At 52-46, the Diamondbacks are still in the thick of the NL West race. They’re 4 1/2 games back of the Giants there and five games back of the Braves in the wild card.
The road to claiming a spot in the postseason just got a lot tougher, though. Losing Stephen Drew for the season due to a fractured ankle leaves the team with Willie Bloomquist and Cody Ransom at shortstop. Bloomquist is a career .264/.317/.337 hitter whose only real use comes against lefties. Ransom, likewise a right-handed bat, has hit .227/.311/.391 in 304 at-bats in parts of eight major league seasons.
The Diamondbacks were supposed to be buyers before Drew’s injury, with the bullpen and maybe a rotati0n upgrade serving as the top priorities. Now they might well be better off selling. Certainly, if they do stay in the race, shortstop is an even bigger need than setup help or a fifth starter.
Arizona is still working to rebuild a farm system wiped clean a couple of years ago. To give up talent now in order to improve what looks like a .500 roster doesn’t seem like a great idea. On the other hand, I don’t have to concern myself with keeping fans coming through the turnstiles. Plus, the Diamondbacks could probably go get someone like the Mariners’ Jack Wilson without having to surrender a legitimate prospect.
It’s going to be a difficult decision. 4 1/2 games is a significant margin, and the Diamondbacks, with their lack of pitching depth, seem more likely to fade than either the Giants or the Braves. I’d say it’s time to start thinking about 2012 and making Kelly Johnson, Joe Saunders and Ryan Roberts available in trade talks, but then, I don’t have nearly so much to lose.