After an exciting and bustling offseason during which the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired the likes of Cody Ross, Eric Chavez, Cliff Pennington, Heath Bell, Martin Prado and Didi Gregorius, to name a few, the present No. 3 team in the NL West might want to start contemplating a trade or two.
It's early, plenty early—insanely early—you-must-be-out-of-your-mind early.
Yet the early bird gets the worm.
For instance, the Cincinnati Reds traded Jeff Stevens to the Cleveland Indians on April 7, 2006 for young second baseman Brandon Phillips. Other recent April trade acquisitions include Marlon Byrd to Boston, George Kontos to San Francisco, Chris Stewart to New York, Julio Lugo to Baltimore and Jorge De La Rosa to Colorado.
That said, the Diamondbacks have some work to do in order to expedite a climb to the top of the NL West standings.
At least the club's 1.22 WHIP is 10th in all of baseball: Brandon McCarthy is the only D-Backs pitcher with an ERA above 5.00, for instance.
So, where does a GM begin? In one's own house and by identifying possible trade areas—and candidates.
Area 1: Middle Infield, Shortstop
Take Cliff Pennington, who is just 13-for-67 (batting average of .188/OPS of .505 with no homers and 18 strikeouts. Though Pennington has been deemed the D-Backs' shortstop solution—after all, the franchise just signed Pennington to a two-year deal worth $5 million—he nonetheless could be trade bait, especially if youngster Didi Gregorius continues to impress and the Willie Bloomquist-Aaron Hill connection comes back strong.
Pennington remains a career .249/.313/.355 hitter, which is a mark likely to be overshadowed by Gregorius, if not the D-Backs' other regulars.
Area 2: Outfield
The Diamondbacks still have an overcrowding problem of the outfield variety. With Gerardo Parra in left, A.J. Pollock in center and Cody Ross in right, with Alfredo Marte and Eric Hinske lurking in the shadows, something will have to give when Adam Eaton and Jason Kubel return from their respective DL stints. The platoon can only hold so many position players.
In January, GM Kevin Towers admitted telling other GMs that, in regard to outfielders, "everyone is available." Although Justin Upton is now an Atlanta Brave, that "everyone" still happens to include Kubel and, notably, Parra.
On the minor league outfielder angle, Tony Campana has hit just .130 (.336 OPS) through 16 Triple-A games.
Area 3: Pitching
With J.J. Putz's extension through 2014, the D-Backs have communicated a desire to keep Putz in the closer's role while Health Bell's arrival—and Gibson's characterization of Bell as a key anchor of the bullpen—has spelled trouble for fringe penner David Hernandez. The moves provoked one writer to question Arizona's confidence in Hernandez, while a commenter deemed the Bell acquisition and bullpen realignment a "slap in the face."
Hernandez's numbers have slowly fallen for the months of April, 2010-2013, though he has continued to be a powerful force in the D-Backs 'pen. Still, Arizona should consider, down the line, the possibility of creating a comprehensive plan for Hernandez's future—with Putz extended and Bell acquired, the youngster becomes odd-man-out of the depth chart for the elite late-innings role.
Meanwhile, Matt Reynolds has quietly pitched 11.1 innings of shutout baseball in 2013, earning two saves in two opportunities while working eight other games in ordinary relief. No role is necessarily undergoing usurpation, though the emergence of strong pitching gives the club another bargaining chip and more pieces to work with.
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