

And Lopez could be particularly optimistic, because he's totally out-pitched Suppan so far this season, too. Lopez was once the de-facto ace of the Orioles, putting up four 2+ win seasons in a five-year span. But he bounced around a few organizations over the past three years before establishing himself in the back of Arizona's rotation this spring. He hasn't been spectacular, but he's been solid, with FIP and xFIP marks of 4.89 and 4.57, respectively. 

He's never been a big strikeout guy, but he does have above average command. He's basically a "kitchen sink"-type guy at this point, throwing a variety of four- and two-seam fastballs, curveballs, sliders and change-ups to get hitters out. Unfortunately, his whiff rate has been pretty abysmal so far (4.1%), he's giving up contact nearly 91% of the time, and he's a flyball pitcher now (37% GB rate), so he shouldn't be anyone's idea of an impact acquisition. Still, there are worse pitchers that take the mound in meaningful moments late in the season.

RHP Aaron Heiman -  owed $1.27M for 2010

As surprising as this might be to some Met and Cub fans, Heilman has actually been one of the lone bright spots in Arizona's horrific bullpen so far. His ERA is the best on the team among relievers and his metrics are similarly near the top, although that's more so a reflection of how bad Arizona's bullpen has been than a reflection of how good Heilman has been. 

The 2.83 ERA is pretty, but his xFIP is sitting at 4.52, so he seems in line for a healthy amount of regression, particularly in his strand rate (percentage of runners on base that are not allowed to score), which is sitting over 85%. The biggest concern with Heilman has to be his groundball rate, which is at an astonishingly low 27%. He's putting up his best strikeout-to-walk ratio since 2007, but he's going to have a really tough time maintaining this success with that kind of batted ball profile (25% LD, 27% GB, 48% FB).

Then again, he's pretty cheap, he's pitching fairly well, and he's a pretty well-known guy thanks to his time in the Big Apple. He's taken over duties as the team's closer for now given Chad Qualls' struggles, but I wouldn't be surprised if he got some interest from teams looking for middle relief help.

RHP Chad Qualls - owed $2.48M for 2010

I'm not sure how much interest Arizona will find in a closer who just lost his job because he's got a 8.46 ERA and blew a quarter of his save opportunities, but I'm guessing that teams will be smart enough to look past that and have interest in adding Qualls. 

Yeah, he's got that nasty 1-3 record and 8.46 ERA so far, but his xFIP is sitting at a much more reasonable 3.57, indicating that he's likely to pitch much, much better from here on out. He's still flashing above average strikeout and groundball rates, and while he's seen his walk rate jump from 1.2 per 9 to 4.0 per 9, he's still an above average reliever if you put that all together.

Qualls has just seen some absolutely awful luck inherited runners, as his 51.3% strand rate is actually the lowest of any reliever in baseball with more than 20 innings pitched. ZiPS projects Qualls for a 3.52 FIP for the rest of the season, which doesn't seem too crazy considering he put up respective xFIP marks of 2.93 and 2.86 in 2008 and 2009. 

Alas, I will bring up one concern with Qualls: his strikeout rate seems weird. He's currently sitting at 9.27 K/9, which would be a career-best mark for him. That's all fine and dandy, but it just doesn't seem to match the rest of his numbers. His contact rate is sitting at 84%, well above his career mark of 77%. His whiff rate is down big time, from 11.3% for his career to just 7.7% so far in 2010. He's throwing his fastball more often, and as a two-pitch guy, that means that he's throwing his slider, his out-pitch, less often. I'd argue that the change is approach has had a pretty disastrous effect, because its made Qualls a significantly more hittable pitcher.

Either way, though, he's a once-elite reliever with a track record of success, indicators of returning to that success, and a reasonable price tag. If Arizona wants to move him, they shouldn't have too much difficulty.

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