On Episode 16 of The Pool Shot, we spent much of the first half hour talking through the impact of the news that in the “final offer”-style arbitration in which he filed for $6.9M and the D-backs filed for $5.3M, the three-person panel picked Trumbo’s number. The impact is not colossal, but it’s not good, either. $1.6M is nothing to sneeze at, first of all — but this 2015 salary sets Trumbo up for a 2016 salary that could be in the $10.5M range. As Jeff and I discussed, he’s not necessarily even an asset at that range (but for the fact that it’s always worth something to not be on the hook for multiple years). And that officially starts the clock on the Trumbo Trade Watch, because it means the team is unlikely to get much back for Trumbo after this season. If in June the D-backs look like they’re probably out of the playoff chase, expect the rumblings to start — and then expect to hear a lot more in July.
The backdrop is that the team has internal candidates for what they hope will be a team that threatens for a playoff spot in 2016 and one that is shaped up to be a contender in 2017. If 2016 is the priority, well then by all means, give playing time only to those players who can be helpful for that season, including Trumbo and Jeremy Hellickson. If it’s 2017 that is the highest priority, well then it makes sense to devote more major league development time to the likes of Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb, and maybe even David Peralta and Ender Inciarte. With all four of those players looking like they have a chance to be pretty good major leaguers, Mark Trumbo is really stressing out the roster.
Of course, injuries can and will happen, and a lot of this will probably take care of itself.
One thing that probably won’t: the D-backs’ foray into the market for international amateur prospects. On Friday, Nick Piecoro published a piece mostly on Yoan Lopez and his first few steps in D-backs camp. Tremendous piece, which is par for the course from Piecoro. In it, he addresses the new front office’s new relationship with Latin America, with help from De Jon Watson:
“I do think it’s an area we can impact and continue to get better and grow,” said Diamondbacks’ senior vice president De Jon Watson, who oversees the club’s scouting and player development departments. “It subsidizes your amateur draft. If you’re able to churn out players from the Latin American market, it definitely gives you strength in volume.”
This is something that I just don’t understand. There are very many players available in Latin America. Many of them will sign for less than $300,000 between now and July 2, 2017, and odds are that some of those players will turn out to be helpful major leaguers. But top options in each year’s class all command bonuses well over that amount, meaning that once we get to July 2 of this year, none of those consensus top prospects will sign with the D-backs.
None. Thanks to the Yoan Lopez signing, the team is blocked from such players for the next two signing periods. That’s a really long time. Signing Lopez is and was defensible anyway — there were other steps the team could have taken to make it more defensible — but spinning that particular move as a signal of a greater commitment to the international market just doesn’t make any sense. On paper, it looks more like cashing out on the international market, spending a comp ticket for an all-you-can-eat buffet on a muffin and some orange juice.
After listing some of the major leaguers that the D-backs have signed as international amateurs over the last 15-20 years, Piecoro goes on to note in the same piece:
But with the pipeline having slowed to a trickle in recent years, the club’s new front office went to work. Previous regimes didn’t ignore the region, team officials say, they just didn’t make it a priority like new General Manager Dave Stewart has. Both Stewart and Watson have made five trips apiece to the Dominican Republic since they were hired in September.
Okay. Again, the team can and probably will do the work and make some smart sub-$300,000 signings between July 2015 and July 2017. And there is more that the team can do before July, although the options remaining are limited. Yoan Moncada has now signed with the Red Sox. Specifically mentioned in the Piecoro piece is Cuban Yadier Alvarez, another young pitcher that the team has “heavily scouted.”
And that’s the problem. According to at least one report, Alvarez can’t be signed until the next bonus period in July — when the D-backs can’t sign anyone over $300,000. Maybe the D-backs should have waited to use their buffet ticket until they were ready to get their money’s worth. Bottom line, though, is that whatever you think about the Yoan Lopez signing, any citation to it by the organization as evidence of an enhanced commitment to Latin America is disingenuous.
On to the links:
- Hope springs eternal this time of year, and Zach Buchanan of azcentral.com wrote very interesting pieces on Jeremy Hellickson and Jake Barrett (link). Re: the Hellickson piece, the note about struggles pitching from the stretch is interesting. If he says it was a problem, then almost by definition, it was a problem. Note, though, that when a pitcher is working from the stretch, things tend to be going worse than normal anyway. And with respect to the Jake Barrett piece, much ink will be spilled in March on the bullpen traffic jam unless there is a surprising number of injuries. Interesting, though, that Jimmie Sherfy and Kaleb Fleck are for all intents and purposes already ruled out for April 2015.
- As Steve Gilbert of mlb.com writes, Will Locante has looked good in camp already. This one could be interesting. Locante is already on the 40-man, but that was a strategic decision designed to prevent the team from losing anyone in the Rule 5 draft in December (a really good strategy, by the way, which also happened to work). My money’s still on Matt Reynolds as the second bullpen lefty after Oliver Perez, but with the crazy number of right-handers available, we may find that the only way a second lefty makes the April roster is if they aren’t just the best available, but also looking really good in general.
- Also really enjoyed more spring training pieces by Nick Piecoro, including this one on Josh Collmenter and this one on Archie Bradley. Tons to be optimistic about, and the D-backs do deserve credit for not discounting Collmenter’s results (the way they discounted Wade Miley‘s, perhaps). And I agree with Piecoro’s assessment that the D-backs are “desperate for frontline starting pitching,” and that Bradley still represents one of the team’s best chances for that. Collmenter should teach us something, though, about what frontline starting pitching looks like in a D-backs uniform. Here, above average may be the equivalent of “frontline,” and if that’s the way it is and the way it’s going to be, the team needs to adjust its expectations before making roster decisions. As Piecoro also wrote, the team’s mix of starting pitching options could surprise, a likelihood all the more likely when there are so many pitchers who could turn a corner, including Daniel Hudson. But if the team doesn’t recognize a surprisingly good performance when it sees one, the chances of the best pitching options being selected for the medium-term rotation are… not as high.
- Kiley McDaniel and the prospects team at FanGraphs released their Top 200 list last week, and once again the D-backs did pretty well, placing three prospects with a future value of 55 (above average) in their trio of top pitching prospects. Brandon Drury also made the top 100, however, and Touki Toussaint joined him with a future value grade of 50. Jake Lamb and Yoan Lopez also made the cutoff.
- Read this Dave Cameron piece justifying the Red Sox’s spend on Yoan Moncada, and see if you feel like “D-backs” could have been subbed in at any point. I’m on the fence. But ask yourself whether you’d rather commit $63M to Moncada and not see him until 2017, or $68.5M to Yasmany Tomas. Tough call. But as Cameron opines, Moncada might have been the tougher sell to ownership.
- Not inclined to meet the organization part way on the reasoning behind giving Tuffy Gosewisch a starting role. Piecoro also had a piece on how Tuffy doubters have given the catcher new purpose, and I hope things work out that way. Piecoro notes: “The club believes its lineup will score enough runs that it can afford a defense-first option behind the plate. What the Diamondbacks need is better pitching. And that’s where Gosewisch comes in.” Couple things. One, the idea that there’s some kind of critical mass of offense-first players is false; production is production, regardless of whether it’s defense, hitting or pitching. I’m not saying the team shouldn’t use a defense-first catcher; that part of the plan is excellent. But the second thing: are we sure Tuffy actually is that guy? He may get glowing reports from the pitching staff (how much of that is about Tuffy, and how much is that about Tuffy not being Miguel Montero?), and he may do a ton right that we can’t measure. But research has shown that catcher framing can have a very big effect on a team’s ability to win games — even if it’s just three extra strikes per game — and the stats thus far show Tuffy to be middle of the road.
- In another Nick Piecoro piece (yes, there were a lot of them), more details on the D-backs’ new TV deal with Fox Sports Arizona, which calls for the team to receive $1.5 billion over a 20-year span that starts for the 2016 season (including a signing bonus right now) and maybe some kind of “equity stake in the network.” More on that here tomorrow.
- Right before spring training officially opened, Jim McLennan published season over/unders for MLB teams. I’m more optimistic than the bookies, as Jeff and I talked about on Episode 16 of The Pool Shot, and I like the team’s chances to finish ahead of the Padres. We’ll see (also, good discussion in the comments on that).
- Speaking of podcasts, Snake Pit has a new one, Infield Chatter. Looks like it’s going to be fun. Going to be a ton to listen to this year — since Jeff and I hit our stride with The Pool Shot in October, we’ve had three other D-backs podcasts roll out. I can’t get enough of substantive baseball conversations, as I found out the weekend of my first Saber Seminar in 2013 — and podcasts are the next-best thing.
- At Venom Strikes, Thomas Lynch feels bad for Jake Lamb with the writing partially on the wall that he may get squeezed out of the April roster. I agree, but I think we all know that when it comes to Lamb I’m kind of biased.
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