Trades are the best. Sure, it’s cool when your team inks a superstar, but trades offer so much more complexity than most contracts can offer that they provide a boatload more intrigue. And intrigue is something that always good, but trades aren’t, mostly because one of the two parties usually “wins” the trade in the end by obtaining more value than it gave up. Sometimes they pan out, sometimes they don’t – that’s part of the intrigue. Sometimes it’s hard to determine when to call the trade in a team’s favor. Sometimes there are more than two teams in a trade. See? Intrigue!

The Didi Gregorius-for-Robbie Ray-and-Domingo Leyba-via-the-Yankees-and-Tigers-trade is a prime example of maximum intrigue. Okay, one could probably draw up an even more intriguing trade in the span of thirty seconds, but as far as trades that actually went down this winter and pertain to this website are concerned, this one takes the cake. In case you don’t recall our coverage of the deal when it took place, here’s a brief review.

Report: Didi Gregorius will join the Yankees in a three-team deal that sends Shane Greene to Detroit and Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba to Arizona. We had heard that teams had more interest in Gregorius than in the D-backs’ other three major league shortstops, but I had taken that to mean that they liked Gregorius more as a value proposition. Turns out he is the shortstop moved by the team, but not at a discount. And because all is at peace in the universe, the player famously likened by Kevin Towers to Derek Jeter will indeed be the one particular player to take Jeter’s place…

All in all, Gregorius’s track record in the majors paints a picture of a helpful, good-not-great player, but one who will cause some stress on his team’s roster. In trade, you would expect to get something of value for multiple cheap years of such a player. But you wouldn’t expect to get a lot… The return of Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba is less than a lot, but more than a little.

The idea of getting Robbie Ray, who profiled as a number four starter at best and a 7th-inning reliever at worst, was a decent proposition. Adding Domingo Leyba was an upside play, too, one with the potential to turn into an everyday second baseman who’d hit for average and line drive power. Losing Gregorius wasn’t the biggest concern because of Chris OwingsAaron Hill, Cliff Pennington and Nick Ahmed, and to a less-immediate extent, Brandon Drury and Jake Lamb. This all made a lot of sense on paper, at least to the writers of this website.

Some, however, were displeased and wondered why the Diamondbacks and/or Yankees needed a third team in the deal. Gregorius was going to New York all the way and Arizona wanted back affordable pitching. The Yankees were apparently willing to part with affordable pitching in Shane Greene, but instead of flipping him to the D-backs, he went to the Tigers and Detroit parted with the two younger players in Ray and Leyba. This all took place because Arizona rejected an outright Gregorius for Greene swap and the Yankees began looking for a third team to include. The Tigers were down to ride and the deal was done.

As alluded to above, reactions were mixed. We were fond of it, but others, such as FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan, were lukewarm at best:

Between Arizona and Detroit, there’s an interesting matter of prospect pedigree versus results. Ray has been considered a pretty good prospect. Leyba is considered a pretty good, toolsy prospect. Greene was never a prospect, but he’s done what neither Ray nor Leyba have — he’s looked real good, with skills to match, against advanced competition. For that reason, I prefer Greene, especially since he can help today and for the next six years. I don’t think Arizona got ripped off, since Ray and Leyba have talent and Gregorius is only so valuable, but if I had to pick the worst exchange, I’d see it as Arizona’s.

I like Jeff, not just because he’s named Jeff, but because he’s smart and entertaining and likes baseball, too. And he wasn’t alone in his opinion of the deal after it happened, but it highlights a funny thing about trades: any time you review them, you’re limited to reviewing only what’s transpired to date and what you think might happen in the future. Unless you’re better with your crystal ball than either of these two Jeffs, that’s a risky proposition. I think there was a very valid argument to be made that the Diamondbacks wound up with the short side of this transaction, especially if you’re risk-averse. But funny things happen, such as this:

The “surest” bet in the trade has now pitched his way out of the majors and will head down to AAA to try to salvage whatever can be salvaged for a career journeyman who was never well-regarded. Meanwhile, Didi Gregorius has actually hit worse in New York than he ever did in Arizona. Yeah, the season is less than half over, but if you had to call it right now, the Diamondbacks are looking like the smart money in this complicated swap.

After getting beaten around in a Tigers uniform during his nine-game trial in 2014, Robbie Ray has continued to refine his game. The key, as you may have noticed, is his improved breaking ball. In his first three starts, he’s been excellent, thanks in part to not walking very many guys and only yielding one home run. Command is certainly a thing that could last and while the ball might fly out a little more than it has already on Ray, there’s a chance that he’ll be able to limit the damage. By FIP, xFIP and SIERA, we know he’s not as good as his ERA would indicate and he pretty much looks exactly like what he was advertised to be – a number four starter.

Domingo Leyba is suffering through a down year, but the kid can hit. He’s a toolsy player that’s destined for second base but is playing short at High-A Visalia alongside fellow prospect Jamie Westbrook, both of whom are young for the league at just 19-years old. Leyba’s been a product of BABIP, having registered a .441 mark in full season ball last year (30 games) and just a .249 mark this year (53 games). Keep in mind, those are BABIPs, not batting averages, which is to say that his luck has been all over the place and we probably haven’t seen exactly who he is yet. What is known are the tools, which are loud enough to excite on their own.

There’s no way to tell if Shane Greene is going to get his groove back. There’s no way to tell if Robbie Ray will keep improving. There’s no way to tell if Domingo Leyba every reaches his potential as a .300 hitter. There’s no way to, wait, I’m pretty sure Didi Gregorius is going to keep on doing what he’s going, mostly. I feel good about that one. But the others, yeah, there’s just no telling.

For now, you have to like how the Diamondbacks have fared on this one. It’s way early and there’s a ton that will still happen, but the signs are positive. It was an upside play on their part from the very beginning and it looks like some of it is paying off. They were able to pull in a couple of interesting players by letting a mostly uninteresting one go, one that they had a number of replacements for. That’s good roster management. As the trade deadline approaches, there may be other opportunities for the Diamondbacks to make trades. If this one is any indication, the team may just be okay in future deals. Or they may not. Oh, the intrigue!

6 Responses to The Gregorius-Ray-Leyba Swap, So Far

  1. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    I think that even at the time of the trade it was slightly irrational to think the Dbacks got ripped off. Saber-types are hardly immune to #narrative, and the narrative on the Dbacks was, and to some extent remains, that they’re dumber than most everyone else. I hasten to add that there was (is?) some evidence to back up that position, but it has frequently been exaggerated.

    I do wonder how much of Leyba’s BABIP swing can simply be chalked up to “luck.” As we are increasingly coming to understand, for hitters especially, luck is only part of what drives BABIP. Is Leyba hitting fewer line drives this year? Is the ball coming off the bat slower? Have there been more pop-ups? Is he not recognizing certain pitches well and therefore making weaker contact? Are pitchers pitching him differently? I wonder what the scouts in the Cal League would say….

  2. WalDan says:

    I still call this one as a win for the yankees. They really wanted Didi for a while, and thought they would have to part with someone they liked a lot in their system to get him. In the end they gave up organizational filler that over-performed and sold high. Didi is a lot of things, but most important he is major league contributing SS. I think the D’backs get 2nd, they ended up with some interesting prospects. The tigers bought high on organizational filler that may have more or less talent then we all thought. Too early, but I like the yankees side here. I mean, there was talk of having to give up JR murphy and others last year, and I think that would’ve been a massive overpay… And by the way, I thought Greene was stellar last year and was hoping to watch him bloom in pinstripes, but still think when you can sell high on a player like him, usually, you should.

    • Ben says:

      Is Didi a major league SS though? He is definitely a replacement level+ SS, but he isn’t a solid contributor at SS. He may very well become one, but I’m not seeing it yet. So far this year Ray has been more valuable then Didi in only three starts.

    • inkfreq says:

      I honestly can’t imagine how the Yankees overvaluing a player by a great deal, and then not having to pay that value, equates to a win for them. They got a player that isn’t very good at that level, while thinking they got off cheap for the next Derek Jeter. In reality, they overpaid for the next Mario Mendoza.

  3. Dave-Phoenix says:

    I think that Nick Ahmed has proven to be an even better defensive shortstop that Didi, and Ahmed’s bat has come around a little to the point that he is matching Didi numbers at the plate as well.

    Just like the Trumbo trade, the team on the field is as good or better than the one with Didi in the line up.

    Considering how bad the D-Backs pitching is, if the team on the field does not suffer at all, and we get a solid number 4 starter (with upside), the trade makes all the sense in the world. If Leyba makes it to the majors, the trade is a big win for the D-Backs.

  4. […] of what happened next. Score one for the D-backs front office, though: that trade is looking pretty damned good right […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.