Boy, that was a bad one. You pretty much knew it by the way he was kicking around three limbs violently on the ground after the play- you sat there wondering, "Wait a tick... why isn't that fourth limb moving? Is he grimacing? Oh jeez."
Obviously, I'm talking about the brutal ankle injury that Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew suffered yesterday during a play at the plate against the Milwaukee Brewers. And if you haven't read by now on Twitter or somewhere else, this is kind of a big deal. Even though his numbers aren't stacking up as well this year after his breakout 2010, Drew has been a stabilizing force at shortstop for Arizona, always providing solid defense and the occasional flash of pop. Outside of Justin Upton, Drew has been arguably the second-most important hitter on the team, although Chris Young and Miguel Montero would probably like to have a word as well. But with one fell swoop, he's likely done for the year.
So, with Arizona clearly still in contention, what are they supposed to do? I think it's somewhat important to remember that Drew hasn't exactly played like a star this year. He's hitting .252/.317/.396, which does make him an above-average player overall once you factor in his quality work defensively. But in general, Drew has merely been pretty good this year. The Diamondbacks have proven that they can contend without having Drew at his best- the problem will be playing catch-up against the Giants without Drew at all. They shouldn't need Jose Reyes as a replacement to keep up with San Francisco at this point.
Right now, Willie Bloomquist is expected to take over for Drew at shortstop. That's obviously a pretty steep drop from Drew on the field. Bloomquist has never played shortstop in anything other than part-time duty before, so he's likely to be a clear downgrade both offensively and defensively. It's just classic Bloomquist. But Arizona should be tolerating classic Bloomquist, not when they need an actually decent shortstop.
But who can they pursue? They have some legitimately great prospects, so they could realistically go after someone big, but with Jose Reyes basically off the market, who else could Arizona set their sights on? Here's a short list of possible options: Houston's Clint Barmes, San Diego's Jason Bartlett, LA's Rafael Furcal and Seattle's Brendan Ryan are the obvious options that I can see possibly being on the market.
Of those four, Furcal makes the most money and has played the worst this season, so he's probably the least-likely option. The Dodgers would probably love to get rid of his contract, but it's hard to see the D-Backs taking on millions in order to add someone like Furcal. Bartlett is under contract through 2012 at $5.5 million, but he could also slide over to second base for Arizona in 2012 with Drew returning and Kelly Johnson hitting free agency.
Ryan is also under contract through 2012, but for just under $2 million, and with most of his value coming from a superb glove at shortstop, moving him to second base next season doesn't exactly maximize his value. Barmes is the other rental option, and he's actually been a pleasant surprise for Houston so far this year. Of the four, Barmes probably makes the most sense given his recent performance and contract situation.
But I'll also throw one wild card out there for you guys: Triple-A shortstop Cody Ransom. Now, I wouldn't bring this guy up if his numbers weren't insane. But, well, they are insane. In 91 games this season, Ransom is flashing a .330/.411/.649 line with 28 doubles and 25 homers while playing primarily shortstop. I know that he's 35 and he's been in Triple-A forever, but he's second in the PCL in homers, sixth in doubles, fourth in isolated power, fifth in OPS and seventh in wOBA; no matter how you twist it, the guy has been killing the baseball this season. I don't know about his defense, but it's probably not very good at age-35. Then again, Bloomquist isn't a good defender either, and he hasn't spent the past couple months destroying baseballs for Triple-A Reno. I'm just saying that with Drew out, maybe the D-Backs can catch lightning in a bottle here with Ransom.
Now, if I was running Arizona, I'd probably go the hardest after Barmes. He'd be a solid short-term upgrade, particularly on defense, and he likely wouldn't cost that much in terms of prospects and/or money. Getting someone with more potential like Furcal is certainly tempting, but the combination of poor performance and big money makes that proposition a tad too scary. Depending on the price, getting Ryan or Bartlett could certainly be a solid addition as well- there's certainly no question that either player would be a sizable upgrade on shuttling Bloomquist out there every day.
But either way, Arizona is contending this season, and they just lost one of their best players. If they were on the fence about needing help before, it should be painfully obvious now.