The trade deadline looms on Thursday, and with 2014 a completely lost season, there is (and should be) pressure on GM Kevin Towers to cash in as much as he can. It seems from the rumors, however, that players other teams want aren’t the players Towers most wants to move. I know that seems obvious, but it’s not. We’re not really talking about quality here, necessarily; we’re talking about time frame. Towers wants to trade Aaron Hill, it appears, but otherwise the D-backs are looking to move players who are unlikely to help in 2015 not because they’re not good, but because they won’t necessarily be around.
It’s Brad Ziegler and Martin Prado who seem to be at the top of other teams’ lists, but both players could be important cogs in the D-backs machine were it to actually make the playoffs in 2015 (as unlikely as that might be). Any complementary player like Ziegler or Prado should be available for the right price, but credit the D-backs front office for planning to hang on to two players who have more value than meets the eye. With regard to both, that’s kind of a pet issue for me: Ziegler because traditional stats don’t capture the potential value of deploying him in double play opportunities, and Prado because WAR and other stats don’t account for the considerable extra value he provides through his positional flexibility.
Yesterday, Steve Gilbert of mlb.com did a nice rundown of the team’s priorities this week. Apparently the front office is going to hole up in the team hotel in Cincinnati through Wednesday, hopefully fielding some offers. But check out Gilbert’s quote of Tony La Russa:
“I think you need to be realistic,” La Russa said. “If there’s an opportunity to put more money in the war chest, that’s all to the good when you start moving forward because the organization is going to spend it. There’s also another plus to that where you give a young player a chance to play, then you don’t have a question all winter about whether the guy can pitch or play.”
I was so thrilled to read this. First, the idea that money saved through trades right now will be kept in the “war chest” — that’s great news, especially considering the D-backs’ trade of Brandon McCarthy for Vidal Nuno, in which the majority of the return seemed to be salary relief. The “young player a chance to play” part is even more encouraging, though, don’t you think? This is exactly what we’ve meant when we’ve talked about the D-backs using this season to put themselves in a position to get lucky. It’s already paid off, it seems, with David Peralta. You could argue the same thing with Chase Anderson. And we may learn a lot about Matt Stites, Evan Marshall, Jake Barrett and Daniel Hudson before the season’s end, especially if the team is able to move Oliver Perez. I love this.
And let’s not bury the lede, in terms of La Russa’s “be realistic” comment. As Gilbert notes in his piece, the org is on record as saying it’s not doing a 2-3 year rebuild, but rather looking to reload for 2015. Fine. If there’s a reasonable opportunity to do that, great, especially if the 2-3 rebuild would be an uncertain road anyway. Reasonable minds can differ, but it sounds like the D-backs are fairly self-aware on that point. I love that, too.
We noted in our Midseason Plan that it takes two to tango. We can’t sit up on an ivory tower (or a datalab, in our case), and insist that the D-backs trade Hill for a good return, because the only way we’d be in a position to do that is if there was a confirmed offer out there for Hill that we could analyze. I still think it’s possible, but we’ll have to trust that the team is trying to do what it can, and that if they don’t make a move (like trading a shortstop, or trading Hill to make one of the shortstops a second baseman), it’ll be because there wasn’t one out there.
If Gilbert’s characterization of the D-backs’ stance on individual players is a reliable guide, however, I’m 100% on board with that stance. Trusting that the front office won’t ignore good offers, though, is not the same thing as trusting that Towers can get good returns for the players the team is marketing. Which players should the org look to move within the next three days, in your opinion?
- On Thursday, Jon Heyman reported that the D-backs were “barely listening” on Martin Prado, but looking to trade Aaron Hill. Fine by me, and eating money in either case seems palatable. Does it really matter, though, whether Didi Gregorius is playing second base or third base? As noted above, I think Prado’s actual value exceeds his statistical value. But if the return for Prado is a step or two better than it is for Hill, I hope the D-backs are willing to pull that trigger. Hey, the publicized preference to trade Hill could all be intelligent posturing. But Towers’s track record is to be very up front about his thinking, which is useful in starting discussions but not necessarily useful in ending them well. It’s also worth noting that if Towers trades Prado but doesn’t get a very good return, he may have some egg on his face re: the Upton trade. And in terms of the logjam in the infield, it’s not so much that something’s gotta give, and more that something could give.
- Also from that piece: Arizona “doesn’t seem anxious to trade Ziegler or Perez.” Not Perez? Why the flying blue hell not? It’s a reasonable contract and Perez is a reasonably good relief pitcher. But the D-backs might have plenty of those, and as La Russa noted in that quote above, now is the time to figure those things out. If the D-backs are to contend in 2015, I think we can all agree that the team won’t have much of a margin for error. Getting the chance to transition someone like Jake Barrett right now might be better for the 2015 squad than having Perez would be — and that’s not even accounting for the return on Perez, which also could be helpful.
- Speaking of the bullpen, the Pirates are scouting D-backs relievers, according to a Jon Paul Morosi tweet from last Wednesday. Hey, the more, the merrier. The Huston Street and Joakim Soria trades may have filled up the dance cards of the Angels and Tigers. Which is not to say that neither team will trade for another reliever — but neither is likely to be motivated to pay top dollar.
- In a deep, dark corner of this Boston Globe piece by Nick Cafardo, we learned that the Red Sox were among the teams kicking Prado’s name around. That would be kind of an odd move considering that the Red Sox are shopping other players, but maybe this is something to keep an eye on for the offseason if neither Hill nor Prado is traded in the next few days. In the same piece, we learn that teams are calling the Athletics about Tommy Milone, who was demoted to Triple-A when the Athletics got Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The D-backs aren’t necessarily in need of #4 starter types, but the roster could be better off with Milone instead of Hill. Just saying.
- The whole Nick Evans to Rakuten thing has been weird, right? MLBTR reported that he had signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, and Gilbert shot that down. I’ll confess to being unfamiliar with the procedure that would let Evans sign with an NPB club while being controlled by the D-backs. I think he’d need to be granted his release, and he’d also have to pass through release waivers. Once upon a time, all teams operated under kind of a gentleman’s agreement to let players get through release waivers to get to Japan, but Theo Epstein and the Red Sox put a stop to that by blocking the then-Florida Marlins from sending Kevin Millar to the Chunichi Dragons. But even then, the rights had already been sold by the Marlins (they later returned the money). How Evans could sign directly with Rakuten, I just don’t understand.
- [deleted bullet on reported non-news about Kevin Towers and the San Diego Padres]
- Been a while since the D-backs mixed it up with the Dodgers, right? Wrong. Mike Bolsinger, with Triple-A Reno, threw at Erisbel Arruebarrena of the Triple-A Isotopes yesterday. Then things got crazy. Check out the video at this link, which shows both benches brawling. After he “shoved Aces catcher Blake Lalli and threw his helmet at a member of the Aces who charged at him,” Arruebarrena runs like a deer cornered by a pack of wolves. I guess the bad blood is getting bred into these guys, too, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see it continue at the major league level for a while yet.
- On Wednesday, Nick Piecoro discussed pitching. Namely, Arizona’s failure with it. “McCarthy’s success falls in line with a troubling trend: Pitchers who leave Arizona tend to improve, those who arrive here often regress, and the Diamondbacks can’t seem to turn around those who are struggling.” Yes — and I like to think we’ve been on top of this, repeatedly. I have a couple of theories I’m working on. But is this really all that different than the situation of the Colorado Rockies? The most troubling thing about this pitching trend with the D-backs is the D-backs’s failure not only to address it or fix it, but to acknowledge it. If you know something is going on, you should be less willing to bail on Ian Kennedy, Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer, etc. It’s not them, it’s you, D-backs. We will return to this topic.
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