Posted on June 7, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Arizona Diamondbacks are not waiting until the trade deadline to address one of their most pressing needs. Late Wednesday night, Arizona acquired outfielder Jon Jay in a trade with the Kansas City Royals. The Royals received pitching prospects Gabe Spier and Elvis Luciano in return. With the trade, the Diamondbacks fill a vacancy in their outfield while the Royals begin what could be a rather extensive firesale this summer.
The Arizona outfield is quite thin these days with both A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza Jr. on the DL. The Diamondbacks are left with David Peralta and Jarrod Dyson playing every day, while infielders Chris Owings and Daniel Descalso fill the third outfield spot. With both Dyson and Owings having dreadful seasons offensively, the Diamondbacks can’t wait for Pollock and Souza to get back. A lack of outfield productivity played a role in Arizona’s May swoon that saw the club lose 13 out of 14 games.
The Diamondbacks have managed to recover from that stretch and are currently tied with the Rockies atop the NL West. However, both the Giants and Dodgers are within two games of the top spot. Even the last-place Padres are only 4.5 games back.
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“We felt like where we are in the division right now, how the division is shaking out with almost all five teams sitting right on top of each other, we felt like every marginal move was going to matter, and it’s certainly mattering right now,” explained Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen. “Given that there’s still going to be some time between when we get a full complement of that team that we put together in Spring Training back together again, we felt like this was too important to sort of pass up.”
With Jay, the Diamondbacks get a veteran who can play all three outfield positions, which should make him valuable even after Pollock and Souza return. The 33-year old is also having one of his best offensive seasons. Jay is currently hitting .307 with an OPS of .737 despite a lack of power. For the time being, he could be an everyday player for the Diamondbacks.
“He’s somebody that we pursued in the offseason and just got a lot of comfort with,” Hazen said of Jay. “He’s off to a great start this year, having a really good season. We feel like he fits very nicely with what we’re trying to do, he fits in at all three outfield spots. So he comes in certainly at a time when we need him.”
The Royals, who are 20 games under .500, get two pitching prospects out of the deal. Luciano is only 18 but has flashed impressive stuff and loads of potential. Spier is a left-handed reliever who’s putting together a solid season at double-A.
“We felt like if we could put a deal together that had some impact and some long-range ceiling to go ahead and do it, rather than wait for something to come along,” said Royals assistant GM Scott Sharp. “We felt we should execute this and get more pitching into the system.”
Ultimately, the Royals had little use for Jay, who was on a one-year deal. He is likely the first of several players Kansas City could trade this summer. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks desperately needed an outfielder like Jay. He should pay immediate dividends and could end up making a meaningful difference in such a tight division race.