At 7:10 p.m. on March 30, the Arizona Diamondbacks began their 2023 season against the Los Angeles Dodgers. What ensued was an 8-2 loss and Zac Gallen not making it out of the fifth inning of his first start of the season. Since then, the team has been 25-19 and firmly sits in second place of the NL West, just 3.5 games back of those same Dodgers.
Some key factors of the surprising results so far have been the hot bats of the team and the two-headed monster at the top of the rotation. Gallen shook off his first-start jitters, now holding a 146 ERA+ through 61.0 innings. Not outdone, Merrill Kelly has a 148 ERA+ to start the season.
As for the lineup, seven qualified batters are hitting above league average. Breakout Geraldo Perdomo (165 OPS+), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (149), Corbin Carroll (134), Christian Walker (131), Ketel Marte (119), Gabriel Moreno (103) and Pavin Smith (103) are all starting the year positively.
The biggest downfall through the first 45 games of the year has been the rotation beyond their dual aces. As teams begin to find what teams they are in 2023, players are set to begin hitting the trade block and the Diamondbacks should be aggressive buyers. As of May 20, they have a 57.2% chance of making the postseason but a 0.8% chance of winning the World Series.
Based on how the rest of the league has begun to turn out, there are four potential trade targets for the team to pursue to try to get over the hump.
Diamondbacks could trade for SP Corbin Burnes
The Brewers benefit from a division that is not the strongest, and still are only tied for first with the surging Pirates. Since extension talks have been significantly hampered after his recent arbitration case hurting his relationship with the team, Burnes is potentially a guy on the move.
To try to get value from their star pitcher, who has taken a slight step back, the Brewers are potentially looking to move the 28-year-old.
In 2023, he boasts a 3.48 ERA through 51.2 innings, striking out 46 and walking 19. His production is a far cry from his 1.63 FIP 2021 Cy Young campaign or even his 2.94 ERA 2022 All-Star season. He has Ace potential and can unlock that with the Diamondbacks.
Given the lack of contract security and his continuingly decreasing baseball savant percentiles since winning the Cy Young, his price may be low for someone of his talent.
Diamondbacks could trade for SP Dylan Cease
Cease is looking rough through his first 52.2 innings in 2023. His 4.78 ERA over a full season would be the worst since his rookie year, and the lack of production is a bigger disappointment due to his breakout in 2022.
Finishing second in Cy Young voting last year, he is another pitcher who has yet to ink a long-term deal with his current team. While Cease is a bigger risk than someone like Burnes due to a shorter window of elite production and worse play in 2023, he can still find his mojo.
In 2022, hitters hit .128 against his slider, but are hitting .204 against the pitch this year. He is generating a similar spin on the pitch, but the movement is down 0.9 inches from last season. A potential factor in that decline is his 6.2 feet of extension compared to 6.0 in 2022, meaning the ball has less time to utilize the spin he is generating before getting to the plate.
With work on finding consistent delivery and some other work, he can become the third ace for the Diamondbacks, and perhaps a change of scenery is all he needs.
Diamondbacks could trade for SP Kyle Freeland
Freeland has been one of the only positive things to come out of the Rockies in 2023 thus far. He has managed a 2.84 ERA outside of Coors, a sign that pitching in Chase Field could be a perfect fit for the lefty.
He is limiting hard-hit balls, limiting walks, and is effectively using his curveball to get batters to make weak contact. Given his track record, Freeland is the cheapest option on this list but carries the lowest floor of the candidates for the Diamondbacks to pursue.
Diamondbacks could trade for SP Jordan Montgomery
The St. Louis Cardinals have struggled immensely to start the season, stumbling out to a 19-27 record and last-place position in the NL Central. Neither the pitching staff nor the bats have started the year off strong, and the front office may overreact to sell off the good players.
One of those potential pieces to move is Montgomery, as he is only on a one-year deal and may leave in the offseason if the team misses the playoffs. In 51.1 innings this year, he has a 4.21 ERA and a perfectly average 100 ERA+.
While that is not the most impressive production, it would still place him firmly in the third of the Diamondbacks 2023 rotation, and he has been on two postseason teams, and has the experience that much of the current team lacks in that department.