The Ziegler trade came and the Ziegler trade went and things had been mostly quiet on the western front. The Diamondbacks continued to play at a sub-par rate and the rumor mill looked to be stalling in production of information around a team. Possibly the most interesting developments post-Ziegler were the reports describing Chip Hale’s proverbial chair as being rather wobbly. Things picked up around the deadline, as they often do, and then they died down at the end. The team even moved reliever Tyler Clippard to the Yankees in exchange for Jose Campos – a right handed pitcher from Venezuela who had a nice profile until undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014. And that was that. It’s been an interesting bit of events, given this team’s standing, but maybe it’s to have been expected.
Looking back, the team’s strategy appeared to be rather clear the whole time. Hardly breasting their cards, Dave Stewart came right out and proclaimed the team’s intent on holding onto starters and selling relievers. As detailed by the always intrepid Nick Piecoro, Stewart said: “We’ve gotten calls, and you have to call to ask, but I don’t really have an ear to listen. . . . If you want to talk about (Daniel) Hudson or (Tyler) Clippard, I’ll listen. That’s pretty much how it is.” Given that the team traded Clippard and Zielger, nearly moved Hudson, and as far as we know, didn’t look as if they progressed very far in talks for any of their starters, it’s curious that they would tip their hand so clearly.
The return for Clippard isn’t much aside from the small salary relief. Jose Campos was once an interesting arm who was a regular feature on Yankees top 10 lists, but has since been derailed over the years with arm injuries, including an aforementioned Tommy John procedure. At age 24, he is only now pitching in AAA and while he’s had a nice go in the minors so far this season, posting 103 strikeouts against 38 walks in 121 innings, he profiles as a reliever.
As Jeff touched on after the Ziegler trade, while both Luis Alejandro Basabe and Jose Almonte could be useful pieces in at least three or four years, neither of these players currently profile as impact guys, something the team’s farm system is lacking. That alone doesn’t necessarily make the trade bad. However, the Diamondbacks view themselves as being within a contention window and don’t seem keen on selling off a few players who might have fetched some returns that would push the team’s window back, but improve the long-term. Nonetheless, neither return in the Clippard and Ziegler trades do anything to help the team contend in 2017 or 2018, aside from clearing a small amount of payroll.
It’s tough to see the angle the team is taking here. Perhaps saving a few million dollars on Clippard’s deal has a high marginal value for them – non-premium right handed relievers aren’t exactly a scarce commodity anyway. Perhaps they plan on trying to bring Ziegler back via free agency after the season – though even that seems increasingly unlikely.
The only directions that seem plausible, given how this team has self-evaluated, are either waiting until the offseason to shuffle around some pieces or keeping this team largely intact for another run next year. Looking at the 2017 free agency class that is mostly comprised of players who would be leftovers from a schoolyard pick, it’s rather difficult to see where this team plans on improving if they are intent on keeping their core and guys like Castillo and Tomás. The team could conceivably have a different read on the free agent class, but it seems rather difficult to find any impact players who will be out on the market.
It’s interesting, though, that Stewart and La Russa appear to feel that this team, roughly as assembled, will contend next season. In our midseason plan, we offered a few ideas of where the team could move some players that would benefit both the short and long-term. Jeff also wrote in great detail about Arizona’s need to improve: “Health alone is not going to save this team. Fixing Shelby Miller and getting Patrick Corbin back on track is not going to save this team. The idea of running the same squad out there in 2017, plus Pollock, is not going to get it done.” Without beating the notion too much, seeing this team stay the course and hope for better luck next year does not appear to be a viable plan.
The plan for 2016 failed and in rather spectacular fashion. Arizona is on pace for 66 wins and slated to pick fifth in next year’s draft. It’s rather incredible, the amount of faith this front office is showing in the course they’ve charted. Maybe they have something up their sleeves this offseason. Maybe they weren’t getting palatable offers on the players they were willing to entertain offers for. Given the hubris the front office has repeatedly shown, it’s far from surprising that things weren’t torn down and the plan modified. That’s probably a good thing – ask yourself if this is a front office well equipped for such a task? I tend to think not. Nonetheless, if the rhetoric and actions exhibited by La Russa and Co. are to be any sign of 2017, it’ll probably be more of the same.
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FanGraphs Stats Glossary
Nick Piecoro Author Page
Cot's Baseball Contracts
BP Base Running Stats
Previously on The Pool Shot, the guys explained some of their favorite advanced stats. Hitting, including wRC+, HHAV and batted ball; pitching (38:00), including FIP, xFIP and SIERA; and baserunning and defense, including UBR, UZR and DRS (58:00).