We’ve seen this new front office be a little all over the place at times, but the trait that emerged at the end of spring training was ruthlessness. In trading Mark Trumbo in early June and in receiving a fringy receiver in return, ruthlessness may just have become the front office’s defining characteristic. The promise of moonshots did not end up with the D-backs getting the moon for Trumbo, and on some level, you have to wonder if the return for him and Vidal Nuño could have been higher, especially later in the trade season. But perfect is the enemy of good — and in this case, Trumbo and Jarrod Saltalamacchia may have been enemies of good, too.

When the D-backs moved Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs for Trumbo, Brandon Jacobs and A.J. Schugel, it did seem to signal a terrible turn for the organization. It did not make the team better — Eaton alone was a better production bet for 2014. It was also a symbol, that the Kevin Towers front office was not valuing the right things. That seems like an opinion, and I guess it is, but even with the human element in the mix, there are some skills that simply do not blossom overnight, like walk rate and raw tools. “Valuing the right things” means “valuing the things in the ways in which they have value on the field” — and we happen to know a lot about how to value what happens on the field. Home runs are fantastic. They do not make for an above-average player, though, not alone.

At the time the D-backs acquired Trumbo from the Angels, locking up the roster while losing a trade made it look like subtraction by addition. And while it’s not a complete coincidence, as the rhetorical device fates would have it, this move is all about addition by subtraction. Times two. Or three. Or four.

Because while I am among the billons of people who can’t really guess what Tony La Russa, Dave Stewart and/or De Jon Watson were thinking, this move only makes sense if they grasped reality with two hands. This trade was about getting real, in all or most of several ways.

Reality #1: Mark Trumbo is Not a Great Player

Mark Trumbo is a good player, and would be a good player for the D-backs this year. In the right spot (somewhere where he can play first or DH), he may even be a very good player. But he is not a great player, and especially since he wasn’t going to be an answer for the Big Target Season of 2017, he didn’t fit the D-backs’ current model.

Mark Trumbo is also not the worst defensive outfielder in baseball, but he is pretty bad. For his career, he has a -9.3 UZR/150 in the outfield, meaning he’s nearly ten runs worse than the average outfielder (in the same corners). If you give runs away on defense, you have to get them back on offense, and the other way around. And although Trumbo is an above-average hitter, he’s not so far above average that he even makes up that gap — and that leaves him as a slightly below-average position player. Average players have real value, and they’re hard to find — that’s why when we talk about overall player value, we talk through WAR. Replacement level is worlds away from average.

There is something to lose in losing Trumbo. His platoon splits have been very large in recent seasons, and as the short side of a platoon with Ender Inciarte (see?) or with David Peralta (see?), he could have been a real force (especially in a Peralta platoon!). He would have been at least as good a regular pinch hitter as Erubiel Durazo, right? It’s not that he brings nothing to the table, because he does. It’s that the act of bringing what he can bring involves bringing a bunch of other stuff that just isn’t as helpful — that’s why trading him has been a good idea for a while now.

I don’t see how this trade could have happened if it weren’t at least partly a matter of the front office recognizing that Trumbo represented a step backward for nearly every step forward. Castillo isn’t worth a ton and Gabby Guerrero is a fine but flawed prospect. Even if you were motivated by other realities and the changes they necessitated, and even though the D-backs have proven how ruthless they’re willing to be in, say, dealing Trevor Cahill and installing Archie Bradley and Nick Ahmed… this has to be one piece of the puzzle. Trumbo was worth more to some other clubs, and part of that is because he wasn’t worth a ton to the D-backs.

With Trumbo out of the outfield rotation, we’ll get a heaping helping of Yasmany Tomas in the outfield now, it looks like. Tomas may have a bat worth as much as Trumbo, but he might end up being a bit above average defensively — and he won’t be a big negative. A.J. Pollock will go from starting 80%-85% of games to starting 90%-95% of games, and Ender Inciarte may, too. David Peralta will start against RHP almost every opportunity, instead of him starting a bit less than a straight platoon would have predicted. And one of the best outfields in baseball (currently ranked #4 in fWAR) will get better. This is what addition by subtraction looks like.

Unless, of course, Peter O’Brien is Trumbo-esque in the outfield, and this was about clearing a spot for O’Brien. Which is a distinct possibility. It’s not that that would make this a bad trade; I’d feel exactly the same way, in terms of value and whether it’s smart. If that happens, we’ll embrace it — this is a season of experiments, after all, and O’Brien in the major league outfield is about as worthy an experiment as any.

Reality #2: Any Catcher is Better than Jarrod Saltalamacchia

To briefly paraphrase myself from Monday, thinking of catchers as “defensive” or “offensive” is an understandable but potentially catastrophic thought-trap. Because liabilities and strengths are not binary, they’re all relative. And just the way that, say, Mike Trout is a cut above other very good outfielders with similar tools, some defensive liabilities at catcher are something a team can live with, and Salty’s are not. If he were truly a great hitter, the answer would be to move Salty to another position. His defense back there is that bad.

It wasn’t always that way, and maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. He’s still a young guy, and it can’t all be his fault, either. He’s a hulking 6′ 3″ and 235 lbs, and this year and last, he’s played catcher like an incredible hulk (so long as we use the literal meaning of “incredible,” as in, “I find this hard to believe”). Maybe other teams were unwilling to pay that price, even to plug up a hole at catcher, and even to do so for the major league minimum salary. But there’s really no way that Salty could hit enough to justify using him over, say, Blake Lalli or a Bobby Wilson type.

Offensive and defensive runs are all on one spectrum, and both matter in evaluating any player. You can’t settle on Tuffy Gosewisch, saying you don’t need the offense since you’ll get it from other lineup spots — it still depends on how bad “bad” actually is. It’s all the same. It’s all fungible.

Except when it’s not. Because right now, the D-backs aren’t just about winning games in 2015 — they’re about winning games in 2016, and in 2017. And to do that, they need to know what they have in their pitchers. They need guys like Rubby De La Rosa and Archie Bradley to take a step forward. There’s a point at which you get traction and get the good Trevor Cahill, and a point at which the wheels completely come off, and you get the bad Cahill. The D-backs can’t accomplish what they want to accomplish this year with their pitching experiments if the only grit they give them is the oily kind.

There’s a lot more to this catcher part of this puzzle (and there will be more in this space tomorrow), and it does depend on what they actually do once Welington Castillo is in uniform. It’s possible that the front office is wrong about Castillo, and they think of him as something he isn’t. But I’m taking the optimist’s route here — if they thought Castillo was something he isn’t, they probably would have included him in the Miguel Montero trade. Castillo is like the Rubby De La Rosa of catchers; we’ve seen the right kind of success before, but things would need to really come together for him to be a true asset. I think this is a matter of the front office getting real about what Salty is, and for that, they deserve some applause. If they part ways with him soon, we’ll have our answer. If they wait to part ways until Oscar Hernandez is ready to play, well then that’s probably soon enough, too.

Reality #3: Yasmany Tomas is Not a Third Baseman

They tried it in spring training, maybe because they didn’t fully appreciate their alternatives at the position. Maybe it set Tomas back a bit, as he may not have headed to Triple-A Reno otherwise (maybe). But maybe it was a worthwhile experiment, at least for a time; and if they said in advance that they were going to let the experiment play out for a certain period of time and then stuck to that, well then I can get behind it (after all, how great is it that they gave so long an opportunity to Nick Ahmed, when it ended up taking nearly two months for him to prove that he can hit at this level?). Sometimes the experiments don’t work; O’Brien at catcher comes to mind. But maybe sometimes they do — we’ll see if Brandon Drury sticks at second (and whether he should).

This has probably played out longer than it needed to, and I think the front office might agree. We know about as much as we need to know. Tomas has a -3.4 UZR right now, playing 29 games at third base. That’s a -31.4 UZR/150. And although these advanced defensive stats always come with the caveat that we need a ton of data — maybe three years’ worth — to get an idea of true talent level (by which time the idea may already be out of date), they are still a fairly faithful record of what actually happened, and Tomas’s Defensive Runs Saved total (-7) is actually worse than his UZR. You’re free to think that Tomas is better than his -31.4 UZR/150 says. I don’t, and I’m not a scout, but in terms of Tomas’s range, the eggs he’s laid out there can’t be labeled “cage free.”

The fact that things have lasted this long is probably just because Jake Lamb is on the shelf. So this isn’t a total shock, the way that I am flat-out surprised that the D-backs appear to have grasped the first two Realities above. They nonetheless deserve credit for allowing a conclusion that Tomas is not a third baseman to help motivate a trade that is probably mediocre from a value perspective. Oh, and while we’re at it, we might as well give the team more credit for Tomas in the first place. He did seem like a particularly good opportunity for the front office way back when, but what Tomas has done at the plate is solid vindication for this group’s baseball chops. Sometimes when you go against the grain, you end up with something broken (cough Trumbo cough Salty cough). But sometimes, a little bit of thinking that is just plain different sets you apart from the field just enough to catch something good.

Bonus Reality: Jake Lamb Deserves a Chance

Do you know how difficult it was for me to hold off on mentioning Lamb until the paragraph before this one? My first draft was just “Jake Lamb” over and over again. I will accept any kind of congratulations. Just FYI. But this is a “bonus reality” because it isn’t quite as clear that this trade is about Lamb. Are they as enamored of Lamb as I am? Probably not. And yet this trade is on some level a love letter of their own.

If last year you looked at Lamb’s minor league BABIPs, you might have been just as excited as I was all through the end of last year and throughout the winter. Is that a thing? I think it might be. It certainly looks like that was the sign that was there for the looking with respect to Kole Calhoun, and yet we ignore it, we write it off. When BABIP is a skill, it doesn’t look like what we think of when we think of, say, Ichiro Suzuki. In a bizarre twist, it looks like Tomas might be precisely that kind of unicorn. But usually it’s a matter of foot speed — and beating out infield singles — or it’s about how hard the ball is hit, and how often. Hit the ball hard, and good things happen.

That’s who Lamb is, I truly believe. That’s enough to keep a path clear for Lamb, to let him show us in the majors what that looks like at this level. I think we caught a glimpse of that in April. The man is still fourth on the team in fWAR despite playing in just 10 games before succombing to a stress reaction in his foot. Lamb is strong defensively, quite possibly above average — which means that to be an average third baseman, he doesn’t even necessarily need to be an above-average hitter for his position. Even in a disastrous 2014 cameo, Lamb was within spitting distance of average. This has a real chance of working.

And so maybe the D-backs agree. Maybe they think nearly as high of Lamb as I do, and this is about letting him become the man he can be. Or maybe they think he might be a good player, and that the chances of that are strong enough that he warrants the opportunity. It doesn’t matter; the result is the same. I can’t prove right now that Lamb needing playing time is a “Reality” but it sure as hell comes close — the opportunity version of this is something we can point to on paper. Free Jake Lamb. Jake Lamb is free. Long live Jake Lamb!

An Improved Team

The mish-mash of playing time at several positions (likely to continue now with Tomas still playing third occasionally) makes charting out the team pretty challenging. But work with me here. This hedges on the optimistic side of reality, but I do think it’s possible. All numbers are for 150 games (except for Peralta), in keeping with UZR/150, and are as compared to average for the particular positions.

Position Before — Off Before — Def After — Off After — Def
Outfield Pollock +20 Pollock +25 Pollock +20 Pollock +25
Outfield Inciarte +5 Inciarte +30 Inciarte +5 Inciarte +30
Outfield Trumbo +5 Trumbo -20 Tomas +10 Tomas -10
Outfield (half) Peralta +10 Peralta -5 Peralta +10 Peralta -5
Third Tomas +10 Tomas -30 Lamb +10 Lamb +10
Catcher Salty -10 Salty -30 Castillo -10 Castillo -10

Lamb was coming back one way or another, although him playing on a pace for 150 games probably wasn’t going to happen (and still may not; he may pley 4-5 games a week for the foreseeable future, just to avoid running into a foot problem again). But all of the other changes are mainly defensive. Switching Lamb in for Tomas at third could be a swing of forty runs. Switching Tomas in for Trumbo could be a swing of another ten. And even though Castillo has not been a defensive whiz, there is a strong possibility that the team will pick up another twenty runs just through a combination of general defense and catcher framing/blocking.

That’s seventy runs. That’s six wins, over the course of a season. I don’t even need to be half right for this trade to look amazing, just through the addition-by-subtraction lens. It solves four problems simultaneously: improves an iffy right field situation, makes some gains on a horrific catcher situation, and in replacing horrific defense with good defense at third, it also gets Lamb playing time.

As for the other players in the trade… if Castillo is kind of like the RDLR of catchers, then Dominic Leone is the RDLR of relievers (although that makes him one of like, what, 50 relievers?). Some real value in Leone as a “boom or bust” type, which is, again, exactly the type of player you want to acquire when depth is not an issue and a dearth of above-average talent is. Gabby Guerrero also fits the D-backs’ new model of going after tools and proximity, which is not easy, and it means overlooking flaws at times (a la Robbie Ray, RDLR, Allen Webster). In Double-A now, he’s not in the picture in the immediate future — and yet he’s still in the picture potentially for the Big Target Season in 2017. #4 in the Mariners system according to Baseball Prospectus, he’s a legitimate addition to the farm system, perhaps a better version of an outfield prospect than Justin Williams, with a higher ceiling. Not one of the game’s best prospects, and yet good enough to be the type of player that is hard to acquire. Jack Reinheimer… I have no idea, but maybe having someone like him in the system is better than trying to piece things together with the Jamie Romaks of the world. If Nick Ahmed was once the “utility infielder of the future” in the organization but is no longer that, it doesn’t hurt to have a club-controlled replacement.

Dollar for dollar, this Trumbo trade is no one’s idea of a sure win. And it’s worth keeping in mind that this is probably the only team for which Castillo would represent an upgrade — he doesn’t have much value in the marketplace for that reason. Guerrero could be anything, and Reinheimer could be nothing. Vidal Nuño is worth quite a bit more than nothing, but as I wrote yesterday, he may have been fairly valued by the D-backs as one of the best seventh starters in baseball. Heck, the truths that Nuño is useful and yet not so useful to this squad is another set of truths the team appears to have embraced.

But the D-backs didn’t wait for the perfect deal — they pulled the trigger, because that’s what the situation dictated. It required a ruthlessness that we typically see only in highly saber-friendly front offices, such as Oakland and Tampa Bay and Houston. Sure, you want the right decisions being made, but the fact that the team is clearly capable of the ruthlessness to make constant, consequential decisions is a great thing all by itself — it’s how small market teams survive. It required job security, mainly — someone less secure in their position than Tony La Russa might not have tried something like this, let alone pulled it off. That’s something to celebrate. And that’s why this is a good trade.

18 Responses to In Trading Mark Trumbo, D-backs Get Real, Get Better

  1. Mark says:

    And if Jake Lamb is a bust, which nobody knows if he is or not yet… this trade just tore the team apart… I overwhelmingly disagree with your assessment of Trumbo, he was an asset to this team.. Tomas was doing things at 3B and was improving there.. Maybe it’s because of the Lamb colored glasses

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      So two things where we’re apart, apparently:

      1. I think Trumbo is an average player, as described above. I think average players have quite a bit of value, as described above. And although I didn’t say so explicitly, I think when players who are average overall have rough edges, that’s actually a good thing. It means that you can get more out of them than the sum of their parts. Trumbo is better if he’s not playing outfield — maybe even solidly above average. He’s better against LHP, so if you can stilt his plate appearances against LHP, he is, again, above average.
      So he’s average, with the potential to end up being better than that. That’s where I land.
      I’m not sure if you’re saying that I don’t think he’s an asset and you’re disagreeing with that — if so, we’re not apart. If you think he’s better than “average, with the potential to end up being better than that” depending on how he’s used, why do you think that?

      2. Whether Lamb is a bust has nothing at all to do with whether this trade was a good decision in part because it freed up playing time for him. All that matters is whether or not he’s shown us enough to warrant that opportunity. All baseball is a gamble. Good bets are when the odds are in your favor — you can make the right decision and still lose, like going all in with four of a kind.
      So if we’re apart here, I’m not sure it’s because you’d only want to look at this in terms of what actually happens, retrospectively, or if you disagree that Lamb has a chance to be worth the playing time and therefore giving him a chance to realize that chance is worthwhile.

      Tearing apart is sometimes necessary when a bone heals improperly, right? You need to re-set the bone. The fact that it looks like they will improve at three different positions with this trade — without getting worse at a single one — makes me feel like the team is improved, even if it wasn’t a “win” as far as value is concerned.

      As for the shot at my objectivity, I’ve definitely earned that, and no hard feelings there. But let me just explain: this “love” for Lamb evolved from defending him over and over, because I thought the numbers said something that wasn’t reflected in the general consensus on his worth. The BABIP thing is weird, and I think maybe it’s true, and that needs to get baked into how we value him. It did start with a purely objective reason, and yes, turned into some fun, too.

      I think my feelings on Trumbo have at times been miscast, for exactly the same reason. I’ve never said or meant that Trumbo is a bad player. I think when we think a player is worth less or more than how they’re generally viewed, that’s just how it comes across.

      • Mark says:

        A lot of my suspicion right now, the fansites have said Lamb will be the bat that saves this team, and Goldy’s walks, and that’s one thing that has me.. Lamb has about 150 PA in the Majors with a 25% strikeout rate. Stewart didn’t want to trade Trumbo (he came out and said it), but also said because of Tuffy’s Injury, he needed an MLB caliber catcher (not sure he got that, but did get an upgrade). I’m almost likening this to the Cahill trade, where Bradley forced his hand, this one, needing a catcher forced his hand again.
        If the team thought of Lamb so highly, why did they put so much time with Tomas at 3B, he was improving there, and his bat definitely plays.
        I’m still trying to find where this trade makes the team better, and I am honestly not seeing it.

        • Ryan P. Morrison says:

          I guarantee that we were on Lamb well before “the fansites,” and for this BABIP reason. Jeff is the one who originally made me actually notice Lamb — I had kind of written him off, and Jeff said, well, not quite so fast and here’s why.
          The more I looked into it, the more it looked to me like the only possible explanation was that Lamb had a talent for barrelling the ball. Yeah, that comes with strikeouts. But if you switch out some soft hits for strikeouts and get a bunch of hard-hit line drives in exchange, you end up well ahead. Compare Lamb’s Double-A strikeout rate to Goldy’s strikeout rate.

          This is from last September:

          And a lot of the BABIP work behind the scenes was over the winter.

          I doubt the team thought of Lamb highly before trying Tomas at third. I do think Lamb changed their mind by what he was doing and how he was doing it in the spring. I also don’t always think that what the organization thinks is true. Lamb changed my mind before he changed theirs.

          It’s definitely a lot like the Cahill trade. Almost exactly the same. Trumbo is better than Cahill, though.

          Third base, catcher, and right field.

    • Puneet says:

      Mark, I think your assessment of this trade may be from your view of what this year is about for the Dbacks. I think a lot of people (including myself, and probably Ryan & Jeff) view this year as a chance for the team to see what they have in their assets, and whether those assets will be valuable to them in one or two years when the team is ready to contend.

      If instead you view this year as a chance to contend for the playoffs (if you have rose-colored glasses on), I can see how giving up a known asset (Trumbo) to make playing time for relatively unproven players (unproven in the majors, proven in the minors) would give you pause.

      Now when you say Trumbo was “an asset to this team”, I think the more relevant point is that he was a bigger asset to other teams. As Ryan said, if he was playing at 1B or DH, he would probably be a very good player. But we have neither of those spots available, so we have to play him in the outfield where his defensive is suspect (this is true from a numbers standpoint and the eye test).

      If we look at Trumbo’s offense, I think the combination of increased playing time for Tomas, Inciarte, Pollack, and Peralta in the outfield will at least make up for if not exceed Trumbo’s overall offensive contributions. I don’t think they will hit for the same amount of home runs, but I think they will get on base a lot more, potentially opening up Goldy for more chances to drive in runs (how many times has he gotten on base with two outs, no one on?).

      Trumbo: .259 .299 .506
      Pollack: .318 .370 .495
      Inciarte: .284 .316 .370
      Peralta: .264 .331 .488
      Tomas: .331 .364 .414

      The irony is that the team who traded for him, the Mariners, need players who can get on base (they’ve had one of the lowest OBPs in the AL for the last 5 years), not players who hit home runs. I think trading a few home runs for more times on base is worth it.

      So it is theoretical, but:
      1) Outfield defense will improve (definitively)
      2) Outfield offense will either stay the same or improve (depending on how you value power versus getting on base).
      3) 3B defense will improve (both the eye test and numbers suggest Tomas was limited at third base, and Lamb is average to above average)
      4) 3B offensive may or may not improve (depending on if Jake Lamb continues to play at or at least near the level he did starting the year, or whether he regresses)
      5) Catcher defense and framing will improve
      6) Catcher offense may or may not improve (we don’t have any good offensive options anyways, between Castillo Saltalamacchia and Pacheco)

      Even if Jake Lamb falters offensively, he would make up that value defensively. And given that developing the pitching staff is a priority, I think field defense and catching/framing have more value to our team than offensive contributions.

      • Mark says:

        I have always said this was an 82-85 win team, with the possibly of a fringe wild card contention, and to be honestly, the first third of the season, that is exactly how they are playing. Stewart came out before the season saying he’d be extremely disappointed if this team didn’t win ‘at least 82’

        • Ryan P. Morrison says:

          Great, great stuff, Puneet. The “relative” worth part of this is really important. And I think you’re absolutely right — this probably does come down to how one looks at this season. That’s a huge part of this, and I didn’t think to look at it from those other possible angles.

          Mark, for what it’s worth — I didn’t mean to say that this trade is a fair way to value Trumbo. I think this probably cashed him out at around 70 cents on the dollar. He’s worth more than what they received. But I think it’s a few other things that really justify the trade for me anyway.

          I wouldn’t hang my hat too much on what the front office is saying, especially if what they’re saying happens to be the type of thing that might help generate interest in this season. Towers pretty much said what he meant, but I think just before the season started we learned that we can’t take this front office’s words at face value (which I’m ok with, and probably prefer). I was at 77 wins pre-season, and I think I’m still there.

  2. Ben says:

    This was a great read! I agree this was a good trade for basically all the reasons you list here. I also really like Lamb and think he could be a very important piece in the Dbacks lineup going forward. Of course there is always a chance of him being a bust, but that is quite limited compared to his potential. I think the recent successes from prospects with consistent good to great statlines through the minors with Goldschmidt, Eaton, and others has proven these type of players tend to work out well.

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Ben — thanks a lot for reading, and the comment!

      I’m still going to consider myself Lamb’s biggest non-familial supporter, but let’s not get too crazy with setting the bar for our expectations. If Lamb is a little above average defensively and solidly above average offensively (maybe 115 wRC+), that would be a pretty great thing. It would mean he could be a helpful part of a playoff contender, and it would justify the team clearing a path for him to play, in my opinion.

      But he could definitely be more. You touched on something really important that Jeff and I have discussed a lot recently — there’s been a series of position player prospects who have hit more than they were expected to hit, and Goldy is Exhibit A. Pollock and Inciarte are right up there. What Jeff and I have been trying to work through is exactly this question: at what point do you start to build that into your decision making? Does it start to make sense to extend very early extension offers to position players, knowing that if some exceed expectations, that would pay for all of the extensions? Do you make a point of trading these guys, thinking you can make more? Or do you start to target position players who are very good defensively, in order to get the maximum benefit of a “D-backs bump”?

      For more on the extension point, here’s a piece from November weighing the merits and reasoning for trying to sign Lamb to a long-term deal:

  3. BobJ says:

    Anyone notice that Trumbo, Tomas, and O’Brien are pretty similar. All can hit to some degree. Trumbo has power, Tomas was supposed to have power but seems to be developing into an on-base guy, and O’Brien has the potential to be both. Why not give O’Brien a chance to show what he can do. He can’t be worse in the field than Trumbo was. Yes, that would add to the outfield confusion, but O’Brien’s numbers scream to give him a chance.

    This team was such a mess when Kevin Towers got done with it that it will take some time to correct all of that. We are a work in progress. O’Brien deserves a shot. We need to find out if any of the glut of pitchers we have brought in can be legitimate major league WINNERS. Not just starters, but WINNERS. Pitching and defense wins championships. Of course timely hitting is always helpful. Trading Trumbo, establishing Ahmed at short, continuing to work on finding good pitching are all good moves. We are headed in the right direction, but clearly we are not there yet.

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Bob —

      I agree, mostly. This season is about experiments, and learning as much as possible for next year and 2017. O’Brien is absolutely killing it in Triple-A. So long as it doesn’t hurt any experiments that we might think are more important, why not? Why wait?

      One important consideration for the D-backs experiments is how it affects the pitchers who are trying to get traction. It’s just so important, and could make all the difference. That’s part of why I loved the team sticking with Ahmed through his extended slump — he was a worthy experiment, and on top of that, even while slumping he was helping the pitchers to get traction. It’s also why playing Salty at catcher is so unjustifiable in my eyes. It’s not just not worth it… it’s inexcusable for one stupid, meritless experiment to threaten the integrity of 3-5 other important experiments.

      I’m not saying O’Brien is in the same category — corner outfield doesn’t have the same impact that shortstop and catcher have. But I’d still like to weigh that a little bit. Right now, we’re poised to see a defense that is completely superb. Near-average or well above average at every spot. These pitchers are already fighting dry, hot playing conditions… giving them that extra help could be huge.

      Still… I’d like to see O’Brien. If we don’t see him in a day or two, we won’t see him for a month or more, maybe. It’d mean they’re waiting for Lamb and counting on Tomas eating what is available in OF playing time.

  4. Robert says:

    How does O’BRIAN’s defense compare to Peralta?

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Your guess is literally as good as mine, but my guess: Peralta will be a little better. I was really impressed by O’Brien’s athleticism in the spring, but that’s coming from an untrained eye — his range at first base in particular seemed really strong, and he turned a very difficult 1-6-1 double play and made it look easy. If that’s “surefootedness,” and if that’s a skill he has, it’s a skill that helps everywhere on the diamond, including the outfield. But as advanced defensive statistics break down defense, range is far and away the most important thing — and the biggest thing that depends on is acceleration and foot speed. Peralta doesn’t always take the most direct of routes, but I think he’s an above-average runner as left fielders go.

      The threshold for “average” is lower in left than in right, and “average” for left fielders is “not very good,” which is part of why an elite defender like Inciarte can make up so much ground. So left and right isn’t exactly apples to apples. And in right field, throwing arm becomes more important — about as important as the skill that is more or less “avoiding errors.” So it may also depend a bit on his arm, and which outfield spot he gets lined up for.

  5. Gman says:

    I think the theme of your assessment of the Trumbo trade was dead on. This deal was more about improving by making room for some young players to blossom than it was about getting a splashy return for Trumbo. Regrettably Trumbo just didn’t get on one of his big power runs in the time frame the Dbacks needed in order to get a better return.

    But to me, it was clear that Lamb and Tomas deserve non-platoon playing time going forward .

    Lamb’s slash against lefties in his minor league career was .325/.425/.500. That warrants him getting a lot of reps against lefties in the majors. Yasmany can clearly hit and putting him in RF is the right move. The only platoon spot to me will eventually be LF where either Inciarte or Peralta will platoon with O’brien.

    I think they’ll trade Inciarte (he has the most value) to try to upgrade 2b. I could see another deal with the Mariners doing Miller for Inciarte. It works for both.

  6. Zack Novotny says:

    I like the article and but not the way you express how bad TOmas, Trumbo, and Saltallamchia are.
    I believe that Tomas was decent at third base and I also believe that Trumbo and salty are bad either. I really do agree with the dbacks trading him though, I think Lamb does have more upside… So I believe Trumbo was forced out. What I don’t like about the trade is that the Dbacks didn’t get anything worth while in trade and I don’t think they maximized Trumbo’s trade value.
    One question I have is what is going to happen to Peter O’Brien? His offense is crazy good and I’d be willing to give up a little defense for that.

    Also one more question..
    Why hasn’t Aaron Blair been called up?

    Thanks for writing articles, I read every single one and really appreciate what you do!

  7. Corey says:

    I agree with your assessment of Trumbo, and I noticed you mentioned Brandon Drury, when they said that the best part of the Justin Upton deal has still yet to emerge, I was skeptical, until this spring. His numbers were stupid good, I only wished they’d kept him around the whole spring to see if it was more than just a “hot streak.” I know he got off to a very slow start in Double A this year, but he has heated up and raised his average, and other stats to an extremely respectable number. Owings defensive metrics obviously don’t play as good as Ahmeds(don’t have the numbers on hand) but if Drury ends up being an average second baseman, do you think it’s a possibility of Owings being moved back to short, since he is clearly the better hitter, regardless of his OBP, if Drury forces his way onto the scene and Lamb hits the way you projected him too I one of your previous articles, would we perhaps see Owings moved to short, and Drury stick at second with a 3 way platoon of Ahmed at short, with Ahmed getting the lesser amount of playing time? Just curious. Thanks

  8. Dave-Phoenix says:

    I think this was a really good assessment of why the D-Backs made the Trumbo trade.

    I wholeheartedly agree that this trade results in significant defensive upgrades.

    I also will take Tomas’ .300+ batting average over Trumbo’s homers and low OBP, especially since we expect more power out of Tomas. Combine that with improved defense and how can we go wrong?

    By adding Lamb to an infield of Ahmed, Owings and Goldy, the D-Backs just might have the best defensive infield in baseball in MLB. With Tomas replacing Trumbo, the outfield defense may also be one of the best in MLB.

    Jake Lamb, because of his defense, only needs to be an average hitter for this to work. He does not need to be “the guy to protect Goldy” for this change to be deemed a success.

    But you left out one other important factor to this trade….THE MONEY… Moving Trumbo will free up more money. Combine that with the money saved from some of the other D-Back trades (Montero/Cahill)and there is available funding to compete in this year’s free agent market.One more factor that will help in building putting it all together in 2017…

  9. […] you won’t catch me complaining. We got an epic and epically unexpected trade last week that fixes a bunch of things. We’ve got a new option at catcher who may not be the cat’s ass (you know it’s […]

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