July 30, 2011
The Marquis of the Desert
RHP Jason Marquis from the Nationals for IF-S Zachary Walters. [7/30]
Nobody outside of Arizona expected the Diamondbacks to be buyers at the deadline, yet here they are, trailing the Giants by four games with a three-game series looming to open August. Arizona is in a similar position to the one San Diego found itself in last season. They have two months to go with a chance to make the postseason… or at least make things interesting. It’s quite the turnaround from last season, when the Diamondbacks finished with the league’s third-worst record.
Getting five starting pitchers capable of turning in worthy performances is a chore—one the D-Backs have been tasked with all season long. Zach Duke is now in the bullpen, Armando Galarraga is in the minors, Barry Enright and Micah Owings aren’t the answers to any question worth asking, and top prospects like Jarrod Parker and Tyler Skaggs aren’t ready. Even with the consideration that Trevor Bauer could jump to the majors this season, asking him to step into the majors and be an asset immediately is being overzealous.
Marquis’s contract has $2.5 million remaining, and he stands no shot of bringing back draft compensation this offseason. The D-Backs are paying strictly for what Marquis can offer them between now and the end of the season, and that is a league-average innings eater. In his 95 appearances since 2008, his cumulative earned run average is 4.43, he has recorded a quality start in 54 percent of his starts, and he has averaged six innings per start. That sums Marquis up well: a league-average innings eater who gets groundballs. It’s not a role without value, though, as this will be his ninth 100-plus inning season in the majors despite a career ERA+ of 97.
If nothing else, perhaps the Diamondbacks are playing on the hope that Marquis really is the pitching version of Eric Hinske: a blasé veteran who finds himself in the postseason on an annual basis. After all, he has pitched for playoff teams in six of the past seven seasons. The Diamondbacks hope to make it seven of eight, but it’s going to be a tall order, with or without Marquis. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired IF-S Zachary Walters from the Diamondbacks for RHP Jason Marquis. [7/30]
At least the Nationals can say they traded for an All-Star; Zach Walters was giving that honor in the Midwest League this year, where he has hit a healthy .302/.377/.485 for Low-A South Bend, ranking among the league's top five in both total bases and extra-base hits. A ninth-round pick in 2010 out of San Diego, Walters has good size for an infielder, but he's an average runner with range that is a bit light at shortstop. He profiles better as a second or third baseman with a solid approach and gap power. Most likely, we’re looking at a utility player with an outside shot at a few starting jobs here and there. —Kevin Goldstein
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson