I still have dreams where I believe it’s not real. It’s usually 3am, I’m in a sweat and I’ve just awoken from a dream where the Diamondbacks were really bad again. Then I see the alarm clock, I feel my toes in the sheets, I catch my breath and remember: yes, that really happened.
The “that” in the sentence above is, of course, the trade for Shelby Miller. For some reason I forget Zack Greinke in these panicked moments, too. But all of that really did take place and it only cost three years of Ender Inciarte, six years of Aaron Blair, six years of Dansby Swanson and $206 million to transpire. As the de facto prospects guy here, I feel it’s only appropriate that we take a moment to remember the recently departed minor league pieces (excluding Miller Diaz‘s escape to free agency).
It seems like little more than yesterday that I was writing somewhere else when the Diamondbacks drafted Blair in the supplemental round of the 2013 draft. I knew little about him aside from “big bodied right-hander with a durable frame and a strong sinking fastball.” But in the time covering him, it became clear that Blair was not just a competitor, but a guy who had arisen to the challenge time and again. Whether it was shooting through the lower levels, finding his footing in AA and AAA or shouldering the load for Team USA in the Pan-American Games, Blair seemed pretty legit.
I guess the Braves thought he was pretty legit, too, and although his upside is probably not anything more than Wade Miley, that’s a lot better upside than that of the man typing these here words. Blair helped press the discussion for improved starting pitching forward when the rotation was in shambles late last season. I argued on The Pool Shot that he was probably one of Arizona’s five best starting pitchers in September, even after throwing a lot of innings up until that point. He didn’t get the call when rosters expanded, much to the chagrin of fans, and we never got to see him take the mound for the D-backs (excluding Spring Training). But he’ll live on, remembered as a nice pitching prospect who happened to be just valuable enough to complete the Shelby Miller deal. That’s not a bad memory and he’ll get a chance to prove he belongs when the season kicks off in Atlanta.
The inclusion of Dansby Swanson in the deal really put a sour taste in my mouth, mostly because I’d just got done covering his selection, signing process and pro debut. No one likes to waste #content. Despite not being of the “potential superstar” variety, he was a number one pick for good reason: the kid can play. His all-around game was on display in Hillsboro and it turned heads. After getting off to a slow start, he finished the season strong as the Hops ran deep into the Northwest League playoffs.
The tools aren’t incredible, but they’re nearly all above average across the board with the lone exception being his power. What can that be? A pretty damn good shortstop, one that’s routinely considered for All-Star consideration. Being a Georgia kid, he’ll make his homecoming for Atlanta in 2017 and he’ll certainly be fun to watch, even if it’s from a distance. We didn’t have him long enough to really get a feel for him as a player, but as a person, there’s no doubting that Swanson was the type of guy that’ll add to his club even when he’s not between the chalk, for whatever that’s worth. Character counts and Dansby Swanson would have guaranteed the club at least six years of really good interviews.
Saying goodbye is always tough. Aaron Blair was right on the cusp and Dansby Swanson had all the makings of an above-average shortstop in the not-so-distant future. Without them, Arizona’s farm system will fall in the rankings considerably. I guess trading two of you top three prospects will do that to you. And even if the Diamondbacks win a World Series in the next two years, the ghosts of Blair and Swanson on league minimum deals will still haunt us. Maybe we can reason with that, but they’ll still be there. And just maybe, so will be my nightmares.
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