The Arizona Diamondbacks see themselves in playoff contention once again in 2018 and sit atop the NL West, just ahead of the Dodgers. They have the roster to make some noise in the National League, and their play is showing that. However, with the Dodgers coming on strong since May 16, Arizona needs to keep pace by improving the roster.
One of the most significant needs on the team is offense. The went through a terrible offensive slump after their hot 21-8 start which was the biggest culprit for their 5-18 stretch. They have gone 22-13 since, on the backbone of an awoken offense, headlined by starman Paul Goldschmidt, and health all-around with A.J. Pollock coming back from the DL, and Steven Souza not too far behind.
The duo of Patrick Corbin and Zack Greinke have done a good job anchoring the starting rotation, and Clay Bucholtz was pitching well enough to make it a trio before he got hurt. They have the best bullpen in the league, which will keep them in every single game as long as you give some runs.
When healthy, they are one of the better all-around rosters in the NL, especially if Bucholtz comes back and pitches like he was and Robbie Ray comes back and pitches like 2017 again.
However, there is still room for improvement, especially if they want to dethrone the Los Angeles Dodgers. And that upgrade comes in the form of Manny Machado, who they have been linked to for a while. Acquiring him from the Baltimore Orioles would elevate the offense, in turn, the team (because of the consistency), to another level.
Now, we all know that Machado would be rental, with his pending free agency after this season. But he is a risk the Diamondbacks need to gamble on. They are getting offensive production from almost everyone on the field except for shortstop, which has a collective .718 OPS. And the other places they are not getting supports is either due to health or prolonged slumps.
Jake Lamb has been struggling all season but has an average .745 OPS. And remember, he hit a combined 59 home runs with an OPS just north of .840 between 2016 and 2017. And Lamb is only 27. He has the pedigree and talent to turn it around and expect the franchise to give him a chance.
Right field has been lacking, but that is primarily due to Steven Souza being absent. Second base has been bad, but the Diamondbacks have Ketel Marte signed long-term and considering he is only 24, you can expect the team to give him every opportunity to earn the $24 million they gave him. And if he does not turn things around this year, they can fall on Daniel Descalso, who has a .831 OPS this season.
Shortstop, however, has Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings as the primary options, which is not ideal if you have high aspirations. And when a player like Manny Machado is out there and available, that gives you more reason to move on from them.
Machado is a superstar talent who has a .937 OPS with 21 home runs. Pairing him with a resurgent Goldy gives the Diamondbacks one of the best offensive pairs in the sport. Including a healthy A.J. Pollock, and you may have one of the better trios around. And although he is going to be rental, now is not the time to be cautious.
NL West supremacy is there for the taking. Machado would turn them into full-blown contenders and prevent NL rivals the Dodgers and Cubs from getting him. And with how the Dodgers are playing right now, LA may be the favorites to win the division for a sixth straight year. The DBacks showed last year with J. D. Martinez that they were willing to take a chance on an elite free-agent-to-be hitter to make a playoff push. And you never know when you will get a chance to be back in this position again.
Speaking of which, the window for contention may be closing soon. Pollock and Corbin are free agents after this season. As could Goldschmidt if the team does not pick up his option for 2019. The team can always try to re-sign all of them, but their current financial commitments are substantial, and will only get heavier if the team works to bring back their entire core. In turn, Machado may price himself out of Arizona, but this may be their last best chance in a long time.
Zack Greinke is 34. Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray, and Jake Lamb are free agents after 2020. This may be the last time that this core group of players will be together so the Diamondbacks must make the most of it.
And because Machado is only rental, his value immediately drops, meaning he may not require an elite haul of prospects. Not that Arizona has any. They have just one guy in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list. Most of their minor league talent is in the lower levels which would be perfect for the full-scale rebuilding Orioles.
Both teams make for near-perfect trade partners for each other, and it’s on the Diamondbacks to leverage that.
Featured Image via Flickr/Keith Allison
Have a tip we should know? email@example.com