Feeling they have an even better one on the way, the Diamondbacks traded their starting first baseman to the A’s for a setup man on Sunday. The three-player deal sent Brad Ziegler to Arizona in return for Brandon Allen and left-hander Jordan Norberto.
Allen had three homers and seven RBI in 29 at-bats since his callup earlier this month, but he was hitting just .172, leaving him with a .213/.325/.404 line in 178 at-bats with the Diamondbacks over the last three years. He’s not a surprising A’s target, in that his game is much more about power and walks than batting average. Unfortunately, he does strike out a lot and he may fall short of being a quality regular as a result.
The move opens up first base in Arizona for Paul Goldschmidt. The Diamondbacks debated long and hard whether to try Allen or Goldschmidt at first base when they decided to give up on Juan Miranda. Allen was having a fine season in Triple-A, but Goldschmidt was simply dominant in Double-A, hitting .306/.435/.626 with 30 homers and 94 RBI in 366 at-bats. A right-handed hitter, he’ll probably take over as an everyday player for the Diamondbacks. They had been platooning the right-handed-hitting Xavier Nady with the lefty-swinging Allen.
The Diamondbacks also sent Norberto to Oakland. The 24-year-old reliever made 33 appearances for Arizona last year, amassing a 5.85 ERA in 20 innings, but he had spent all of this season in Triple-A and had a 4.25 ERA and a 54/26 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings.
In return, GM Kevin Towers gets Arizona the setup man he believed the team needed to help David Hernandez in front of J.J. Putz. Ziegler is very vulnerable to left-handed hitters with his sidearm delivery, but he shuts down right-handers about as well as anyone and he’s yet to allow a homer in 37 2/3 innings this season. He has a career 2.49 ERA in four seasons since debuting in 2008, and he’s under control through 2014.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP