The end of the offseason and the start of the new campaign is hard to define. You might think it’s the moment pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. Maybe you view it as the time when all players arrive in camp. Is it when the first Spring Training game is played? In truth, the offseason sort of bleeds into the spring as there are still transactions happening. Guys are being inked to minor league deals and don’t be shocked to see a trade or two pulled off before the season starts. Maybe even a Diamondback could be on the move before the season kicks off in April.

But for our intents and purposes, we’re going to go ahead and call the offseason a done deal. Maybe that’s accurate and maybe it’s not, but we’re running this show and someone’s gotta make a distinction. We’re up to the task and if there’s one thing we do around here, it’s evaluating baseball. Just like we did last year, it’s time to grade the 2014-15 offseason. Here’s a reminder of how we graded each “major” transaction:

  • Each move receives a “quality” score (-10 to 10), which essentially gauges how well the move was made and whether it was sound or not.
  • Each move receives an “impact” score (0-10), which describes the level of impact we feel it will have on the team/organization.
  • Both Ryan and Jeff evaluated each move independently, then the two scores were averaged for the values you see below.

If you listened to the latest edition of The Pool Shot podcast, you’d note that Ryan and Jeff didn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on the scoring of some of the moves, and we’ll try to capture that in the details of each transaction. They’re all subjective, and while we’ve written about most of these deals in the past, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below!


Traded OF Justin Williams and SS Andrew Velazquez to the Rays for SP Jeremy Hellickson (analysis)
  • Quality: -0.5
  • Impact: 5
  • Comments (RPM): This was an eminently justifiable deal, and Hellickson absolutely is one of the most promising rotation candidates for the next two years. It would also be wrong for us to sell this as an overpay, because, really, it isn’t. As the first major move of the offseason, we don’t necessarily have to ding this trade for not fitting what seemed to be the plan throughout the rest of the offseason: gearing up for 2017 without sacrificing anything more immediate. But we don’t have to reward it for that reason, either, and while it doesn’t affect our quality score, this move may be the canary in the coal mine that players who aren’t likely to join the team before 2018 just aren’t part of the current D-backs business plan.

Traded SP Mike Bolsinger to the Dodgers for cash
  • Quality: 7.5
  • Impact: 1
  • Comments (RPM): Will Harris — a revelation in 2013 who struggled mightily in 2014 — was the first man cut from the 40-man after the season. At the time, the justification was that starting pitching depth like Bolsinger was a higher priority. At this point, it’s pretty clear that he was going to have no role in this organization; the D-backs have incredible depth at starting pitcher if you put the quality cutoff just higher than Bolsinger. Selling him for cash instead of simply waiving/releasing him (a la Harris) is an excellent move. It doesn’t matter what the dollar amount was.

Traded SP Charles Brewer to the Indians for cash
  • Quality: 6.5
  • Impact: 1
  • Comments (JW): like Bolsinger above, the Diamondbacks had the option of just releasing Brewer, a guy who didn’t fit with the organization considering the other, higher-upside options. But they didn’t and instead flipped him to the Indians for cash, something that’s always useful.

Traded SS Didi Gregorius to the Yankees in a three-team deal for SP Robbie Ray and 2B Domingo Leyba (analysis)
  • Quality: 6
  • Impact: 5
  • Comments (JW): considering that Didi Gregorius had clearly fallen out of favor in Arizona, thanks in large part to the talents of Chris Owings, it was great to see the team get at least something of value in return. Of course, Ray and Leyba have a chance to be that and more. Ray is a big league reliever at worst with plus velocity from the left side while Leyba is an upside second baseman with feel to hit. That’s not a bad haul for a guy who was the odd man out who only had one year at the minimum remaining.

Signed international free agent 3B/OF Yasmany Tomas to a 6-year, $68.5 million deal with opt-out after 4-years (story)
  • Quality: 7
  • Impact: 8
  • Comments (JW): this move is exactly why we have two categories. The Diamondbacks successfully recruited Tomas away from higher bidders by including an opt-out clause after the fourth year, which was pretty much genius. Of course, it also has a huge impact as Tomas has big time raw power and some upside, although he may not tap into it while playing third base. For now, his presence at the hot corner creates roster reverberations on guys like Jake Lamb, Brandon Drury, Mark Trumbo and Ender Inciarte.

Traded C Miguel Montero to the Cubs for P Jeferson Mejia and P Zack Godley (analysis)
  • Quality: 1.5
  • Impact: 8.5
  • Comments (JW): Ryan and I differed here, at least in terms of the quality of this deal. I gave the team considerable credit for offloading all of Montero’s deal without having to eat a single penny while Ryan docked the D-backs for leaving themselves without a real major league catching option. However you wish to look at it, this obviously has huge repercussions on the roster, the defense behind the dish and the payroll situation through 2016.

Selected C Oscar Hernandez from Rays in Rule 5 Draft (analysis)
  • Quality: 8
  • Impact: 5
  • Comments (JW): the quality here is obvious; the Diamondbacks had the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft and took the player that many had as the best overall option. That much seems easy to understand. Keeping Hernandez on the 25-man roster all season is an entirely different matter as he was generally viewed as unready to contribute when he was selected. He’s supposedly progress this offseason, but whether or not it’s enough to keep him on the roster is yet to be seen. That uncertainty drastically distorts the impact of the move overall.

Traded SP Zeke Spruill to Red Sox for P Myles Smith
  • Quality: 3
  • Impact: 1.5
  • Comments (JW): this move is about as “meh” as they come. Spruill, like Bolsinger and Brewer, did not have a place on this team and was traded for a guy who is potential reliever in Smith. I can get behind acquiring at least something for a guy you don’t really need, but Smith has massive washout potential and in the end, this one probably doesn’t matter for Arizona or Boston.

Traded SP Wade Miley to the Red Sox for SP Rubby de la Rosa and SP Allen Webster (analysis)
  • Quality: -1
  • Impact: 6.5
  • Comments (RPM): We had a tough time working through this move, which we discussed at length on Episode 9 of The Pool Shot. A team like the D-backs that has little trouble with depth and a lot of trouble getting premium talent has every reason to add as many high ceiling lottery tickets as possible — even if the risk is high. On the other hand, though, Miley was poised to help the club throughout the up-to-2017 window that the team has chosen, and while Miley was far from an ace, he was not a liability. The main reservation with this move is that if the team doesn’t factor in the pitching malaise that has affected almost every D-backs pitcher, it may always prefer pitchers wearing other teams’ uniforms.

Traded RP Eury de la Rosa to the Athletics for cash
  • Quality: 1.5
  • Impact: 1.5
  • Comments (RPM): I feel very tricked by Eury de la Rosa. In 2013, he was completely terrible, both in the minors and for the big club. But he seemed to come on in 2014, and when I finally started to think that his performance that year and his minor league performance up through 2012 might be most indicative of his future, he blew up in September. He wasn’t going to fit on the team — there are too many bullpen options now and in the near future. A fairly smart play, but a fairly minor one.

Signed 1B/3B/C Jordan Pacheco to a minor league deal
  • Quality: 2.5
  • Impact: 1
  • Comments (RPM): Pacheco is the only player projected at FanGraphs to make the team, but to have a negative WAR projection. He’s a replacement player. But he’s a potentially useful one — before Oscar Hernandez got hurt this spring, the idea of having a third player on the roster who could catch but who could do some other things looked very attractive. Good move for the D-backs to avoid arbitration with Pacheco but still keep him in the fold.

Signed INF Nick Punto to a minor league deal
  • Quality: 4.5
  • Impact: 0
  • Comments (JW): well, on the one hand you have one of the scrappiest, grittiest guys in the recent era finally wearing a Diamondbacks uniform (True Baseball). On the other hand, he probably won’t wear that uniform at all after announcing that he’ll just sit the season out, being paid by the A’s after they outright released him with money still owed. The D-backs pay nothing if he doesn’t play, but keep his rights. Cool deal for Nick Punto; who cares (?) for everyone else.

Signed international amateur SP Yoan Lopez with a $8.16 million signing bonus, plus penalties (analysis)
  • Quality: -8
  • Impact: 7.5
  • Comments (RPM): The D-backs deserve credit for landing a pitcher they targeted, for selling him on the organization. And he is a helpful, promising talent, no less promising than the team got when cashing in on Miley. But that doesn’t change that this was a colossal failure by the org. With the current international bonus pool rules, teams are awarded for taking a very deliberate process. Stay under your cap, and sign some good amateurs? Good. Decide to bust? Good — if you capitalize on the opportunity that means you won’t have another one for the following two years. Busting their pool for Lopez is excusable, maybe even commendable — but not if the team wasn’t in a position to make any kind of other arrangements.

Signed C Gerald Laird to a minor league deal
  • Quality: -1
  • Impact: 2.5
  • Comments (RPM): Bringing in a veteran catcher for basically nothing is good. Bringing in an option who has a bad defensive reputation is not.

 

One year ago, we were reeling from a series of big, mostly mediocre moves meant to re-engineer the franchise, and a handful of excellent small moves, like the Josh Collmenter extension. Using this same weighting system, we came to the conclusion that the front office’s offseason was a slight positive overall: about 1.2 on the -10 to 10 scale.

This year, the D-backs set out to re-engineer the franchise again. This time, though, our return is overwhelmingly positive: a 6.4 on that same -10 to 10 scale. In fact, between us, out of the 28 total quality scores, only 6 were negative — and the only one of the 14 moves that was rated negatively by both of us was the Lopez signing.

There’s some inconsistency in the swath of offseason moves, the kind of thing that can either mean multiple fingerprints or a flexibility necessary to pull off just that many. We’ll see how the D-backs’ plans pan out; aiming for the middle, as they seem to be doing in 2015, doesn’t necessarily get the team anywhere. But for all of the changes that have been made, only the Hellickson and Lopez moves meant cashing in some part of the organization’s future, and even then, the team does stand to gain in the short term.

 

12 Responses to Inside the ‘Zona 2014-15 Offseason Report Card

  1. OJ Carrasco says:

    I’d put the impact of the Lopez deal at 10 because it has effectively shut down their international market, just at the time that they had a potential huge advantage.

  2. rye says:

    Personally, I flip the Lopez and Tomas scores. The Tomas signing makes less and less sense to me with Trumbo still on the team. Knowing Moncada’s price (hindsight 20-20) I would have much rather seen the team buy Moncada and Lopez. I think there’s a lot less risk with Moncada than with Tomas and Moncada is controlled longer. Signing Moncada would also make Lamb or Drury expendable. With how prospects are valued these days, the return on either of those two would likely have been substantial. Tomas has the potential to be another, more expensive, Trumbo. In the early goings their skill-sets, strengths, and weaknesses seem very similar.

  3. RW says:

    Recent reports show that Yadier Alvarez is trying to make himself available before the June 2 deadline. If he does, the Dbacks should go hard after him to add to our SP depth while we can still sign high impact international players.

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  4. James says:

    The Youn Lopez deal is a tricky one. Yes, they have blocked themselves from doing anything of note in the international market for two seasons now. On the other hand, the reality is, that will be the case for ANY team signing one of these Cuban players, at least, any of them expected to be worth a lick. Even if the team had found a wa to put off going after Lopez until the next budget kicks in and the sat atop it with their heaping last-place finish allotment, they would STILL have gone over the allotted amount.

    That’s where going after the premium international talent is going to get tricky. Go after Lopez? Go after Moncada? Go after someone else? There’s no way to go after more than one of them, and even those players coming over with significant question marks are still getting bonuses that will break the allotment restriction.

    So the team went after Lopez. I think I agree with that. I really don’t think they would have been able to get Moncada, not if the Red Sox really wanted him. Apparently Boston has been following Moncada closely for a few years now, I don’t see Arizona out-bidding them.

    It would be different entirely if next ear’s allotment was going to be enough to still land an impact player without also getting hit with the penalty. But the reality is, those players that can be had for the allotment amounts simply are not the ones coming with the “high impact” reputation. Instead, they are the ones coming over and finding themselves in the very same position as talent being selected in the 3-6th round of the Rule 4 draft.

    If Lopez is a 1st round of the draft talent (which the consensus seems to think he is), then not getting a bevy of lesser players for two years makes some sense to me, especially since that international money can still be traded to other teams.

    I highly disagree with the Hellickson trade. I think it was a mistake. I also tend to think though, that Hellickson is far closer to being that very mundane arm he was late last year than he is to being the FIP-beating pitcher he was in his rookie season.

  5. Jeff Wiser says:

    Well said James! We appreciate the very thoughtful, detailed comment! One thing I’d take minor issue with:

    “That’s where going after the premium international talent is going to get tricky. Go after Lopez? Go after Moncada? Go after someone else? There’s no way to go after more than one of them, and even those players coming over with significant question marks are still getting bonuses that will break the allotment restriction.”

    The actual strategy, if you’re going to bust your pool is do exactly that: go after multiple players. You pay the same penalty if you bust your pool by $1000 or by $50,000,000. In theory, it makes MORE sense to go way over than barely over since the opportunity cost is exactly the same.

    To Ryan’s point, if you’re going to do it, go BIG. That’s why the Dodgers didn’t go all-in on Moncada and kind of slow-played him. They didn’t think they could get Alvarez along with Moncada, so they essentially passed on Moncada given the terms they offered him. They did it right by backing off when they couldn’t make it worth their while.

    Now what is “worthwhile” to the Dodgers and Dbacks might be entirely different. I would have liked to have seen them go bigger if they were gonna do Lopez. That said, I liked him when I saw him last week and will have some more scouting notes on him in the coming days.

    FWIW, I didn’t hate this as much as Ryan did, but I think there’s a sizable bone to pick here from a strategy standpoint.

  6. […] result: a 3.7 overall quality score, not as favorable as the 6.4 score we ended up with a year ago, but well ahead of the barely positive 1.2 we doled out the year before […]

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