In a less-than-stunning move, the Diamondbacks have traded left-hander Joe Thatcher and minor league outfielder Tony Campana to the Angels. Thatcher was a member of the Arizona bullpen while Campana had been toiling away in AAA Reno. In return, Anaheim (as an Angelino, I will not count the Angeles as being from Los Angeles) will complete the trade by sending minor league outfielder Zach Borenstein and minor league reliever Joey Krehbiel back to Arizona.
Of course, this is just the first in a series of projected trades. We released our Midseason Plan last week and actually projected the flipping of a D-backs reliever to the Angels, although we had Oliver Perez as the one being dealt. It’s instead Thatcher heading out the door and back to the state of California after the Diamondbacks acquired him roughly a year ago from the Padres, along with recent call-up Matt Stites, in exchange for Ian Kennedy. Let’s run a brief analysis of what the Diamondbacks have given up and what they have obtained.
The Diamondbacks Give Up
In this trade, Arizona has given up one thing (embodied in two men): certainty. We knew for absolute certain what kind of reliever Joe Thatcher is. As a LOOGY, he’s good at what he does, appearing in a bunch of games to face one or two left-handed batters before exiting. If he were a better pitcher, he’d pitch to more batters, but his ceiling has been reached as the 32-year old is not about to blossom into something more valuable at any time in the future.
Tony Campana is another completely known commodity. He’s fast and can play center, but can’t hit and almost never muscles the ball out of the infield. At 28, he’s also not likely to see his game take the big step forward needed in order for the Diamondbacks to consider him part of the future. He’s had enough major league time to prove his worth, and we know that he’s nothing more than an up-and-down kind of guy.
The Diamondbacks didn’t need either of these players given their situation. It’s nice to see that they shed some labels that they’ve seemingly been attached to in the past they moved a “veteran arm” and a “table-setter.” These tags are poor descriptors of talent, but the Angels clearly thought that these guys could be useful as they attempt to hold on to the AL Wild Card lead.
In this trade the Diamondbacks have acquired one thing: uncertainty. The uncertainty they received is the good kind, however. Let me explain.
Zach Borenstein is an outfielder in the high minors who’s had success very recently, being named the Angels’ minor league player of the year in 2013 after he slashed .337/.403/.631 in 112 games at High-A Inland Empire. He slugged 28 home runs and earned himself a trip to the Arizona Fall League where the then-22-year old struggled. Now 23, he flailed in AAA before being demoted to AA Arkansas. Anaheim tried to skip him over AA and it didn’t work. The D-backs will have to decide what to do with him, and we haven’t learned those details just yet.
Joey Krehbiel is a 21-year old, right-handed relief prospect who was in High-A at the time of the deal after starting the year at Low-A Burlington. He’s had a good season to date, but was admittedly old for his first assignment. His strikeout and walk rates have been solid, if not impressive, through his minor league career. He’s never given up many home runs until this year, but that’s likely a California League thing.
Neither Borenstein or Krehbiel are considered top prospects. Borenstein was the 10th best prospect in the Angels’ system heading into the season, but that’s not saying much as Anaheim farm system is perhaps the worst in baseball. He received a C+ grade from Minor League Ball’s John Sickels while Krehbeil failed to achieve even honorable mention status. But what these players do represent is a chance for the team to get lucky on an undervalued asset, just like Ryan described a while back. The expectations are low, but each player will have an opportunity to make an impact and this is exactly the kind of move that the Diamondbacks need to make more of with their fringy trade assets. Getting this return for Thatcher and Campana is fine.
The Diamondbacks got a small amount of salary relief out of this deal, as well. Thatcher was owed just over $1 million for the rest of the 2014, and Arizona’s now off the hook for that. It’s not a savings to get excited about, but perhaps every little bit helps if they’ve got bigger plans.
More importantly, the move opens up new opportunities in the major league bullpen and in the AAA outfield. Will Harris is perhaps the most likely candidate to take Thatcher’s spot, and given Harris’ age and experience, that’s a good swap. Harris looked like the real deal for much of 2013 before being optioned to Reno to start the season. Other candidates like Jake Barrett and Kevin Munson could also see a new opportunity do to Thatcher’s departure. In the AAA outfield, it’s even more uncertain how they’ll fill in for Campana, but it should create some new opportunities. Borenstein will help fill that vacuum.
I like this trade for the Diamondbacks, not necessarily because of what they specifically got in return, but because of what it represents: an understanding that they have assets that can be cashed in even if the return is far from a guarantee and that by doing so, they’re giving their current youngsters a chance to prove themselves. Arizona only needs one player in these types of deals to pan out as an above average player and it makes up for all of the ones who don’t. While we saw a move like this coming, there will certainly be others over the next few weeks. Inside the ‘Zona will keep you posted as these things materialize.
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