Arizona Diamondbacks: Buyers or sellers for the stretch run?

If Jake Lamb does not match his first-half production, he could feel some heat. (Norm Hall / Getty Images)
If Jake Lamb does not match his first-half production, he could feel some heat. (Norm Hall / Getty Images) /

For the stretch run, the Arizona Diamondbacks look to improve their roster.

On Monday, the Arizona Diamondbacks enjoyed their final day-off before the July 31 trade deadline. At this point, and still very much in any post-season discussion, the Diamondbacks are definitely buyers.

In recent years, the franchise assumed the dubious honor of “a seller,” and deals made did not result in any great upward movement. The only “progress” last season toward any kind of improvement concerned the bullpen.

By the trading deadline, then-general manager Dave Stewart traded away two-thirds of the back end of the bullpen. That included Tyler Clippard, as the set-up reliever, and closer Brad Ziegler. Both have clearly faded from the Arizona conscience, but a new concern in the bullpen gives the Diamondbacks concern.

That would be closer Fernando Rodney, but field manager Torey Lovullo continually insists that Rodney remain as the Arizona closer. So far, the 2017 season for Rodney has been bookends.

Just after the season began, Rodney imploded in key save situations, and by late April, his ERA reach nearly 12 runs per nine innings. Then, and by some miraculous turn of events, Rodney rose as perhaps the best closer in the game during a prescribed period of time.

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On April 29, his ERA was 12.60, and Rodney was coming off consecutive appearances in which he allowed eight earned runs in 1.2 innings in games against the Rockies and Padres. Then, that abrupt turnover.

Beginning with a save in Washington on May 2, Rodney then allowed one hit combined in his next 20 appearances and no runs. In that span until July 2, he recorded 15 saves in 20 games. Then, the infamous ninth inning implosion July 6 in Dodger Stadium.

Coming into that game with a 4-1 lead and the prospect of salvaging the final game of an important three-game set with L. A., Rodney seem to revert back to the days of late April. He allowed two hits, walked four, surrendered four runs, retired no hitters and took the loss in a bitter 5-4 defeat. Since, the boo-birds returned to their perch in Chase Field, and Rodney’s long-term value to the Diamondbacks is under question.

As the trading deadline approaches, there are not many closers on the market. One thought is Mark Melancon of the San Francisco Giants.

Signing a four-year, $62 million deal with S. F. in the off-season, Melancon has not been the closer the Giants expected. Currently on the 10-day DL (effective June 27) with a right pronator strain in his pitching elbow, the former University of Arizona pitcher is 1-2, a 4.35 ERA and 11 saves in 22 appearances. Given his current state of health, this would not likely be a sound option to the back end of the Arizona bullpen.

The player with value, at this point, is third baseman Jake Lamb.

During the first half of the season, Lamb, with a relaxed disposition and improved mechanics at the plate, soared to the top of the National League in RBIs and gained overall significance to his team. Despite a penchant for striking out, Lamb is considered an important component in the middle of the Diamondbacks line-up. In recent weeks, Lamb has struck out more frequency and his knack for driving in important runs has all but disappeared.

Because Lamb is hardly mentioned in talk discussions, his value to other teams, and what the Diamondbacks would expect in return, is unknown. Heading into the final half of the season, and post-season implications hiding within every game, Lamb’s ability, discipline and capability to produce in pressure situations will be severely tested.

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On the road again …

After a day-off Monday, the Diamondbacks open a three-game set against the Reds in Cincinnati.

In the opener on Tuesday, lefty Robbie Ray (8-4, 2.97 ERA) makes his first post-All-Star game appearance and engages Reds’ right-hander Sal Romano (1-1, 4.50). On Wednesday night, look for Zack Greinke (11-4, 2.86) to return to the mound and draw Tim Adleman (5-7, 4.99) as his opponent. In the series and road trip finale Thursday afternoon, Taijuan Walker (6-4, 3.61) takes on righty Luis Castillo (1-2, 3.41).

Then, it’s back to Chase Field for a six-game home stand against Washington and Atlanta.