D-backs thinking big in shopping for pitching upgrade

The Diamondbacks are the only NL West team that has not shown interest in Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco.


The D-backs are not interested in “renting” a potential free agent — and if they acquire a starting pitcher, they will want him to be a significant upgrade over their major league-ready prospects, sources say.

Two starters, in particular, interest the D-Backs, according to sources. One, Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo, is available. The other, Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, only could be had for an “overwhelming” package — and the two clubs have not engaged in discussions, sources say.

The Diamondbacks entered Thursday ranked 11th in the NL with a 4.17 rotation ERA. Their best pitcher, left-hander Patrick Corbin, is in his first full season. The addition of a top-of-the-rotation starter would significantly enhance the team’s chances in the hotly contested NL West.

The D-backs, though, aren’t prepared to move on any pitcher just yet.

They are waiting to see if right-hander Brandon McCarthy returns from shoulder inflammation before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, while monitoring several active members of their rotation as well.

Righty Trevor Cahill has a 9.30 ERA in five starts in June. Lefty Wade Miley has recovered in June after a rocky May. Righty Randall Delgado has averaged six innings and produced a 3.75 ERA in his first two starts.

Lefty Tyler Skaggs, who returned to Triple A after struggling in two of his three starts, represents another internal option. But the struggles of righty Ian Kennedy, who has a 5.21 ERA, and re-injury to righty Daniel Hudson, who recently underwent a second Tommy John surgery, could persuade the D-Backs to seek external solutions.

Gallardo, 27, is under contract for $7.75 million this season and $11.25 million next season, with a $13 million club option for 2015. He currently is sporting a 4.20 ERA, but has pitched better in June.

The Brewers, while willing to move Gallardo, likely will ask a high price for giving up two-plus years of club control. The Dodgers and Rangers are among the other clubs that could pursue Gallardo, who — as a native of Mexico — would offer added marketing appeal to those teams as well as the Diamondbacks.

Samardzija, 28, is a different matter.

The Cubs consider him a future cornerstone, but they have yet to sign him to a long-term extension, the way they did with shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. In fact, the two sides have had no discussions since Samardzija avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.64 million contract in January, sources say.

Samardzija’s value in an extension is difficult to measure — this is only his second season as a full-time starter, but he has only two more years of arbitration remaining before he becomes a free agent. His first priority is to play for a winner, sources say. And the Cubs aren’t likely to return to the postseason anytime soon.

Thus, Samardzija isn’t necessarily eager to sign an extension. He continues to improve — his ERA this season is 3.39 — and his career earnings already exceed $17 million. He might be willing to wait for his chance to cut a massive deal on the open market, or at least get paid like a free agent by the Cubs.

That day eventually might come — the Cubs are a high-revenue team that last offseason signed free-agent right-hander Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million contract. Samardzija is hugely popular in Chicago, and almost certainly would love to be part of a Cubs revival. But if he does not sign a deal this offseason, the chances of him hitting the open market only will increase.

Of course, the Diamondbacks are not the only team that would like to acquire Samardzija. At this point, the price for the pitcher almost certainly would be prohibitive, and teams know it. The Cubs, according to one source, have not even received any “hits” on Samardzija.

The Diamondbacks, though, are deep enough in prospects — pitchers, outfielders, left-side infielders — to pull off a blockbuster for a top-of-the-rotation starter.

They’re just not sure they want to make such a move. Yet.