Whether a trade is “good” or “bad” may not usually have to do with how “big” it is. When we’ve done offseason report cards in the past, we’ve taken care to try to evaluate impact separately from quality, and for good reason: the smallest decisions can still be approached with care. The questions in the wake of the Shelby Miller trade have tended to be the opposite: whether it was executed with less care just because of its size.

There was little doubt before offseason that the D-backs were highly focused on 2016-2017, as we preambled in the Offseason Plan:

The Contention Window is upon us. Over the past fourteen months, the team has gambled again and again on contention in 2016 and 2017, going all in on college players in the 2015 draft…mortgaging the very distant future in signing Yoan Lopez this spring and the less distant future in trading Touki Toussaint to free up cash this last summer…now is not the time for modest moves; the ante for getting to this point was high.

What was less obvious was how much the team was willing to invest in the Contention Window in terms of dollars and young talent, and whether 2018 was thought to be part of that window. The Zack Greinke signing confirmed that the D-backs were absolutely all-in on competing, and willing to put in a shocking financial commitment in that effort. The D-backs are skydiving, and while we knew they were up in the plane with the intention of jumping, the ink on the Greinke contract was that moment when they actually conquered their fear of heights and stepped out the door.

Maybe that’s why the anxiety seemed so high this week when the D-backs traded three important players for Shelby Miller, coming dangerously close to the ground before opening their parachute. The trade for Miller or something like that move, however, was as inevitable as something like the Greinke signing — except more so. You can refuse to step out of the door of the plane, but once you do, you can’t hover in midair or open your ‘chute too early. As Jeff wrote in breaking it down, the Miller trade is what going all in looks like:

When you give Zack Greinke $206 million dollars, this is a move you need to make. Period. Are the Diamondbacks taking the short side of the deal? Probably. But does this help their chances in playing October baseball each of the next few seasons? Without a doubt. They could not go into 2016 incomplete. They’ve set their course and they needed to stick to it.

Big questions remain. As discussed on Episode 46 of The Pool Shot, whether or not you like the Greinke signing has everything to do with whether or not you’re in favor of the strategy of going all in. In Episode 47 of The Pool Shot recorded last night (and with little help from the intern), we looked at the Shelby Miller trade in the same light.

First up in the episode, we talk through their initial reactions to the trade, but consider one criticism of it in particular:

That’s really the problem that we had with the Touki Toussaint sale, as we discussed with Mauricio Rubio of Baseball Prospectus on Episode 32 last summer. To what extent does being sold on the all-in strategy not determine whether you like a move or not? For us, the Toussaint sale seemed counterproductive; the goal it was meant to accomplish could have been accomplished better with the same asset.

Top Payroll per SeasonThis is where we’d insist you listen to the podcast to figure out our response to whether the Miller trade does indeed make the 2016 club better or not, but (spoiler alert), we think it does — for a few reasons. The discussion of the trade turned to understanding the price paid by the D-backs for that benefit, reading tea leaves on Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair and suggesting what the process may have been like in trading Dansby Swanson.

Ultimately, though, the discussion turned to the future. As noted above, whether the D-backs would commit to the all-in plan financially was the Rubicon crossed with the Greinke signing. But what about the price they were willing to pay in talent? To what extent did they actually mortgage the future? We talk through an explanation for why they actually didn’t mortgage the future, potentially. In so doing, we returned to our site editorial on the hiring of Tony La Russa, particularly these lines:

We believe that under La Russa’s leadership, the team may be in a better position to compete in the long term – even if the hiring of La Russa may not have been intentioned as a long term solution.

Were we right or were we wrong?

Finally on the episode, we turn to a discussion we punted in the previous episode on relief pitching targets and a few particularly interesting relievers who are still available (and in two cases, not rumored to be available, either). The D-backs aren’t necessarily done, folks. We may have a little more freefall before the parachute actually opens.

Remember if you have something you think would be interesting and/or that we might enjoy working through on the podcast, shoot a tweet @thepoolshot, an account at which our intern also occasionally posts really stupid and really low-quality photoshopped… pictures? Not sure what to call those, but he posts them because he has access to the account to post the podcast episode tweets, and he thinks that’s funny or something.

Lean into this, folks. And keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times, because it’s going to be a bumpy — but thrilling — ride toward the postseason.

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8 Responses to The Pool Shot: Shelby Miller Trade, Future of the Franchise

  1. Anonymous says:

    Kershaw is next, for Tomas and Lopez. I still think Greinke is beotch, but he’s an Ace. Theme for this offseason is overpays. Losing Ender was the biggest loss. played hard, team lead off hitter, big hole there now, not to mention he seemed like a great organizational guy. Losing Blair and Swanson, that’s fine in this deal, Ender was the overpay. these guys really targeted Miller so this is their signature move.

  2. Ken says:

    yeah right… tomas and lopez wont bring us anything. I hope they ship these guys out for prospects..

  3. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    Losing Ender really is the killer in the Miller deal. Overpay with prospects–fine. But don’t subtract from the big-league team. Now the Dbacks have no leadoff hitter other than A.J., which weakens the middle of the lineup. And more importantly, the stepdown from Inciarte to Tomas equals if not exceeds the stepup from Anderson (or whomever) to Miller. The deal is a wash, in other words, for 2016, and you gave up Swanson and Blair for the privilege. Not to mention took on more injury risk by swapping a pitcher for a position player.

    In addition, Brito is now your fourth outfielder. He’s a fine prospect, but he also doesn’t have a PA above AA. Do you really want to stunt his development by making him the 4th OF? And is that the quality depth that a contending team has, in any case? I think the Dbacks really need to sign another OF who can backup CF, but I don’t know who that is. I would love for it to be Span or someone like that but they are much too committed to Tomas as a starter for that to happen. Maybe Austin Jackson…

    I like this FO’s aggressiveness, but I think we give them way too much credit when we talk about their “plan.” If they have one, it goes no deeper than “upgrade starting rotation.” There is little evidence that it is comprehensive or particularly rational, unfortunately.

    • Ben says:

      If you believe all those points you are right, but a lot of those points are arguable. Ender was not a great leadoff hitter in the first place and most of his value was on defense, which can be volatile (see Gerardo Parra). I don’t buy that Tomas is going to suck this year. He won’t be as good as Inciarte for sure, but I think he’ll bounce back after an offseason of conditioning.

      I’d actually rather see Brito get more playing time, similar to last year where all 4 outfielders got similar shares of the playing time. I think he is MLB ready and going to be a player very similar to what Ender was, if not better. Your argument about AA doesn’t really hold water because a lot of players, especially Dbacks, have come up and been very productive from AA (Goldy, Upton, Reynolds, etc.).

      Now I could very easily be wrong, but so could you. I don’t think we can judge the FO for not thinking clearly if I can make a logical defense of the trade, at least in terms of current improvement.

      • Lamar Jimmerson says:

        Of course you could be right. I would only say that your assumptions — implicitly, that Tomas will become a 3-5 WAR player, and that Brito will more or less immediately be a productive MLBer — are, to me, more questionable than mine, which are that Inciarte is in fact the 3-5 WAR player we saw last year, and that Tomas is the 0-1 WAR player we saw last year, or a 2 WAR player at best, and that Brito likely needs more seasoning.

        We’ll see. But I’m not convinced — certainly not by Dave Stewart — that the FO really even thought it out this deeply.

        Food for thought: Inciarte was a 3.3 WAR player last year by fWAR (5.3 bWAR, but let that pass). I think we would agree that Tomas isn’t going to bring any value on defense or the basepaths. So how much does he have to hit to bring similar value? Well, he has to hit something like David Peralta, who by Fangraphs’ calculations brought some positive value baserunning but negative value on defense.

        So let’s be generous and say that Tomas can equal Peralta’s baserunning-plus-defense value. That means he has to put together about a 135 wRC+ with the bat. (Peralta was 138 last year.) That is something like a .370 OBP and .500 SLG. Last year Tomas had a .305 OBP and a .401 SLG. So that’s a *huge* jump he needs — about 170 OPS points — and Steamer projects him with a .302 OBP and .426 SLG.

        I just don’t see it happening.

        (FYI, Steamer projects Brito with a 79 wRC+ next year, with a -.1 WAR).

  4. Anonymous says:

    correct, on Brito, and the cubs just paid 184 mill for the same thing ender more or less brings.

  5. Larry Person says:

    Dansby was never a true No. 1 Draft Pick, in the superstar sense. We understood that he was one of the best last year, and the one that was more of a sure bet than the other, otherwise equal options for the first pick, but he was never regarded as a superstar pick. All 1 – 1 Draft Picks are not the same. And all 1 – 1 draft picks are not sure bets, i.e. Mark Appel who has not yet lived up to his 1 – 1 status. The baseball world reacted to the D’backs trade for Shelby Miller with the myth in tow that Dansby Swanson was a guaranteed superstar. Time, of course, will tell. But I don’t think the D’backs got fleeced as bad as initial reaction suggests. And I don’t think the Braves suddenly vaulted themselves into contender status in 2017 either.

  6. Rick D says:

    Seems to me, all these questions about Brito were all applied to Inciarte and Peralta not that long ago.
    Anyway, the DBacks were second in NL in runs scored and still didn’t have a winning record. Giving up some runs scored to upgrade the pitching would seem to be a good thing.

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