Recent Posts

Picking The Flesh From The Bones Of The Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks NIck Ahmed and Robbie Ray can fill two needs for the Pirates

So last Wednesday, Bob Nightengale dropped this tasty little chum nugget into the not-yet hot stove season:

The Diamondbacks finished with the same number of wins as the Pirates (82). They were competitive, even leading the NL West, for large swathes of the season. But they faltered down the stretch with a terrible 8-19 September.

The Diamondbacks have two key players heading to free agency — LHP Patrick Corbin and CF A.J. Pollock. Their franchise player, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, only has his 2019 team option for $14.5M remaining. Does that sound familiar to you, Pirate fan?

The difference between Goldschmidt and Andrew McCutchen is that Goldschmidt is still playing at a high level and not on a sharp decline. He’ll command a much higher return than McCutchen in the trade market.

So with facing the loss of 3 of their top 4 players (Zack Greinke is in that mix), the Diamondbacks have decided to tear it down and rebuild. Every team will be calling them, so who should the Pirates be targeting?

Let’s establish a few ground rules:

  1. The Pirates don’t have a ton of payroll space to operate with, most likely. I’m going to say they have $20M, tops, to work with and they have multiple needs.
  2. The Pirates don’t have a very good farm system. Sorry, they don’t. So I don’t want to see trading the few assets they have, like Mitch Keller, to get Paul Goldschmidt for just one year. He’s the only impact level prospect they have left.
  3. I can’t see the Diamondbacks trading anyone that still hasn’t reached arbitration, so a player like Ketel Marte is probably not a consideration.

Nick Ahmed

OK, I’m not exactly starting off with a lot of sizzle, but in my opinion shortstop is the position most in need of an upgrade. Last week, I was interested in Jose Iglesias and Marcus Semien, two shortstops that are great with the glove and so-so with the bat.

Nick Ahmed is like a cut-rate version of those two guys. His line of .234/.290/.411 was good for only an 85 wRC+, so he’s a little below Iglesias/Semien and last year’s starter, Jordy Mercer.

But like Iglesias, Ahmed has historically been great with the glove. Last year, Ahmed had a +11.0 UZR, good for 6th best among shortstops in MLB (Iglesias was 3rd, Semien 4th).

He also has two years of arbitration remaining and he only made $1.3M this year. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to make $3.1M, which is eminently affordable at probably half of what Iglesias/Semien will command next year.

Ahmed also has the cleanest home/away splits I’ve seen in a long time, so his career-high 16 home runs weren’t a product of his hitter-friendly home confines.

Robbie Ray

If you prescribe to the notion that the Pirates need a LH pitcher in the starting rotation, then do you have a few moments that I can talk to you about Robbie Ray?

Ray is a strikeout artist. If you like K%, his 31.4% was the 8th highest among starters with at least 120 innings pitched. If you like K/9, his 12.01 K/9 was 5th highest. Each of those numbers would have easily led Pirate starting pitchers. His K% was a full 5% higher than leader, Chris Archer’s.

Sounds great! But…Robbie Ray’s bugaboo is his propensity to giving up walks and homers. After posting 3-WAR seasons in 2016 and 2017, Ray’s WAR dropped to 1.3 WAR in 2018 while only pitching 123-1/3 innings. Most of the regression was due to Ray’s walk rate climbing to 5.09 BB/9, well over his career rate of 3.97. Coupled with a career-high 1.38 HR/9, you can see how things went sideways for Ray in 2018.

Ray won’t provide a lot of innings, as his career-high is only 174, but if he can be a reclamation project for the pitching tandem of Searage and Meccage and be rehabbed back into a #3/4, that’s a boon for the Pirates over Nova. MLB Trade Rumors projects Ray to command $6.1M in 2019.


Remember last offseason and we were all saying, ‘Ugh…Daniel Hudson at $5.5M for 2018, huh ? OK, let’s see what happens.’ Then Neal Huntington was able to dump Hudson, with run-of-the-mill 2B prospect Tristan Gray as a sweetener, on the Rays for Corey Dickerson.

This offseason, the Pirates really don’t have a bad contract, per se. Sure, Cervelli is an injury waiting to happen and makes $11.5M next year, but when healthy he was highly productive. There’s a lot of anti-Ivan Nova sentiment out there, but he’s a solid #4/5 and makes only $9.2M next year.

But if Chad Kuhl wasn’t out all year recovering from TJ surgery and Nick Kingham showed he could be relied upon, I’d suggest moving Nova’s contract to free up some payroll space.

So what if the Pirates could move Nova’s $9.2M contract to the Diamondbacks and fill two spots of need for the same price ? If you go by the MLBTR arbitration estimates, then Ahmed and Ray’s total salaries for 2019 would equal Nova’s. Two players for the price of one! Bob Nutting will love that! Plus, Ahmed and Ray have multiple years of control.

The rebuilding Diamondbacks would need something back for their troubles, so I’d offer Kevin Newman and one of J.T. Brubaker or Nick Kingham in return. If they were interested in Kevin Kramer, I’d be fine moving him. If the Pirates are committed to Josh Bell at 1B (they shouldn’t be), I’d be willing to part with Will Craig as the position player portion of the package.

Ahmed’s two years of control gives Cole Tucker time to develop at Triple A in 2019. If Tucker is ready in 2020, Ahmed becomes the utility infielder. Ray’s two years of control fills the #5 spot this year and gives Mitch Keller time to refine his arsenal at Triple A in 2019; he won’t need to be rushed up in June to fill a void, unless he’s absolutely ready. Robbie Ray could then be moved in the 2019 offseason to recoup something from his last year of team control.

Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

13 Comments on Picking The Flesh From The Bones Of The Diamondbacks

  1. Larry Niezgoda // October 16, 2018 at 9:01 AM //

    Love the idea of Ray and Ahmed. Great article. Keep up the good work you

  2. Norm Cubellis // October 16, 2018 at 9:50 AM //

    I like your idea of the possible trade but I see some of those trade candidates being used to trade for Sonny Gray. If that can be achieved, then Nova can be traded for a shortstop or a young outfielder with some HR pop. Either way you get to about the same result.

  3. Incidentally, the flesh of a diamondback tastes like chicken.

    Ahmed would be a decent cost-effective placeholder.

  4. Robert L Davison // October 20, 2018 at 9:01 PM //

    LOL. Why would a rebuilding club want Ivan Nova and his $9mil contract? C’mon….is it impossible for you to see the other side of your fantasy trades? This is a typical, “I want something on this team and I am willing to give up crap to get it.”. Try harder.

    • Kevin Creagh // October 21, 2018 at 7:06 AM //

      The D-Backs would get 2-3 prospects, albeit not great ones, in return for taking Nova. Nova eats 180+ innings for a rebuilding team, they get a chance to evaluate Nick Kingham, Kevin Newman, other prospect. It ?s not like Ahmed is bringing a huge return by himself.

      • Please look at AZ rotation. Greinke isn’t going anywhere with his contract. Walker is returning from injury, so is Shelby Miller. No one will take who two. Zach Godley can put up Nova numbers for less than $1mil. When you rebuild, you trade guys like Ahmed for prospects. Guys like Ray….? He will make half of what Nova makes, is a better pitcher and has several years of team control.

  5. The Diamondbacks are not trading Robbie Ray. There is a chance that Zack Godley and Nick Ahmed would be available. It will take one of Kraemer or Newman plus a Sp prospect.

  6. Julio Gonzalez // October 21, 2018 at 10:43 AM //

    Another proposed trade will be acquire J.C.Cron from the Tampa Bay Rays, a right hander power hitter who hit 30 homers last season and will complement with Josh Bell as platoon player. He could play some outfield too. He could be traded for Nova and Moroff. Then the Pirates could get Gray from the Yankees in exchange for Brian Kingman and a minor league player to be named later. The Pirates could sign Sergio Romo to replace Santana for a year until he recover from Tommy John surgery.

  7. no way, if you are going to trade for either position you go for higher quality. id rather resign mercer and put brault back in the rotation until internal options show up.

    oh and the farm ist bad, and id guestimate closer to 30m available assuming josh isnt picked up. ( not that theyll use it all )

    • Kevin Creagh // October 22, 2018 at 8:20 AM //

      Nick Ahmed is 3 years younger than Mercer and has consistently put up better defensive numbers than Mercer. The bat is a wash, so that makes Ahmed an upgrade for the budget that the Pirates are working with. Once you factor in salary commitments, arb awards, and min-scale to fill out the roster, the Pirates are sitting around $74M. I’m more confident in saying they have $20M, than $30M.

      • Guy can’t stay healthy. If you think you can keep him healthy and can get him for peanuts then okay.. but i wouldn’t put more than a B prospect or two.. maybe a bit of cash/international money at him. Pirates need offense more and wasn’t really any better than Mercer at that. Why i say Get a free agent thats around average (should be cheapish) then push Kramer, Newman, Reyes and later on tucker.. if they can’t handle it fall back to the free agent. If you get Ahmed.. well then might as well trade them and still sign a vet cause Ahmed’s injury history…..

        If you look back at previous years with the reported budget of 110M (in 2016 i think) I’d think its fair to say that the top end of what the Team would go to would be right around there if they think they got a shot that would be about 30M give or take a couple.

  8. Ron Leighton // October 22, 2018 at 6:26 PM //

    I don’t think that package is enough to get Robbie Ray let alone Ahmed unless the D-Backs think that Ray is injury prone and unlikely to be effective in 2018. If they think he is going to produce even halfway between 2017 and 2018 he is going to be tough to acquire without sending at least one very good prospect back. Still I like the idea of making a deal for a lefty starter and infield help better than going the free agency route.

Comments are closed.