*UPDATE: The Diamondbacks have designated Lyle Overbay for assignment to clear room on their 25-man roster for Chris Johnson.
With the trade deadline less than 24 hours away, teams are moving themselves into position to either jettison talented players in an attempt to rebuild for next year, or to acquire guys in order to win in the short-term. This has spawned a huge crop of MLB trade rumors to sift through, but where does that leave a certain third place team from Phoenix?
Unfortunately for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the answer to the question of which path they should take isn’t exactly clear at the moment. They still have a realistic shot at winning the NL West, currently only sitting four and a half games back of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. That lead could shrink a bit, as the D’Backs are getting set to begin a crucial three game series at Dodger Stadium.
Team General Manager Kevin Towers is going to be at Chavez Ravine as well, making phone calls and trying to figure out exactly what direction he wants to take the roster. He did already make one pre-deadline move, acquiring third baseman Chris Johnson from the Houston Astros. There has been talk that the trade would mean the end of the Ryan Wheeler experiment in Arizona, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, as the team is leaning toward keeping him in the majors and platooning him at the hot corner with Johnson.
That reality leaves the Diamondbacks in a bit of a lurch, as they will have to make a roster move to make room for Johnson. That will either mean optioning Wheeler, or perhaps dealing another player to clear the spot. One player that has been rumored to be filling that unwanted role is shortstop Stephen Drew, who is still being shopped around according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. He reported earlier today that the Oakland A’s are still in discussions with Arizona about the shortstop, but he also said that another team could potentially be the favorite to nab him, but his sources wouldn’t say who that front running team was.
If you’ll recall, a week or two back the Detroit Tigers were rumored to be offering Jhonny Peralta as part of a package to get Drew from the Diamondbacks, but the rumors on that end have cooled off quite a bit. Could they potentially be the mystery team that is in the lead to obtain Drew’s services should the Diamondbacks decide to trade him? Only time will tell on that front.
In addition to trading Drew, there is also an option of designating John MacDonald for assignment. Kirk Gibson and company would likely be hesitant to do that, considering how solid a fielder the veteran is. The other option then would be to send Willie Bloomquist packing, but that doesn’t seem likely either, as it’s the decision to play him or Drew that is holding everything in limbo at the moment.
A factor that could drive Drew’s value down for the Diamondbacks is that the A’s are currently in pursuit of Yuniel Escobar from the Toronto Blue Jays. If Arizona decides to part ways with the soon to be free agent, they may not get as much for him because Oakland has the luxury of being part of a reverse bidding war to bolster their shortstop position. It isn’t the biggest worry that Towers would have to have, but he has to be careful not to pull the trigger on a deal that wouldn’t have the desired effect, which would be to acquire decent building blocks in exchange for a guy the team likely has no intent of keeping anyway.
All of these potential moves become even more important when you look at what other teams in the division are trying to do. The Dodgers are still actively trying to get a starting pitcher, and with guys like Zach Grienke already traded, and others like Josh Johnson and James Shields who are likely staying put, the market is getting smaller. That doesn’t mean they’re doomed, as Ryan Dempster of the Cubs is still a hot topic of conversation. According to various reports, the Dodgers may also be interested in Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano, who is tearing the cover off the ball this season and whose albatross contract doesn’t seem like as big an obstacle when compared to how big of a bat he is swinging at the moment.
Not to be outdone, it was reported in the Arizona Republic that the Diamondbacks themselves are looking for pitching, but it certainly wouldn’t be of the strength of a guy like Dempster. Towers doesn’t seem like the type of guy to swing for the fences on a mid-season trade, so unless Oakland loses their minds and offers up a great big league pitcher for Drew, then it’s going to be some middling third or fourth starter who makes his way to the Valley before Tuesday’s deadline.
Finally, the Giants are also in the mix for the aforementioned Soriano, but are also rumored to be targeting a huge fish in Philadelphia OF Hunter Pence. With the Phillies in full on sell mode, there are a slew of names floating around that they are trying to shop, including Jimmy Rollins and Cliff Lee in addition to Pence. If the Giants or Dodgers could land either one of those players, then it could very well be game over for Arizona as they try to chase down those two teams for a playoff berth.