They’re making their list and checking it twice, the Diamondbacks are looking to be thrifty and wise.
So began the Diamondback week at Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, just miles away from the Magic Kingdom. The question was whether Kevin Towers would be able to pull off a magic trick this week through a trade or trades or free agency.
Here is what Towers had working for him: The D-Backs have one of the highest-rated minor league system prospects in all of baseball, headed by Tyler Skaggs, who was available in the right deal, and Archie Bradley, who was more or less untouchable. They also had the ability to package players in a deal. Either A.J. Pollock or Adam Eaton was potentially the “odd man out” in an overstocked outfield in desperate need of some power. Didi Gregorius is now expendable after Chris Owings did fairly well at shortstop last September. The Diamondbacks have a glut of pitchers who could fill a three, four or five spot on another team’s starting rotation, including McCarthy and Cahill. Towers also freed up some cash by dealing away the Heath Bell Experience, which was not a great experience.
Here is what Towers was seeking: a corner outfielder with power and a front line starting pitcher. To meet the need in the outfield, there were unconfirmed reports that the Diamondbacks were bidders for the services of the aging Carlos Beltran before he was gobbled up by the “evil empire” in New York. Another potential move involved A’s outfielder Yeonis Cespedes, and that idea had lots of appeal. After some flurry, this supposed deal was dead. Jose Bautista’s name also came up, but the Toronto slugger is past his prime at age 33, missed large blocks of games over the past two seasons and had a reduction in output in both 2012 and 2013. This raised a number of questions as to whether Bautista was the answer.
The D-Backs could have also looked to free agency, and the name at top of that list of available players is Nelson Cruz. But no one thought that the D-Backs would invest in a player whose performance has been “enhanced” by something other than talent. Shin-Soo Choo is another top line free agent but he did not meet the need for power, has a significant drop off in numbers when he faces left-handed pitching and will come at a hefty price tag. A player that could have been considered was Corey Hart, but the Diamondback rumor mill didn’t include his name, despite him making his winter home in the Valley of the Sun. His upside potential is notable but so are the questions about his health after back-to-back injury-filled seasons.
So after all these options were considered and it being clear that Mark Trumbo of the Angels could be ripe for the picking, the D-Backs pulled the trigger on a deal. As expected, the D-Backs were not as committed to Skaggs as previously thought and one of the outfielders had to go. Eaton and Skaggs were packaged in the three team deal with the Angels and White Sox, and So-Cal native Trumbo will now move for the first time away from his lifelong home and is heading to the desert.
Trumbo has a number of great things he brings to the party. First, he has behemoth power. I have heard that his home runs are referred to as “TrumBombs.” Catchy, yes? I can’t wait to see what he can do over the course of a season in the thin air of Phoenix. He and Goldie have the ability to become Arizona’s version of murderer’s row. Also, Trumbo shows up to play. He appeared in 159 games last year and is only 27 years old, making it easier to part with young prospects. Trumbo has a great work ethic and will dedicate himself to improving his fielding skills.
Another favorable point to the deal is that Trumbo will reportedly not be eligible for free agency for another four seasons. While he will be arbitration-eligible and could become more costly to the D-Backs, the team will not be facing the bank-breaking potential of a guy like Trumbo until after the 2017 season. Further, there are two players-to-be-named later to go along with the Heath Bell player-to-be-named later and who knows what that might mean in the future.
There are, however, some concerns. Trumbo’s batting average declined to .234 last season and his on base percentage was a meager .294. His strike out totals have increased in each of his three major league seasons. Trumbo’s lack of speed might create a better defensive fit at first base (which is currently occupied by that guy named Goldschmidt). Maybe it is just me, but aren’t there parallels here to another “Mark,” that being Reynolds, whose home run prowess was not enough to compensate for his strike out rate and low on base percentage?
Towers has checked off one need from his shopping list, but there remains one other. He still wants a front line starting pitcher. On that front, there have been talks about David Price, but the “price” would likely be too high since free agency is soon on his horizon and the free-spending Dodgers have shown interest. Chris Sale of White Sox would be an unbelievable grab, but the White Sox have been saying that he is not up for “sale.” I think the D-Backs could look to Philadelphia, who is likely about to enter into a rebuilding mode. Given the remaining young prospects the D-Backs could offer (not named Archie Bradley), wouldn’t Cole Hamels or a productive Cliff Lee fill identified needs? On the downside, they are both owed lots of money under existing contracts.
Well, the week is progressing and by its end, we will know whether the D-Backs and Towers have been naughty or nice. So far, so good.