If the Arizona Diamondbacks reach the postseason for the first time since 2011, it will be as a wild-card team. The Los Angeles Dodgers have disabused them of the notion that a National League West title is within reach by playing .753 ball since the end of April.
Regardless of how long the Diamondbacks stick around in October -- even if it's for a nine-inning cameo -- they're going to go down swinging.
The D-backs made a major strike Tuesday, acquiring outfielder J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers and adding to the fifth-highest-scoring offense in the National League. The D-backs sent minor league infielders Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara and Jose King to Detroit for Martinez, who is eligible for free agency in November.
The move by Arizona general manager Mike Hazen and his front-office staff was a show of faith in a team that has been a pleasant surprise all year, for an abundance of reasons. The Arizona pitching staff ranks second to the Dodgers in the NL with a 3.51 ERA, and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is making a run at his first MVP award after two second-place finishes. Jake Lamb, Goldschmidt's wing man, has been good enough that his peers named him an All-Star at third base ahead of Kris Bryant and Justin Turner.
But Hazen and his group had some flaws to address before the July 31 trade deadline. For starters, there's the closer, Fernando Rodney, a man who's always one implosion away from inciting Phoenix-area baseball fans to put their feet through TV screens in anger. Arizona's lineup also includes some free-swingers -- second baseman Brandon Drury, shortstop Chris Owings and outfielder/third baseman Yasmany Tomas -- who might be vulnerable in October, when the pitching is uniformly first-rate and the scouting reports are exhaustive.
Martinez, who is slugging .630 in 57 games with the Tigers this season, gives manager Torey Lovullo another big presence in the middle of the order. He's a 150-plus-strikeout guy, but he also ranks 20th in the majors with a .378 on-base percentage since Opening Day 2016. He should also benefit greatly from leaving Comerica Park, the 22nd-best hitter's park in the majors, for Chase Field, which ranks second overall to Coors Field among the 30 MLB parks in offensive-friendliness.
"J.D. Martinez is a pretty damn good hitter," said a National League general manager. "I understand the idea of not giving up too much for midtier rentals. But when you have the top rentals -- and I think J.D. Martinez is the top rental bat -- giving up two or three names isn't that crazy. Mike Hazen is a very smart guy. If he and his staff felt like the value is there, I'm certain that it is."
While Tigers officials pronounced themselves happy with their return package, one MLB evaluator thought Detroit came up light in its end of the deal. "It's two utility infielders and a rookie-ball guy [King] that looks like a utility infielder," he said.
Only time will tell on that assessment.
For now, the Diamondbacks have a season to play out. If the playoffs began today, they would host the Colorado Rockies in the wild-card game with Zack Greinke on the mound. Depending on how adventurous Lovullo feels, he could have the option of summoning Robbie Ray and his 94 mph heater for an inning or two of relief. And that lineup is going to be a challenge for any opposing staff to navigate.
Nine months into his tenure, Hazen could have taken the safe approach, been happy with a playoff berth and settled for a minor upgrade or two. With the Martinez trade, he assured that the D-backs will be a team no one is going to look forward to facing in October.