Yesterday, Jeff took a look at the Diamondbacks’ logjam at shortstop, concluding that something’s got to give. I agree with Jeff completely, and so I thought I’d suggest some potential trades that Arizona could pursue. This is all speculation, of course.
Now, who the Diamondbacks could trade is very much up for discussion. Since I’m suggesting trade matches, I’m going to stick with who I think Arizona should trade. Like Jeff, though, I think the team should move whoever has the most value, but that (in light of ZiPS projections) a platoon of Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings would not work out well for the team (or the players). Dropping Cliff Pennington and keeping those two guys would be awkward for the team, and it would also leave Arizona in an awkward position if Gregorius or Owings then got moved midseason.
The focus, then, would be on moving one of those two players to a team in need of a full-time middle infielder — and that would include teams with a need at second base, as Owings would be a good fit there.
New York Mets
The Mets are set at second with Daniel Murphy, but are lined up to be a lot less than Amazin’ at short. ZiPS gives 24-year-old Ruben Tejada a .255/.309/.326 projection, but in 227 PA last season, he was nowhere near that level (.202/.259/.260). Last year, he was really bad at the plate, even if that came in less than a half season, and his defense in 2013 (0.5 UZR/150, or a half run better than average over a full season) didn’t make up for that. He ended up with -0.3 WAR.
As the theory goes, being worse than replacement means that a AAA scrub should be better. Tejada is probably better than his 2013 would indicate — in 2011 and 2012 he was more of a below-average regular — but you would think that the Mets would be open to upgrading there. Speculation that a deal will be struck by New York and free agent Stephen Drew is still rampant, and yes, that’s a strong possibility.
But a deal could be made with Arizona, too. Maybe not for Gregorius, whose floor is actually quite similar to Tejada’s ceiling, but Chris Owings could really be a fit. It seems unlikely that Owings would be a significant step down from Tejada defensively, and it seems likely that Owings would be a full step up from Tejada offensively — with room to grow. The main Mets first baseman will be left handed, even if Ike Davis is traded (leaving Lucas Duda behind), and with Murphy and Curtis Granderson starting every day, Owings’s right handed bat would fit right in.
Who might the Mets trade for Owings? They are clearly trying to be competitive in 2014 with the Chris Young, Granderson and Bartolo Colon signings, but at the same time, it’s hard to see them trading potentially important prospects in their bid to finish better than last in the NL East this season. On the major league side, Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are not fits for Arizona, and with Bobby Parnell recovering from surgery, there aren’t a lot of tradeable assets in the bullpen. Flamethrower Vic Black went to New York in last season’s Marlon Byrd trade. Black is very good, but even in a world when Addison Reed costs Matt Davidson, Black is nowhere near enough value for Owings. Young lefty Scott Rice is a possibility, but right now Arizona would probably want its second lefty to be able to pitch to multiple batters (Joe Thatcher is definitely a matchups guy), and Rice got positively punished by RHB in 2013 (75 batters faced had a .955 OPS).
If there’s a match with the Mets, I think it would involve 24-year-old Jenrry Mejia, who has shown tremendous talent and a tremendous inability to stay on the field. New York still has him in mind as a starter, and if he’s able to be that going forward, I think he could be a real upgrade over Randall Delgado, despite some signs that Delgado’s performance is likely to improve in 2014 (see Rod on release points, and Jeff on HR rate). If Mejia just can’t stay healthy as a starter, however, his floor might be “knockout reliever” — and that’s pretty useful. Maybe the Mets are unlikely to trade away young pitching, but I think Mejia – Owings could be a good match.
Toronto Blue Jays
This is not a new idea — the Blue Jays have a gaping hole at second base and a goal of competing in 2014. I wrote about possible trade fits with Toronto in November, and this part about Toronto’s needs has not really changed:
Middle infield is where it gets interesting. Early in the offseason a year ago, Toronto signed Maicer Izturis on the promise of better-than-backup playing time. The trade with Miami brought Bonifacio, however, and the two did split time, although Izturis got the lion’s share of plate appearances. In an unfortunate coincidence for Toronto, Izturis went down with a season-ending ankle injury on August 22, just days after Bonifacio was sold to Kansas City. Toronto responded by plugging in an anemic Munenori Kawasaki (wRC+ of 78 in 289 PAs) and trying a (failed) experiment of moving Brett Lawrie over from third base.
Toronto declined its $1M option on Kawasaki, and Steamer projects an 84 wRC+ for 84 for Izturis for 2014, meaning he looks likely to create runs at a well below average clip next season. GM Alex Anthopolous may need to clench his teeth if Izturis is installed again as the starter – last year, he was terrible offensively (63 wRC+) and defensively (-26.7 UZR/150 at second, only marginally better at short and third).
Ideally, Toronto could bring a player on board who could hold down second base all season. Given the long and storied injury history of Jose Reyes, it might be an added bonus if that player could slide over to shortstop for two or three stretches per season of approximately 15 days. Paging Chris Owings…
Actually, a bit has changed since that was written. As the excellent Chris Teeter explained at Beyond the Box Score last week, the plan for Toronto appears to include Ryan Goins. But as Teeter notes, the AAA track record for Goins is .257/.311/.369, which “leaves much to be desired.”
I feel sheepish for suggesting this for a sixth time on this site, but LHP Brett Cecil would look pretty good in an Arizona uniform, and given where he is on the arbitration ladder, he’s certainly no more valuable as an asset than Chris Owings. Could Towers get Cecil and minor league relief prospect John Stilson? He might have to throw in a second player (probably catching prospect Michael Perez, as Toronto is thin there), but I think it could be done.
As for fits with other teams — the offseason game of musical chairs is largely over, and most teams with middle infield needs have already made arrangements. Further complicating the market for a D-backs shortstop is that, since both Gregorius and Owings have likely ceilings of league average play, neither player would be an upgrade for every team. And as we wrote at the beginning of December, the Robinson Cano signing probably means either SS Brad Miller or 2B/SS Nick Franklin is getting dangled by Seattle, and both of those players profile similarly to the D-backs shortstops.
Basically, demand has gone down, and supply didn’t go down with it. It could be that Arizona has missed its chance to move one of those guys (although a single injury on another team could change that). But as Jeff noted yesterday, it could also be that no other team was willing to value Gregorius or Owings at a level approaching Arizona’s internal evaluation. This will be an interesting situation. Someone’s gotta go, but it’s hard to figure out how.
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