A little over a month ago, I discussed whether the Diamondbacks should trade Zack Greinke, citing the facts that the team is not likely to make the playoffs and Greinke is still quite good. Well, the Dbacks are still hovering around .500, but their FanGraphs playoff odds have dropped even further, likely because they have not made up any ground in their wild card push, and they have no shot at winning the division with the juggernaut Dodgers in first place.
The Diamondbacks are only 2 1/2 games out of the last Wild Card slot, but they have to climb over three teams to get there, and those teams are currently the Cubs, Brewers, and Phillies. I would hear arguments about how they are comparable with the Phillies on talent — though to be clear, I believe the Phillies are better — but definitely not the Brewers or Cubs. The Diamondbacks at the very least should be entertaining offers in good faith.
Robbie Ray is certainly a player that contending teams should be interested in, as he would at worst provide an upgrade to the back of a contender’s rotation. This year he has a solid 4.39 RA9, though it is boosted by the Dbacks’ defense, which just might be the best in baseball. So far, the humidor that the team put in place last year has not affected the park factors too much, as it is still seen as a pretty hitter-friendly ballpark. Baseball Reference adds that all up to a 1.4 WAR this season. Over at Baseball Prospectus, he has a 4.19 DRA and 2.1 WAR.
Ray has been one of the best strikeout starting pitchers in baseball since 2017. Only Chris Sale and Max Scherzer have done better than Ray’s 31.8 strikeout percentage in that span. He is still keeping that up this season despite the fact that his velocity is down about a mile per hour. He is balancing that out a bit by relying more on his slider, which now makes up a third of the pitches that he throws, per Brooks Baseball. As a lefty without an effective changeup, his breaking balls have been key to getting right-handed batters out.
Ever since his strikeout rate shot up in 2017, Ray has struggled with his control. Last year he walked 13.3 percent of batters faced, which was the worst mark in baseball among pitchers with at least 120 IP. Expanding this from 2017 to the present, and Ray’s 11.6 BB% is the second-worst among qualified starters. Unsurprisingly, Tyler Chatwood was worse.
The Diamondbacks’ farm system is in pretty good shape, so much so that I would not be surprised to see it ranked in the top five next winter. However, even if you want to cite that as a reason that the team could be competitive again sooner rather than later, Ray is under contract for only one more year after this one. Who knows what free agency is going to look like after the 2020 season, but Ray will be going into his age-29 season, and if he continues pitching like this he will be a number three or four starter.
General Manager Mike Hazen does not need to get a king’s ransom for Ray given the state of the farm system, but he is best suited to sell high on him now. I can’t imagine that there is a shortage of suitors.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.