For months, Madison Bumgarner has dominated much of the trade speculation in the starting pitching market.
Today, barely more than two weeks before the July 31 Trade Deadline, he may not be the most coveted left-handed starter in his own division.
Some in the industry believe that distinction belongs to Robbie Ray of the D-backs, who sources say has drawn recent interest from the Phillies, Brewers and Astros.
The increased demand for Ray can be explained by two key factors:
• Unlike Bumgarner, who would be a second-half rental, Ray carries value beyond the end of this year. Ray is eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.
• While concern persists over Ray’s National League-most 56 walks, he strikes out 2.5 more batters per nine innings than Bumgarner (11.8 to 9.3)
The D-backs are in an uncertain position as the Deadline approaches, with a 47-47 record and 14-1/2-game deficit in the NL West. While a division title is almost certainly out of reach, Arizona is just 1 1/2 games back of the NL's second Wild Card spot.
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, D-backs general manager Mike Hazen was asked about the concept of a team buying and selling at the Deadline.
“I think the Rays last year are a good example,” Hazen said. “Ultimately they didn’t end up making the playoffs . . . but I think there’s opportunities to do both. I think it’s a far more complex situation, though. You’re making riskier bets in doing that.
"I don’t personally think we’re in a position to turn off our mind to those types of ideas and just black-and-white buy or sell -- or at least when it comes to thinking about it that way at this point in time. We could get to a point where it becomes black and white for us, but that’s not today.”
A 15-game winner and All-Star in 2017, Ray has gone 7-6 with a 145 strikeouts in 111 innings over 20 starts this season while holding the opposition to a .220/.317/.400 slash line.