In baseball, nothing speaks more than the almighty dollar. Don’t believe me? Run a correlation between dollars and wins. In the long term, the money almost always wins out. The Diamondbacks don’t have a lot of money, but they do have another form of currency: prospects.
While working on our offseason plan for the team, which will be released early next week, it’s clear that the team has needs. It’s also clear that the team can’t afford to buy the things it needs to fill those needs on the open market. The more wealthy teams have this ability but the Diamondbacks don’t, especially given the team’s payroll limitations. In case you don’t read Baseball Prospectus, Russell Carleton wrote an excellent piece on Monday that details the cost of young, cost-controlled talent versus free agent talent. As you probably assumed, free agent talent is immensely more expensive and that’s why you don’t see the Diamondbacks entering bidding wars. Arizona doesn’t have this kind of currency to spend.
But money isn’t the only currency. Future production also has value, and if you can successfully cultivate it, there’s a market for future talent. The Diamondbacks have this kind of currency and it’s what they’ll have to resort to spending if they want to plug the holes of the team.
The organization is currently deep on talent and prospects are blocked at a number of positions, especially on the position player side of things. Pitcher, second base, shortstop, third base, center field and catcher are all areas of strength for the organization. Because the team already has filled these needs, additional depth is expendable. With Miguel Montero (C), Aaron Hill (2B) and Martin Prado (3B) locked up long term, there won’t be change at these positions for the foreseeable future. At shortstop, the team can take its pick of Didi Gregorius or Chris Owings and likewise in center with Adam Eaton and AJ Pollock, making the unchosen players potential trade bait. Clearly the organization has assets to sell to teams looking to rebuild.
While there will surely be clamoring for the Diamondbacks to sign Player X and Player Y to turn them into a playoff team, it just isn’t likely. There isn’t the financial flexibility to add payroll through straight up signings, leaving Kevin Towers and his team to get creative and work the phones to find trade partners (as an aside, do they use phones or are GM’s sending proposals via email and Facebook messages? ” What’s up Theo? It’s Kevin. Dude, cute picture of the dog and the baby and, guess what, I love that Italian restaurant, too! Hey, what are you looking for in return for Samardzija? I’ve got prospects…. Hit me back! -KT”). It will take some maneuvering, but there are deals to be done and this will truly be a test of Towers’ ability.
Below I’ve listed the five prospects that I think are most likely to be traded, in no particular order. This is based upon the organization’s depth and current situation. It’s also based upon the assumption that the team is trying to win now and is looking to cash in on players that are, in most cases, close to being contributors and are thus somewhat or completely blocked by the current roster. This could all change tomorrow if we wake up to a new deal or an injury in the AFL or something. The landscape is always changing…
- Matt Davidson, 3B – he’s completely blocked in Arizona and he needs playing time at the big league level. He won’t get it in a Diamondbacks uniform but his 70-grade power should draw attention.
- Chris Owings, SS/2B – played well enough in his debut to command a strong return. Can be good at short or great as second defensively. The Arizona infield is full, need to capitalize on the surplus.
- Stryker Trahan, C – he hasn’t progressed as hoped but still has the raw talent needed to be exciting to other teams. Michael Perez makes him dispensable and may end up the better prospect.
- Tyler Skaggs, LHP – this one is tough, because his external value may be diminished by his tough debut. Lefties that throw 94mph are difficult to find, though. Still has #2 or #3 upside, in my opinion.
- AJ Pollock, CF – there just isn’t a need for two center fielders and if Towers adds the corner outfield bat he desires (which I think is unlikely), then someone’s got to go. I love AJ, there just isn’t room.
This list isn’t saying that these players are worthless. To the contrary, they’re valuable assets that someone besides the Diamondbacks could and should find intriguing. Davidson, Owings, Skaggs and Pollock are all major league ready right now. Trahan is a former first-rounder who could be flipped for more apparent needs. The nature of the beast is that each team only gets 25 roster slots and Towers has already filled most of them, for better or worse.
Some would like Arizona to keep Owings over Gregorius and that’s fine. I’d prefer Didi for the glove and think the bat has some room for improvement, but if we trade him and keep Owings, I won’t lose any sleep. Skaggs’ value may be deflated somewhat, but I still think with some mechanical tweaks that he could be a very good lefty. Remember, a year ago, he was Archie Bradley. AJ Pollock is a fourth outfielder. You can pick whatever bones you want on that one, but the fact that he received nearly 500 at-bats is a problem in itself and there isn’t a need for him with Adam Eaton in the fold. Despite Pollock’s 2013, Eaton is a full year younger and maintains the higher upside.
While I’m not holding my breath on free agent acquisitions, I’m fully expecting a number of trades this winter. We’ll be unveiling our offseason plan in a week, but until then, keep your eyes on the rumors and don’t surprised to see your favorite prospect not named Archie Bradley on the move.
*Note: released this morning, Nick Piecoro has a very interesting piece related to this topic in which he polled scouts and GM’s to see who they favored at shortstop and center field. It’s definitely worth reading.
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