The Diamondbacks weren't supposed to be contenders heading into the year, but here we are, already past the actual halfway point in the season and fast approaching the symbolic halfway point. Arizona is still here, scratching, clawing, and slugging their way to a 42-42 record after winning three of four versus Colorado and two of two at Texas. Thanks to some help from our Mets, that leaves the Diamondbacks tied with the Giants for second place in the National League West, just five-and-a-half games short of the first-place Dodgers.
The reinforcements are shining
How have the Snakes been so competitive this year when their pitching rotation still looks like an island of misfit toys? We touched on this last time Arizona clashed with the Mets (back in June, when the teams split a four-game set in Phoenix), but the desert dwellers are a top-tier offensive club thanks to MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt and underrated outfielder A.J. Pollock. Since then, Arizona has only grown more dangerous thanks to the work of their newest players.
Just look at how well rookie third baseman Jake Lamb (.302/.372/.440) has played since returning from the disabled list. Or how David Peralta (.265/.342/.461) has turned into a key player. Even that other guy from the Mark Trumbo trade, Welington Castillo is crushing the ball since his arrival in Arizona. Coming into the year, it looked like the Diamondbacks would struggle to put enough useful pieces around Goldschmit to form a competent offense, but they've done that and more.
Is a top starter on the way?
The Arizona offense may be good enough to make a postseason run, but the pitching staff could still use an import or two to compete with the arms that San Francisco and Los Angeles have at the top of their own rotations. James Attwood over at AZ Snake Pit has broken down what it might take for the Diamondbacks to land either Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels, who appear to be the top two hurlers available on the trade market. A move for either of those guys would cost a great deal in prospects, but it would also vault Arizona into the realm of serious World Series contenders.
If general manager Dave Stewart does pull the trigger, the trade would probably be met with a lot more favor than two of his previous deals this season. The trade of Trumbo ended up working out because of how Lamb and Yasmany Tomas have played in his absence, while some critics are still trying to wrap their heads around the virtual sale of Touki Toussaint to the Braves. Last year's first-round draft pick was sent along with the bloated contract of Bronson Arroyo to Atlanta for non-prospect infielder Phil Gosselin. The move could be interpreted as Stewart giving up early on a talented pitching prospect, but it could work out depending on how he spends the money saved by dumping Arroyo.
A more significant Arizona trade, however, might not come for the same reason why the Mets haven't made a major deal yet. The trade market is in stagnation due to a numbers of factors. The Reds either still fancy themselves contenders or are holding onto Cueto until after the All-Star break in order to appease their fans. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is still asking the world for Hamels and few other teams even consider themselves sellers. The buyers are also slowed down because they are promoting their prospects to the big leagues instead of trading for another team's veterans. All this is to say that the Mets aren't the only team not making trades at this time of year. Nobody is.
Corbin can help out?
In a perfect, snake-infested world, 25-year-old lefty Patrick Corbin would provide all the answers to Arizona's starting pitching woes, but we've all seen how even very talented pitchers can struggle with their command while returning from Tommy John surgery. Even the great Matt Harvey has hit a rough patch despite his stuff looking strong and his Instagram game being on point.
On Saturday, Corbin made his first start since undergoing the elbow procedure last year, and it went pretty well. He pitched five innings with three strikeouts, zero walks, and two runs allowed versus Colorado. Corbin threw just 76 pitches in that one, so it will be interesting to see how long manager Chip Hale lets him go with the All-Star break coming up.
|Date||Time||Television||D-backs Probable Starter||Mets Probable Starter|
|July 10, 2015||7:10 PM||SNY||Chase Anderson||Noah Syndergaard|
|July 11, 2015||4:10 PM||PIX 11||Patrick Corbin||Matt Harvey|
|July 12, 2015||1:10 PM||PIX 11||Rubby De La Rosa||Niese or Colon|
Chase Anderson has been interesting this year because of his ability to get results without big strikeout stuff. Last time he faced the Mets, the sophomore right-hander let up just one run in five-and-two-thirds innings, but he's struggled a little bit since then. This time around, the Mets must get their bat on the ball and not strike out six times against a guy who struggles to punch out six per nine.
The first half finale will feature the underrated Rubby De La Rosa against New York's mystery starter. In case you haven't heard by now, Steven Matz was schedule to start for the Mets, but he's now on the disabled list with a lat tear. It will be interesting to see if the Mets stick with a five-man rotation coming out of the All-Star break or if they call up a substitute sixth starter. For now, the answer is five, as the recent off day will allow the team to use Colon on four days of rest or Niese on five.
I suppose it would more interesting to see Niese because he can further boost his trade value with another strong outing like the one he threw against San Francisco. Meanwhile, De La Rosa was shelled by Colorado during his last start, but before that he had a nice four-game streak going. The right-hander can be excellent when he keeps the ball in the yard.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $125,000 one-day fantasy baseball league today. It's $2 to join and first place wins $10,000. Enter now!