The Diamondbacks signed Bronson Arroyo last week to a 2-year deal worth $23.5 million, and with an option, could be for 3-years and $30 million. You know the dialogue on Arroyo; he’s durable but unspectacular and takes his turn every fifth day. He gives up a lot of home runs but he walks no one and limits the damage despite being a soft-tossing righty who spends a lot of time pitching backwards. You can look all of this stuff up and don’t really need to hear about it from me. Besides, it’s not necessarily Bronson Arroyo that I have a problem with. Instead, it’s the consistent thinking of the man who brought the soon-to-be 37-year old pitcher aboard that has me underwhelmed.

It’s become increasingly clear this winter that Kevin Towers does not value young talent. He simply doesn’t see the need to keep cost-controlled assets and extract surplus value from them. Instead, he’s seemingly happy to overpay for guys who’s salaries will only escalate while getting nearly identical production from them as he could have from the assets he already had under control.

Case in point, let’s take a look at what the Diamondback have acquired in their four major transactions this offseason:

  • SP Bronson Arroyo
  • RP Addison Reed
  • 1B/OF Mark Trumbo
  • The riddance of Heath Bell and a savings of $6 million

Now, let’s see what they gave up in these deals:

  • $23.5-$30 million over two or three years
  • 3B/OF Matt Davidson
  • OF Adam Eaton
  • SP Tyler Skaggs
  • SP David Holmberg

Of course, those are just the personnel costs associated with this winter’s moves. There are also opportunity costs that will take place as a result of them. Those include, but are not limited to:

  • Randall Delgado heads to the bullpen
  • Will Harris likely losses his spot in the bullpen
  • AJ Pollock is now the full-time CF with no true backup
  • Cody Ross heads to the bench despite being the team’s best offensive outfielder in ‘13
  • There is no longer the opportunity to groom one of the four prospects shipped away into a building block of the franchise

So, yeah, the team got their power hitter, some bullpen help and a starting pitcher. We knew these things were on Kevin Towers’ offseason shopping list because, well, he can’t keep a secret. While other GM’s are building savvy ball clubs around young, cost-controlled talent, Kevin Towers is shipping it away in multiples. Trumbo has already entered arbitration and Reed will do so next year. They’re only going to get more expensive in the future. Arroyo is affordable and his deal won’t break the franchise by any means, but you have to ask yourself if he’s kind of guy you want your team spending money on. If you answered ‘yes’ to that inquiry then I’d suggest you need to brush up on the value of baseball players.

Of course, all of this was done under the alleged presumption that it will make the team better. But is that really the case? Let’s dig deeper to find out.

Signing Arroyo

Just forget the salary for the time being. Is Bronson Arroyo more valuable to the Diamondbacks than Randall Delgado? The projection systems are split on the matter, but most analysts agree that he’s not a for-sure upgrade. If he’s an upgrade at all, it’s likely only to the tune of a half a win, maybe a full one if Arroyo has his best season in recent memory. Now, remember the salary. Arroyo will make $9 million more than Delgado. I’m thinking that $9 million could come in hand at the trade deadline, but that’s (apparently) just me.

  • Net cost in ‘13: $9 million
  • Net gain: .5 win

Trading for Addison Reed

Yes, the bullpen was in need of a bit of boost and Reed can presumably supply that. Davidson is thought to be a useful major leaguer long-term, but Reed is a more immediate need. There are some warning signs with him, notably some scary peripheral and a drop in velocity. Should he stay healthy and effective, this can be considered a small upgrade.

  • Net cost in ‘13: none
  • Net gain: .5 to 1 win

Trading for Mark Trumbo

Towers was seeking more power for the lineup to “protect Paul Goldschmidt.” Lineup protection as a theory has been debunked a number of times before, but like Towers himself, it just won’t go away. Cody Ross appears on track for a quick and healthy recovery but will now go to the bench even though he’s just as valuable as Trumbo, maybe even more so. Yes, Trumbo hits the bombs, but he also strikes out a ton and is a first baseman running around in the outfield. Ross, on the other hand, plays surprisingly good defense, has a nice OBP and is a valuable hitter. Ross is the better overall package but doesn’t wow the public (and Towers) the way Trumbo can.

  • Net cost in ’13: $4.8 million
  • Net gain: up to .5 win, perhaps less depending on how Gibson plays musical chairs in the outfield

Trading Bell and Holmberg

This was a pretty solid win for Towers even though I have a feeling that the Rays are just the team to figure out how to get production from a guy like Bell. Losing Holmberg hurts a little since he’s essentially expected to become the exact same pitcher that Bronson Arroyo is currently. It freed up some cash, so this is relatively decent move. If I’d known they were going to spend the savings on Trumbo and Arroyo at the outset, I’d have rather just cut Bell in the spring, but hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.

  • Net cost in ’13: ($6 million)
  • Net gain: 0 wins

Looking at the big picture, the D-backs will look like a different team when they take the field in Australia, but don’t be fooled, they’ll probably be just as good as they would have been had they not made any moves at all. One win, maybe two, will not change things all that much as the current projections show. Every system has the team somewhere between 78-85 wins and if we just take the middle of that, the Diamondbacks look like a lot like a .500 team again in 2013.

But wait, this post isn’t about 2013, it’s about the long-term outlook of the franchise. So, let me run another proposition by you:

  • Just keep Delgado in the rotation, save $9 million and stay just as competitive.
  • Let Matt Davidson get some innings in the outfield to keep Cody Ross fresh and provide that “pop” that Towers covets (the team was already giving Davidson outfield reps over the winter). Save $4.8 million, keep former top prospect Tyler Skaggs in the organization and remain just as competitive, maybe more so if Davidson improves his approach and/or Skaggs fixes his mechanical issues.
  • Trade Adam Eaton to the White Sox for Addison Reed, with a throw-in available if necessary. Eaton’s trade value was at least as high as Davidson’s, so they should have had no trouble making this trade. Clears the logjam in the outfield, costs Arizona nothing and improves the team by a win.
  • Make the Bell and Holmberg deal (if you just can’t live with Heath Bell) with Tampa Bay. We’ve kept Skaggs above, so Holmberg is expendable, especially since they’re both lefties. Save $6 million and remain just as competitive.

So let’s just recap the above (admittedly revisionist) scenario: the team’s just as competitive as before, but they’ve saved $13.5 million and they will save more down the road as they’ve avoided Trumbo’s arbitration raises and Arroyo’s future salary obligations. But, even more valuable, they get the chance to see what Matt Davidson and Tyler Skaggs can become. Generally, Davidson is seen as having a useful major league bat and Skaggs is expected to a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher for a long, long time. So we’ve just created a team with the same number of wins with more future potential at a lower cost.

I’m not naïve, these guys could all bust, but taking expert opinions into account, it’s more than likely that youngsters like Delgado, Skaggs and Davidson will at least be average to above average major league players. They have place on a team. After all, that’s why teams traded for them. It’s easy to downgrade the players that your team has just shipped off, but it must be taken into consideration that other teams coveted those players in the first place.

So while you shouldn’t be surprised that the Diamondbacks won’t be remarkably better in 2014 (barring some unforeseen breakouts and incredible luck), you should be a little jaded that the GM gave up a large sum of payroll and the future opportunity to cash in on developing talent for essentially the same win-loss record. I know I am, and it stings.

As Kevin Towers is talking about more home runs, a #provencloser and #veteranpresence, I just care about wins. He’s acquired the things above this winter, but I’m not sure he made the Arizona Diamondbacks a better baseball team, at least not to the degree that it matters, especially given the costs, in both the present and future. Rather than using this offseason to propel this franchise forward for the future, Kevin Towers may have just taken it a couple steps backwards.

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46 Responses to A step or three in the wrong direction

  1. Hunter says:

    Jeff, I realize you’ve got to write about something but the fact of the matter is, you don’t know. You don’t know how things will turn out, no matter how many stats or how much performance history you have on your side. You can only make an educated guess. Diamondback fans are freaking out left and right. Baseball pundits are bashing Towers and the Dbacks left and right. Quite frankly I’m sick and tired of it because until the games are played, no one knows. Case in point: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/angels-fleeced-dbacks-haren-deal-042600566–mlb.html

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Hunter, I think you’re confusing two things: the ultimate outcome, and the probable outcome.

      As to ultimate outcome, you’re absolutely right. There are many possible outcomes, and just about anything could happen. A player could take a huge step forward, like Patrick Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt did in 2013. Someone important could get the yips.

      But not knowing for sure what WILL happen is not the same thing as gauging probable outcomes.

      We can reach a higher level of certainty about probable outcomes. Let’s say I have a coin, and I challenge you to guess heads or tails. I tell you if you guess correctly, you’ll win a dollar; if you guess incorrectly, you’ll lose three dollars. Can’t we be SURE that taking the bet would be a bad idea for you? We can know that it’s a bad idea, despite the fact that you would win the bet 50% of the time.

      Jeff has been really careful about distinguishing between ultimate outcomes and probable outcomes in this space (to wit: his whole projection series). You can argue with him about whether he’s evaluating the data points correctly, but I don’t think a lack of certainty about ultimate outcomes means that an examination of probable outcomes is not a useful exercise.

  2. Jeff Wiser says:

    Ryan’s right, I’m talking about LIKELY outcomes. The fact that people are bashing this offseason left and right should tell you something whether you want to hear it or not.

    This stuff is critical because you only have so many opportunities to improve your team. The number of moves is pretty limited. Therefore, each move made represents a huge opportunity cost. The D-Backs aren’t the Dodgers (thank goodness), they have little financial flexibility. We just can’t throw away moves on lateral transactions. Less is more sometimes, especially if you can’t get what you want. Standing pat and investing your current assets isn’t the worst option sometimes.

  3. Alex Meeks says:

    I can see the points you present and I appreciate it. However, projections good or bad I always take with a grain of salt. One thing that is very encouraging to me about Arroyo, whether he is an improvement or not statistically, has been in big games, has a decade more of experience than most of the rotation, and can be a mentor. Also, just from articles and reports, the guys are trying to basically make a leadership committee. They reported that last year they lost direction and had no clear cut leadership. These obviously cannot be measured but I hope they make the difference.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      You’re right on projections, grain of salt needed. I spoke with Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs/ESPN and the proud created of ZiPS and he essentially said that, especially with younger players, there’s a very wide range of outcomes. The published projection is the average of those potential outcomes.

      But, here’s where I have to ask people to reconsider their take on projections: just because not EVERY player will hit his projection right on, the team as a whole will likely be pretty close to theirs (barring any incredibly surprises). Case in point, if Aaron Hill goes crazy this year and puts up a 4.5-win season, that gain can just as easily be offset by an injury to Corbin. So while we can quibble with individual projections, the fact of the matter is that most teams end up within (approx) five or six wins of their projected outcome. Over the course of 162 games, that’s pretty good.

      If mathematically the D-backs are projected win, say, 85 games, that puts the realistic range anywhere from 80-90 wins. 80 wins if things don’t go well (which I’d argue we saw in 2012 and 2013) and 90 wins if almost everything breaks right (which we saw in 2011). The organization seems to be comfortable putting itself in that window, then letting the chips fall where they may. It won’t work out most times, but it keeps them competitive and every now and then things go their way.

  4. I’m curious about your comment reference the “protecting the hitter” how has it been debunked. The “theory” behind it makes sense to me. I as a manager am facing a team with one consistent hitter and no other around him posing a threat why would I not pitch around him and potentially catch him chasing balls. Please clarify for me.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Travis, great question. Lineup protection makes complete and total sense in theory. As you explained, you probably wouldn’t want to walk slugger #1 if you have to face slugger #2 next. At least that’s the story that’s been sold to us for a long time.

      The measurements of this effect has shown, however, that this “protection” is largely overstated, perhaps even to the extent that it doesn’t exist. The link I provided above is a good example. If you were looking for a posterchild to examine protection, the Tigers clubs of the last few years would be a great place to start. Unfortunately, placing Prince Fielder behind Miguel Cabrera didn’t have any kind of effect on Cabrera’s opportunities, at least not one’s we had seen before Fielder was acquired.

      You can just Google “lineup protection myth” and read until you’re content. It’s a great theory and one that’s easy to buy into. The results, however, paint a different picture time and again.

      Don’t take my word for it, explore the work of people far smarter than I am.

  5. coldbueAZ says:

    Jeff, how well do you know the prospects and Eaton that you lament being traded? Do you see all of them continuing an upward trend? Or is it just possible that the organization knows a little more than you, Ryan, and writers at Fangraphs?

    I realize it’s trendy to bash Kevin Towers but you’re also bashing Dave Duncan. I’m sure you can find a good sabermetric defense for that.

    On the likely outcomes point, let me ask you a question: How much money has Nate Silver won playing lotteries?

    I used to enjoy baseball blogs however the stats crowd need to look at more than metrics. As KT said earlier this week, “I think we know our players better than anybody else, and we should”

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Bob, to your point, the one thing that I have been really impressed about is that when KT does trade guys, he usually never gets burned. That little aspect is tricky to account for as it can either be good luck or a skill. I don’t think we have enough data/insight to know the answer there.

      The key for me is that if you hit on a prospect, it is so overwhelming lucrative that it should convince you to continue trying to hit on the others. When you’re financially strapped, this is where you should invest, in my opinion. Corbin was supposed to be a relatively unimportant prospect and look what happened. Same with Goldy and AJ. You’re looking at three of the best players on the team and they’ll make less than Cliff Pennington this year. If this could be replicated with frequency, imagine the possibilities in terms of extending good players or being a player in the market for others. The Braves and Cardinals come to mind.

      The Nate Silver things is pointless as he can’t control his odds in the lottery. KT can control his odds.

      Of course, all of this is beside the point. No one yet has explained how, through spending money and opportunities this winter, the team is better to the point where they’ve become a team to be taken more seriously than before. If the moves don’t make us better, save the cash and the opportunity to hit on the prospects. Maybe they’ll flop, but you’re just as competitive in the short term with a chance to get lucky with the next Patrick Corbin.

      I don’t see the downside.

      • coldbueAZ says:

        How are we “just as competitive in the short term” with prospects that have not demonstrated major league promise versus those we acquired that have a proven track record if the intent is winning now?

        We’re not going to agree Jeff. Thanks for the reply.

        • Jeff Wiser says:

          Agree or not, my reasoning was that Delgado = Arroyo and Cody Ross with a little Matt Davidson peppered in = Mark Trumbo. Both examples are in terms of total value.

          You’re totally welcome and I really do mean it when I say that it’s great to have thoughtful comments, even when they’re to the contrary!

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Bob, it’s absolutely possible that the FO knows more than us. In particular, they might have information that we just don’t have. And while we might not say it enough, it absolutely could change an evaluation of something if we found out that the D-backs had more or different information at the time.

      I think we ask more questions than provide answers, and there’s very little we can offer that is definitive, when we’re talking about the future instead of the past. Usually, it’s about the past, and a lot of “might,” like Rod’s great piece on Wade Miley yesterday. Especially when what we do involves research or points to a factor that others haven’t talked about, I think we still have something to add.

      I couldn’t care less whether it’s trendy to bash KT or not. I do my best to form my own opinions, and so does Jeff (you are implying the opposite). And KT has done some fantastic things as GM — the Ziegler and Collmenter extensions are works of art, and I’ve taken a fair amount of flak for calling KT a “genius” for the Holmberg trade (an opinion I still hold – just search for “genius” with the search function). And don’t get me started on the Goldy extension again, which I posted about last week — not only has it worked out much, much better than most (anyone?) anticipated, but it was also a great deal at the time it was consummated.

      As far as your last two points — I’m not sure how the lottery thing is relevant. A lottery would be like making a coin flip even odds with an even outcome, and there’s no way to beat that. I hope in my comment above I was clear about what I meant — which was not that Jeff Wiser is always right about everything, but that in evaluations, there’s just a difference between probabilities and outcomes.

      I love to look at more than metrics. Doing two posts on the Australian Baseball League and thinking through the business strategies of that was a really fun exercise. But there are some times, for some questions, when most of what we have to work with are numbers. I agree with you that we need to take them for what they are — and no more than that. But I don’t think you’re suggesting they’re worthless, either.

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Bob, one other, explicit question (we are still finding our stride here in this space, after all). What do you think of this kind of post? It would help me to know.

      http://insidethezona.com/2013/11/diamondbacks-model-building-bullpen/

      • coldbueAZ says:

        Ryan, I read this blog regularly. Most of the posts are quite good including the one you linked. That doesn’t mean I always agree.

        I guess I’m just tired of all the negativity directed to KT and the organization here and elsewhere. If I offended anyone at Inside the ‘Zona, please accept my apology.

        • Ryan P. Morrison says:

          No offense taken, and definitely no apology needed (at least, not from you to me — maybe from me to you). And if we all agreed all the time, there’d be nothing to write about. We can try to be all kinds of smart, but I know we’ll miss some things some times.

          And to be clear — I love this organization. A little bit of the KT stuff is the malaise from being at the end of the offseason.

          I wasn’t fishing on that post, I just wanted to know if our prospective stuff falls flat, in general. It’s a lot easier to evaluate the past than to urge something for the future (or, worst of all, to guess what the future will hold). Once upon a time, I thought we could keep analysis and opinion separate, but that’s just really hard to do.

          Anyway thanks, Bob — you were in early on us, and I really do value your opinion.

  6. Sam says:

    So much negative to say! If you don’t mind me asking — why are you still a Diamondbacks fan? Why not pick a team like the A’s that seems to actually know what they’re doing, and root for them?

    Of course, I’m starting to wonder this myself. I’ve been a Dbacks fan since 1999 despite never living in Arizona, but the last couple years have made me question my loyalty (more than 2004 did, because I accepted that it only happened because they had to pay the epic 2001 team). Why shouldn’t I jump ship and cheer for the A’s or another team?

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Hugs. And Gerardo Parra in general. And there are flashes, I think.

      This offseason was a matter of the D-backs really wanting to get over the hump and make the playoffs in 2014, without any very good moves really possible. They tried to make some moves anyway, with mixed, but not great, results. They still may win more games in 2014 because of it.

      Don’t forget — new TV deal coming. 2014 success could equal a better TV contract, which could equal much more success in the years to come.

      Another reason to be a D-backs fan — the organization is absolutely amazing on the business side of things. I don’t just mean they’re personable. I’ve heard some stories in back channels about some wonderful things the org has done for people, things other orgs might not do, or might market. I have tons of respect for the powers that be in the D-backs FO.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Simply, you don’t pick who you fall in love with.

      I’m describing a narrow window within which, in my opinion, the D-backs missed the mark. But that doesn’t mean they won’t hit it in the future. That doesn’t mean that they don’t know what they’re doing. I’m fully aware that I’m the one at the keyboard when someone else is getting paid to make the decisions. Kevin Towers has forgotten more about baseball in the last ten minutes than I’ll ever know.

      But I do know that I love the D-backs despite some missed opportunities. Don’t take this post for more than it is.

  7. Kevin says:

    I understand your points in this post, especially regarding Cody Ross = Trumbo and Delgago = Arroyo. I think the bit you’re missing is that, in making the trades they made, the Diamondbacks now have the equivalent of TWO Cody Rosses and TWO Randall Delgados. Depth matters. It really really matters. Last year, when the D’Backs had NO Cody Rosses thanks to injury, they utterly blew. The same goes for their rotation (thank you, Brandon McCarthy), and their incredibly ineffective bullpen (which should be fixed by Reed). On that note, you really shouldn’t compare the wins of Davidson to the wins of Reed. Those wins are coming from different places. It is far easier for the D’backs as they are constructed to replicate or replace Davidson’s wins than it is for them to replicate or replace Reed’s. Their bullpen was simply terrible last year. They need to stop the bleeding.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Great point. Depth is indeed critical over a 162-game campaign. My only issue there would be paying the prices they’re paying for depth. It can definitely be found cheaper. They really kind of had the depth thing covered before the trades, it was just cheaper, less-established depth.

  8. Kevin says:

    I’m not entirely sure they had the depth thing covered, though. Skaggs and Eaton really didn’t perform great at the major league level, and if you’re arguing they had enough depth going into this year based on the depth they had last year, that just really isn’t true. Their depth was utterly exhausted last year, and the team didn’t perform well because of it. I understand Eaton and Skaggs project as +WAR players, but if every team’s +WAR projected prospects actually turned into +WAR players, than the market would be saturated with them and free agents would be a dime a dozen. Many (dare I say most) prospects flop, no matter their hype. Even guys like Bronson Arroyo, when you look back at when he came up with the Red Sox, was just as hyped if not more hyped than a Tyler Skaggs. I will say I’m more skeptical about the Arroyo signing in this regard than any other move they made, mainly based on his advanced age, but they have the money to spend so they might as well spend it and, barring signing AJ Burnett, this was the best move they could have made.

  9. Mr. Adel says:

    All points Valid but like others have said you will never know. I feel like towers had to do something to make team better(either way us fans will bitch). Its all that was left(players in FA). He got a closer, he got a big bat relatively cheap, and got a starting pitcher. At least he addressed what he needed. Maybe he went about it the wrong way in your eyes but we will have to wait and see.
    I think more of a problem is the musical chairs in outfield. I went to about 20 games last year and saw about 20 variations of the outfield. How is a batter ever going to get in a rhythm if he plays once a week, or however Gibby does it?
    I think Pollock getting the start and having Parra and Trumbo solid for 140-162 games will help them immensely.
    I see Gibson doing the same thing in outfield last year with the infield this year. He needs to make a decision quick on SS and play hill as much as possible at 2b. Prado is solid.

    And hope that the pitching staff is more consistent(Cahill and Mcarthy).

    As far as letting go of young prospects, risk risk risk…I’m sure they saw something they didn’t like in skaggs, He didn’t look to good at end of year when he was suppose to get better. Eaton? Is he better then Pollock? Davidson wasn’t gonna get better then Prado anytime soon. I can see why Towers might have made the moves. I hope he’s a genius and saw something we don’t see.

  10. Hunter says:

    Great conversations guys. My last point on the subject of projected performance – as far as the team performance I think they have underachieved the last two seasons. There have been flashes of what the team can be, but due to injury or ineffectiveness they have failed to reach their potential. It seems there has been stretches of great pitching, and no hitting and when the bats do come around the pitchers are struggling. So a small tweak, an Addison Reed, an effective Trumbo instead of an ineffective Kubel in the lineup can have a greater impact on the team as a whole, not just their individual WAR.

  11. Steve says:

    You mentioned Pollock not having a true backup. Honestly I’ve never been a big Pollock fan, granted hes a good fielder but you cant really say that he more than average at any aspect of his game yet. I honestly like Campana out there before Pollock. A true leadoff batter, a true base stealer and a very good one at that, and a very good center fielder. Not to mention a left handed bat in a first five that will most likely be all right (prado, Goldy Trumbo, Hill). As far as the Arroyo signing it was too much money for an aging starter the only hope is that maybe he can help our young staff devlop

    • Hunter says:

      Pollock doesn’t blow your doors off in any one aspect of his game but when all is said and done he’s actually a very good player. Last year in only 440 AB’s he put up a 3.5 WAR. That’s a lot better than some of the big name players out there (i.e. Justin Upton and his 2.6 WAR)

      • Steve says:

        That’s kinda the problem I have with him. Hes Just average at every aspect of the game, slightly give or take in some areas. Granted he is still young and definitely has time and potential to improve but I have yet to really see anything special about him. Campana on the other hand is a waaay above avg base stealer, had a great OBP and utilizes his speed to score runs when nobody else would have had a chance. Not to mention the ground he covers in CF. He actually fits into a role as well (leadoff) where Pollock while he did bat leadoff quite a bit last year it was highly questionable why. I just think its a pretty bold statement to say we have no second center fielder when our second center fielder may be more useful to the team and have more of a role.

  12. Danish says:

    Coldblue… KT has earned, or deserves, every bit of bashing in my opinion. Think about the team he inherited when taking charge of this ball club. He took a team that had a promising 2011 campaign with a minor league system that was top 5 at worst. Since then, he has dealt at least 5 of our top 10 prospects (almost all for cents on the dollar), increased our payroll by over $20 million, but has somehow kept the team hovering around .500 while keeping a “win now” philosophy.

    I don’t see the wins coming now. I see them declining a couple years from now when our farm system has been completely depleted. We’ll be about as competitive as the Padres… the last team Kevin Towers ran into the ground.

    • Hunter says:

      @Danish Funny I don’t remember Towers getting a single AB or throwing a pitch.

      • Danish says:

        So by that logic, GM’s can’t be held responsible for fielding average teams?

        I give him plenty of credit for the Aaron Hill trade, but he could have gotten a lot more out of Skaggs, Eaton, Upton and Bauer. He has an extremely short leash with our prospects.

        He’d rather have expensive talent than see our own cheap, controllable prospects develop. That’s not a very good formula when you’re competing against the Dodgers’ bottomless pockets.

        This organization should be run like the Cardinals or Rays.

        • Jeff Wiser says:

          This is something I’ve been getting at for a long while now on this site: the Diamondbacks aren’t going to build a championship caliber team through spending alone. They’ve got to develop enough useful pieces on the cheap so they can use the money they have to acquire the established, expensive players necessary to finish building a true contender. I’d argue that the Rays aren’t the example to follow, but rather that the Cardinals and Braves are. They develop a bunch of their own talent, year after year, and buy the missing pieces, not the other way around as Towers seems to be doing. It’s inefficient and largely unsuccessful for a team with this few resources.

          Thanks for the comment!

  13. Tom Lynch says:

    Jeff,

    I think they are actually set up pretty well financially for the future. McCarthy and Putz come off the books after this season and Arroyo and Ross (if the team doesn’t pick up their options) come off after 2015. I can see three of those four slots (Ross’s being the exception) being filled in-house. They could even take a run at David Price by then.

    Even though I disagree with you about Arroyo, your reasoning and comparing numbers to Delgado was very well done. I have been a big fan of Arroyo’s for a long time so maybe I am biased. The team used 9 pitchers last season so I am sure Delgado will get his his fair share of starts.

    Anyway, another stellar post. Keep up the good work.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Hey Tom, thanks for the comment! I don’t necessarily see the money as being an issue. You properly noted that the financial future beyond 2015 looks really good.

      To me, and this is my read on things, it’s troubling to see young, cost-effective talent get shipped off time and again for mediocre players. In a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong with Trumbo, Reed and Arroyo, but in this instance for Arizona, I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument as to how they really improve the team’s ability to win a significant number of games beyond what they could have without them. I don’t think that is what you were suggesting above, I’ve just seen a lot of people applauding this offseason without any real reason why. It’s a zero-sum game: you either make the playoffs or you don’t (as the FO has defined it). I’m not interested in shipping away parts of the future to go from 80 to 83 wins.

      Again, that’s my read on things from projections, payroll, age-curves, etc, and definitely not gospel.

      Thanks Tom!

  14. […] Wiser at insidethezona fired up a lot of fans with his views on the Arroyo signing as well as the D’backs’ offseason in general. Jeff used to write […]

  15. Mtdback says:

    Fact of the matter is that this just goes to show you that stats are not everything. Some elements of baseball can simply not be represented by numbers and percentages.
    To all of you pencil pushers who have no idea about the game of baseball because you have never played, let me educate you from a college baseball player’s standpoint who has been playing the game for more than 15 years.
    The additions of Arroyo and Trumbo are huge for the dbacks in that they change the entire dynamic of the teams gameplay. Now that Goldy has that protection behind him, this shifts the production of the entire lineup because now everyone will be pitched differently.
    As for Arroyo, his 200 innings will be felt throughout the entire pitching staff and bullpen with the extra rest relievers will get this year.
    These are just a few examples, but I hope my point is clear. The entire machine that is the dbacks has been significantly altered and you cant judge what the outcome is going to be just by using a few meaningless percentages. Baseball is just not that simple.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      You’re absolutely right, there’s a chance for a ripple effect by adding a 200-inning pitcher and another bat. But, as has been proven time and again, those gains aren’t always as valuable as is commonly believed. You’re free to read the studies I’ve linked regarding lineup protection that have all independently concluded that it just isn’t a thing that makes a true impact. In resting the bullpen, the guys you’re resting are the middle relievers, not the back of the bullpen. They don’t pitch all that much and their impact isn’t all that big. Unless Arroyo is going to throw a bunch of complete games, Hernandez, Reed and/or Putz are still going to pitch. Sure, there are scenarios where some guys get a little extra rest, but how much is that worth over 162 games? One win? Two wins? Find me the evidence that it’s a huge a swing and I’ll believe you.

      This is the hard part for those that have the intimate knowledge of the game to understand. We’re not dealing with individual actions. Yes, baseball is made up of million of tiny interactions over each game, but if you look at a whole season as a single unit, you’ll find that most of those interactions balance one another out. Trumbo will hit home runs, yes, but balls will also fall in the gap that another outfielder would have gotten to and there will be times that someone else would have gone first-to-third and he has to stop at second. Maybe he can’t leg out an infield hit or two that someone else would have or maybe his foot speed leads to additional double plays. This is just one example and the same can be made for any player not named Mike Trout, but you get the idea.

      We’re talking about an entire season here, not just individual starts. We’re looking at the entire package of value that the player represents, not just one aspect of his game. It’s tough to do, but we have to step back and look at how the individual pieces fit the whole picture, not just the individual parts for the sake of themselves.

  16. Paulnh says:

    Mr Wiser, you asked multiple times in the comments for someone to explain how these moves made the Arizona Diamondbacks better. Well, I am going to do my best to defend Kevin Towers and the transactions that he has made this offseason. For starters, I would like to say that I am not a huge fan of KT, but it is important to remember that, with the exception of trading Parker and Cook for Cahill and essentially signing Heath Bell for 2 years 13 million, he has not made a terrible move. Even those two

  17. Paulnh says:

    Mr Wiser, you asked multiple times in the comments for someone to explain how these moves made the Arizona Diamondbacks better. Well, I am going to do my best to defend Kevin Towers and the transactions that he has made this offseason. For starters, I would like to say that I am not a huge fan of KT, but it is important to remember that, with the exception of trading Parker and Cook for Cahill and essentially signing Heath Bell for 2 years 13 million, he has not made a terrible move. Even those two weren’t awful. My only problem with KT is that he seems to diminish players’ value and then trade them when their stock is low (Ex: Justin Upton, Trevor Bauer, Stephen Drew, etc…). So without further ado I will begin my case.

    Mark Trumbo for Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton
    Yes, I had to start with this one. In case you have never read this website before, I like Mark Trumbo. I have presented my argument for that about 5 times, so I don’t need to do it again. I know Mr. Morrison is laughing at me right now, but Mark Trumbo will hit .255/.325/.550 with 40+ homers and play average defense. He will also provide protection for Paul Goldschmidt. Yes, I do believe in lineup protection. I typed in “lineup protection myth” into my browser and read several articles just as you asked, but I found nothing that could change my mind. The Fangraphs article that was linked was full of flaws in my opinion. For starters in took into account only one instance in the history of baseball (2012 Tigers). Regardless of the numbers presented in the article, I am sure that Miguel Cabrera was better with Prince Fielder behind him. The stats that he used were mostly the types of pitches that Cabrera saw. Not all fastballs are the same. Some are meant to get people out, and others are meant to walk MVP’s. oh yeah, MVP. Cabrera won two of those with

  18. Paulnh says:

    Mr Wiser, you asked multiple times in the comments for someone to explain how these moves made the Arizona Diamondbacks better. Well, I am going to do my best to defend Kevin Towers and the transactions that he has made this offseason. For starters, I would like to say that I am not a huge fan of KT, but it is important to remember that, with the exception of trading Parker and Cook for Cahill and essentially signing Heath Bell for 2 years 13 million, he has not made a terrible move. Even those two weren’t awful. My only problem with KT is that he seems to diminish players’ value and then trade them when their stock is low (Ex: Justin Upton, Trevor Bauer, Stephen Drew, etc…). So without further ado I will begin my case.

    Mark Trumbo for Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton
    Yes, I had to start with this one. In case you have never read this website before, I love Mark Trumbo. I have presented my argument for that about 5 times, so I don’t need to do it again. I know Mr. Morrison is laughing at me right now, but Mark Trumbo will hit .255/.325/.550 with 40+ homers and play average defense. He will also provide protection for Paul Goldschmidt. Yes, I do believe in lineup protection. I typed in “lineup protection myth” into my browser and read several articles just as you asked, but I found nothing that could change my mind. The Fangraphs article that was linked was full of flaws in my opinion. For starters in took into account only one instance in the history of baseball (2012 Tigers). Regardless of the numbers presented in the article, I am sure that Miguel Cabrera was better with Prince Fielder behind him. The stats that he used were mostly the types of pitches that Cabrera saw. Not all fastballs are the same. Some are meant to get people out, and others are meant to walk MVP’s. Oh yeah, MVP. Cabrera won two of those with Fielder behind him in two seasons after winning a grand total of zero without him. The people around you in the lineup matter, and Mark Trumbo will impact how pitchers pitch to Goldy.
    Even though I am certain that Trumbo will be awesome next year, it does pain me to see Adam Eaton leave. I think that Spanky will become a good but not great player for the White Sox. He’s a good OBP and speed guy who plays good defense, but he won’t better than anybody we have in our outfield next year. He was an expendable player who will benefit from this trade.
    I think that Tyler Skaggs will never be a good big league pitcher. He only has two pitches, and I don’t think that they are even that good. His fastball lost a ton of velocity last year, but the more alarming part for me, was that he couldn’t control it. He was missing his spots badly, and was getting hammered because of it. I also don’t think that his curveball is as good as advertised. It seems too loopy to me. It doesn’t have a good, sharp break. I just really am not a fan of Tyler Skaggs and it doesn’t bother me at all to see him go. In case your mad that we let a solid lefty prospect go, go look at Jonathon Mayo’s top ten left handed pitching prospects entering 2011. There are only two who are actually doing anything in the majors, Matt Moore and Martin Perez.

    Signing Bronson Arroyo
    This was a good signing for the Diamondbacks. They obviously have the money, so why not spend it? This upgrades the team more than most people realize, and all we had to give was money. Bronson Arroyo is a very good pitcher, and honestly, I don’t care how old he is. He has never shown signs of age or injury, and he has great hair. Four of the last five years, this guy has gone 200 innings with a sub 4.00 ERA in one of the worst pitcher’s parks in baseball. That is not an average pitcher. He is a very good pitcher, he throws a lot of innings every single year.
    It is important to remember that he is not taking the place of Randell Delgado, he is taking the roster spot of Will Harris. I have no faith in Will Harris, but he will still pitch 50 innings next year if he is good because he will come up after the first injury. Randell Delgado will begin the year in the bullpen and will move to the rotation when McCarthy gets hurt. He made 19 starts last year, and I expect him to make about the same number this year. His starts along with his bullpen appearances will give him about 150 big league innings next year which is a very solid number. The Bronson Arroyo signing took away about 15 innings from Will Harris, 30 from Randell Delgado, and the rest from guys like Zeke Spruill. It was not a signing only for depth, it improved the team by several wins.

    Addison Reed for Matt Davidson
    Addison Reed is an excellent, young, cost controlled relief pitcher. That sounds pretty good to me. He threw 71.1 innings last year, struck out 72, and only walked 23. He only allowed 6 homers and 56 hits. I can’t figure out how his ERA was so high at 3.79. Those numbers are really good, and I expect him to be even better next year considering that he is only 25. Having said all of that, he should NOT be our closer next year. His arbitration earnings would skyrocket if he gets a lot of saves, plus, I think that J.J. will be excellent and he deserves to be our closer coming out of spring training.
    Matt Davidson was an expendable piece who KT got rid of at the right time. He was never going to be able to play instead of Martin Prado or Aaron Hill, and I don’t think that he will be any good in Chicago either. Look at his AAA stats for last year. I know that he was really young for the league, but they aren’t that good. A .280/.350/.481 line appears great on the surface, but for reference, here is Mike Jacobs’ line in Reno last year .304/.365/.520. It’s a “slight” hitter’s league that has a tendency to inflate offense. Davidson does not hit many homers, plays relatively poor defense at third base, and strikes out 28% of the time in the minors. I just can’t see him becoming an everyday player, and I think that KT dealt him at the perfect time.

    All of these moves could come back to haunt the Diamondbacks, but I think that they are a risk worth taking. These moves will help us this year, and I honestly don’t see them impacting our future in a negative way. I like the moves that KT has made this offseason, and we will definitely be better because of them.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Paul, thanks for the very detailed, thoughtful response! I disagree with a handful of points, I really do appreciate that you took the time to dig into to where I was coming from. Too often internet comment sections are just people yelling at one another. In this instance, you built your case and I respect that.

      I guess where I think these comments have gotten off track is that the intent of this post was never to poo-poo each specific move, rather to highlight a disturbing trend that can have long term consequences. I used the moves as examples of that trend but didn’t mean for this to turn into grading each move individually.

      Speaking of grading each move individually, we’ll be doing that very thing next week, so stay tuned.

      • Paulnh says:

        I completely agree with you that trading prospects can be a very dangerous thing. If KT keeps trading them away, it’s only a matter of time before one of them turns into a perennial all-star. While it could be one of the guys that he traded this year, I just don’t see that happening. The trend that KT is setting maybe isn’t the best one for the way the Diamondbacks are built, but I just like the moves that he made this year.

  19. […] a hot-button post last week, I mentioned the myth of lineup protection. We’ve heard the D-backs leadership discuss […]

  20. Tommy says:

    I agree with this post. I think the criticism of Towers is warranted for several reasons. Our team is not getting better. He hurts the value of the players he intends to trade by either making it painfully obvious his intentions or bashing them. 2011 was a mirage in that most of the value in that season (and eventual division title) came from players that were here before Towers. Granted, DH30 and Putz stabilized the bullpen, but that was off-set by the huge suck of players like Mora, Nady, Miranda, etc….

  21. […] after that signing. I was just downright downtrodden. And Jeff took Towers to task for that move, excoriating the GM for his offseason moves overall. As Jeff wrote there, “it’s not necessarily Bronson Arroyo that I have a problem with. […]

  22. Veta says:

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