Sources: Diamondbacks may dangle Christian Walker as trade chip as trade deadline nears

SAN DIEGO — Christian Walker has never been the subject of intense trade rumors, but the Diamondbacks first baseman has seen enough teammates who have been to learn a thing or two from their experience.

“To me, there’s no point in trying to figure that information out,” Walker said. “Even guys who are pretty sure that something is going to happen, I feel like a lot of times it doesn’t. And then people you don’t think it would ever happen, they end up being on the block.”

Walker’s name has not been mentioned much in media reports, but sources say the Diamondbacks have told rival clubs they are willing to talk about trades that involve him. His value as a trade chip is interesting on a number of levels.

For one, a cursory glance at his results this season suggest a slugger’s profile. He is fourth in the National League with 21 home runs, but he owns just a .205 average, tied for the fifth-lowest mark among NL qualifiers.

However, his batted-ball data indicates he has been a far more productive hitter. According to statistics available at Baseball Savant, Walker ranks in the Top 6 percent of major league hitters in a stat called xwOBA, which factors in the quality of a hitter’s contact along with his walk and strikeout rates.

By that measure, Walker has had a better year than J.D. Martinez, Pete Alonso and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. As such, Walker could be well regarded by analytically inclined front offices.

Another interesting consideration is the fact that he has two more seasons after this before free agency. That would seemingly make Walker, 31, more attractive to an acquiring team.

The flip side of that, of course, is what he means to the Diamondbacks’ lineup this year and what he could contribute in years to come. He has been their most consistent hitter this season, at least in terms of the quality of his at-bats, and he is one of the few dangerous right-handed hitters in the Diamondbacks’ lefty-heavy lineup.

Walker has also provided strong defense at first base, ranking as one of the best first baseman in the majors according to multiple defensive metrics.

Walker said he hasn’t heard his name much on the trade front — nor, he said, has he been seeking it out.

“For me, it’s one of those things, it’s too unpredictable,” he said. “It’s out of my control. Being aware of stuff like that doesn’t contribute to me and my season and helping the team. Paradise is bliss when it comes to that, for me, for sure.”

Walker does pay attention to some of the numbers that show his season has been better than his top-line stats. He views them as a sort of reassurance that he is doing things right. He said that without them he might see his low batting average as a sign that he needs to make changes; instead, he sees his expected average of .270 and chalks it up to bad luck.

“Sometimes it feels like a copout to say, oh, look how unlucky I am,” Walker said. “It’s not about, ‘Oh, feel bad for me. Look how unlucky I am.’ It’s more about, no, from here moving forward, if I keep this going, who knows, maybe I can get (my average) into the (.250 range) and keep slugging. It’s a motivating thing. It’s helpful, I think.”

Walker only needs to think back to the 2019 trade deadline to support his opinion that getting caught up in trade rumors can be counterproductive. That year, the club was highly expected to move left-hander Robbie Ray. Instead, they kept him and traded right-hander Zack Greinke, whose name barely surfaced in rumors.

“I think things happen quickly,” Walker said. “Just because somebody is an option to be traded, another team still has to want them. There’s a lot of moving pieces in it, like getting something that’s worth it in return. There are a lot of things that are above my pay grade, to some extent.

“For me, it’s a better mental spot to ignore it and if you get a phone call, you get a phone call. If not, this is my team and these are my teammates.”

Short hops

Shortstop prospect Jordan Lawlar, who was promoted from Low-A Visalia to High-A Hillsboro earlier this month, has been back playing with Visalia this week. That is because Lawlar is unvaccinated and was thus unable to travel with Hillsboro for a series in Vancouver. Farm director Josh Barfield saw Lawlar will rejoin Hillsboro after playing in the Futures Game on Saturday.

*Right-hander Ian Kennedy underwent recent imaging to confirm that the blood clot in his right calf that sent him to the injured list earlier this month has resolved itself, manager Torey Lovullo said. Kennedy is scheduled to make a rehab appearance in the rookie-level Arizona Complex League on Saturday and could return from the injured list after the All-Star break.

Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Sources: Diamondbacks may dangle Christian Walker as trade chip