Tuesday afternoon, the Diamondbacks made the move they needed to make. Just last week I laid out the case for trading for the Tigers’ J.D. Martinez. The team had a major need (help hitting left-handed pitching) and there weren’t many options on the trade block that could help shore up their weakness. The team could still use bullpen help and maybe some starting pitching depth, but as far as the lineup goes, it looks like they’ve done what they needed to do. And though I was ready to bemoan the prospects sent in return, well…
Here’s the thing: the D-backs gave up very, very little for the best bat on the market. They sent third baseman Dawel Lugo, shortstop Sergio Alcantara and shortstop Jose King to the Tigers. I ranked Lugo ninth in the D-backs Midseason Prospect List while Alcantara would have been in the 14-20 range and King wouldn’t have been ranked, largely because he’s just 18 and in the middle of his stateside debut. Lugo has a chance to be an everyday player, though perhaps not an impactful one. Alcantara’s glove is excellent at short and he’s hitting a bit in the California League where the hitting environment is favorable. King hit well in the DSL last summer and has hit less in the AZL this summer. He’s considered a lottery ticket at this juncture.
That’s a much different haul than I, or really anyone else, had anticipated. From last week’s article:
…you’re looking at a strong rotation piece and another option with some fill-in type upside that can become a bench piece or a middle inning bullpen arm. If that’s what we’re looking at, some names start to emerge. The Tigers probably don’t want the headline piece to be a guy that will take two or three years to mature. That makes left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda, whom I just rated as the team’s third-best prospect, a headline piece. He likely lacks the upside of a Manaea or a Fulmer, so the other piece(s) would need to be a bit more promising. A guy like third baseman Dawel Lugo could fill that need, and throwing in a bullpen piece like righty Bud Jeter could complete the package. Given that the D-backs have a relatively thin farm system, you’re looking at two players from their top-10 and a bit of a throw in.
While I’d like to tear my rotator cuff patting myself on the back for naming Lugo, the fact of the matter is that I expected far more to go to Detroit than what was in the package the Tigers ultimately accepted. The D-backs kept their best prospects and still pulled off the deal. Sure Lugo is talented, but his approach is worrisome and while he make a ton of contact, it seems like he’s struggled at times to make hard contact with regularity. Alcantara’s bat may lag enough to keep his glove from ever reaching the majors and with King, who knows? That’s a far cry from losing Anthony Banda, Taylor Clarke, Pavin Smith, Domingo Leyba or Jon Duplantier. Put bluntly, the D-backs did exceedingly well here.
The question is why? I don’t mean that in the sense that Mike Hazen understands running a baseball team better than Dave Stewart. Well, okay, he does. But why would Detroit pull the trigger on this trade with almost two weeks remaining before the deadline? Weren’t they offered more by someone else? The answer might reside in the fact that the market for Martinez, despite his ability, likely wasn’t as deep as it could have been. Sure, the Dodgers and Rockies have checked in, along with a few other team, but perhaps the market was a bit thinner than you’d expect. FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron broke down the list of buyers and sellers on Tuesday and it doesn’t look like all of the buyers would have been in the market for Martinez:
- Houston has plenty of outfielders in Josh Reddick, Nori Aoki, George Springer and Derek Fisher
- Los Angeles (NL) has Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig and Kike Hernandez
- Washington has Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth
- Cleveland has Tyler Naquin, Michael Brantley and a host of others, including Bradley Zimmer
- Boston has all of the outfielders (i.e. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Andrew Benintendi)
- Chicago (NL) has Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and others
It’s not like these teams don’t already have their bases covered. Would J.D. Martinez provide an upgrade for these clubs? Sure, but Arizona’s need was likely greatest. To boot, Colorado has a crowded situation with Cargo in right and Ian Desmond in the mix with Mark Reynolds holding down first base. While all we can do is speculate, it looks like the market for Martinez just didn’t materialize in a way that we might have anticipated.
It seems like this trade is just the latest thing to go the Diamondbacks’ way. Many of the projected National League contenders have collapsed. Many of the D-backs’ internal pieces have improved. They’ve been mostly healthy all year compared to much of the competition. Shrewd offseason moves have paid off. The #OurSeason hashtag might have seemed like a punchline waiting to be punched in April, but this season has gone better than just about anyone could have anticipated. That said, this is the Contention Window, and boy oh boy, is it wide open…
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