We saw a flurry of moves in the past week, particularly last night. Many of these moves affect the Diamondbacks, if only tangentially. The trade of Doug Fister to the Nationals is a prime example. Count me among the many who are really surprised that it only took a package of a good, not great pitching prospect (Robbie Ray), a young lefty reliever (Ian Krol), and an affordable utility infielder. We don’t know the exact demands made by the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija, although the D-backs reportedly know what it would take. Considering Fister may be the better pitcher, does this trade affect the going rate for Samardzija?
The answer may be yes and no. Yes, in that the expectations of teams looking to trade for Samardzija are likely to change — and expectations could really affect his price. But since Detroit was expected to trade a starter, the Fister trade also takes one piece off of the board. The only free agent starters with a chance to be plus contributors are Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana; neither is a good fit for Arizona, and both are linked to draft picks because the Indians and Royals extended qualifying offers. It may be that Samardzija, Jimenez and Santana are all more like #3 starters, anyway, but we may see the bidding for the Shark escalate once supply is further diminished.
Earlier in this cycle, the Athletics signed Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22M deal. The more of these guys that sign for over $10M per year, the better Trevor Cahill’s contract looks. I’d go so far as to say that it would be really unlikely that Arizona would have to eat money in order to get a good prospect back for Cahill, at this point. At FanGraphs, Dave Cameron had a great take on the approach of the Athletics: basically, in the price range of the Athletics, you can get probable above-average performers with injury risks, or lesser performers with good health, but probably not above-average performers with good health. As Cameron notes, the Athletics have opted for the upside.
I like that approach in general, although it’s important to note that you can only acquire so many guys with injury question marks. Most teams can close ranks if one or two guys go down at the same time, but five half-timers does not a major league staff make. I also like that approach for the Diamondbacks, at least this offseason; as we’ve noted over and over, Arizona has average performers across the board, and a high risk, high reward guy has a chance to make the team better. A guy like Bronson Arroyo? No chance.
Maybe the most curious thing about the Kazmir signing is that the Athletics have now intensified efforts to trade Brett Anderson. If the Athletics model includes valuing high risk, high reward guys… who fits that mold better than Anderson? He’s been well above average when healthy, and he’s still young. I do wonder if Anderson could be a fit for the D-backs, especially if he could be had for only a lesser prospect. His $8M salary for 2014 is reasonable, and the $12M option for 2015 only adds value. Overall, that’s Trevor Cahill money. So putting aside the option for a moment, this is an interesting intellectual exercise: would the D-backs be better off with Cahill, or with Anderson? I think most teams would prefer Cahill, but the D-backs aren’t most teams.
Another move that could affect the D-backs more directly was the non-tender of J.P. Arencibia by Toronto. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $2.8M salary for Arencibia through the arbitration process. Of course, the fact that Toronto didn’t seem to value him in the $2.8M range doesn’t mean that no other team will pay him that, or more. Arencibia probably makes the most sense for an AL team with a catcher who doesn’t need to play most days at catcher, or for an NL team that could also offer pinch-hitting opportunities almost once per game. Would it be worth it for the Diamondbacks to sign Arencibia in the $3M-$4M range to fill the vacant backup catcher slot, with the idea that he could provide some power off of the bench as a pinch hitter? I don’t see the point of paying more for power than one would for other types of performance of equal value (Cameron had a great article on that at ESPN), but if Towers really wants to add HRs, maybe Arencibia is a cheap way to do it despite the crowded OF. These are at bats that would go to a backup anyway, so I don’t see the harm.
The big news for the D-backs in the last week was the hire of Mike Harkey as pitching coach, away from the Yankees. I don’t have much to go on with Harkey, except that the track record of the Yankees with youngish pitchers the last six seasons is sketchy at best. Maybe nobody could have fixed Phil Hughes, but as Keith Law recently pointed out (subscription only), the choice to have Hughes abandon his curveball in favor of a below-average slider was curious. Joba Chamberlain and even C.C. Sabathia also stick out as guys who seemed to underperformed. Still, it’s probably unfair to stick a bullpen coach with any of that, and if he gets dinged for those guys, he also should get credit for helping to turn nothing into something with Ivan Nova and David Phelps. There are few guys who seem to consistently improve their pitchers as coaches — of course, Arizona now has its hooks in one of those guys, Dave Duncan.
In light of the Duncan hire, I thought it was pretty interesting that Mel Stottlemyre Jr. was taken from his roving instructor role and installed as the bullpen coach. That can only help. But I wonder if that move is a strong indication of what Dave Duncan’s role is likely to be. There’s such a thing as too many chefs in the kitchen, but all of these guys are professionals. Maybe it’s just best to have more smart coaches focused on getting as much as possible from the rotation.
I’m going to adopt a different format over the next two weeks or so: shorter, more frequent posts to react more quickly while get hot stove is at a simmer. I’ll post about the Daniel Hudson non-tender later today.
Links from the last week:
- Check out Nick Piecoro’s most recent notebook. Gibson and Towers contract issues, minor league signings, and the tone of the offseason in general.
- Early last week, the FanGraphs crew continued to focus on the Diamondbacks. Don’t miss this piece by Carson Cistulli on using Steamer rate stat projections to look at how D-backs prospects might perform in the majors in 2014. And although it isn’t really about him, prospect Jake Lamb was the inspiration for an article by JD Sussman on the chances that prospects reach the big leagues. An excellent baseline for later discussion, particularly with respect to position players.
- Willie Bloomquist signed with the Mariners for $5.8M on a two-year deal. I think he was less useful to the D-backs than Cliff Pennington, and apparently he’s more expensive, too. At Snake Pit, Jim McLennan nails it: Bloomquist was a Swiss Army knife, but you don’t use one of those “when you’ve got a real can-opener around.” Side note: the D-backs who had the highest-publicized problems with the Dodgers in 2013 were Eric Hinske, Ian Kennedy, and Bloomquist. None have lockers at Chase anymore.
- McLennan also has some good thoughts on the shortstop debate and the D-backs’ quiet offseason.
- Good suggestion from Tyler Roberts at Venom Strikes about how the D-backs should pick up Corey Hart. Jeff and I were talking about this last week. Since Hart would not be getting more than a handful of at bats at first base, he’d really only be an option if the outfield logjam is significantly cleared (read: Matt Davidson and a center fielder traded). He’d be a pretty good caddy for Cody Ross. That theme above from Cameron re: the Athletics on hurt and good or healthy and average? Hart is a good, cheap upside candidate.
- I’m not as enthusiastic about other suggestions at Venom Strikes, one for a signing of Grant Balfour and another for Mark Reynolds. Noah Dougherty’s reasoning for a Balfour signing is sound, although the D-backs really have a full house when it comes to right-handed relievers. My difference is largely philosophical, as I think the team really needs to get away from well-paid, veteran bullpens. I have no major issue with bringing in Reynolds for some HRs off the bench — but unlike Arencibia, who would also be filling an open slot, Reynolds would really just be a pinch hitter. Goldy’s not going to cede many at bats, and Reynolds would be the team’s fourth third baseman (with Matt Davidson already playing a bit less than what is ideal).
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