Green: Haren trade was a loss for D-backs
Just a few years ago the Diamondbacks made it to the National League Championship Series with a young team that looked like it was only going to improve. Players like Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Justin Upton and Conor Jackson made up the young nucleus at the Major League level, and the farm system was the envy of Major League Baseball, loaded with prospects all over diamond.
Given how close the team seemed to be to a World Series appearance, Josh Byrnes decided to put his chips on the table and go all in. He made a pair of big trades in the offseason, the biggest of which was with the Oakland A's to acquire pitcher Dan Haren.
On the surface the trade was looked at as a brilliant move, as it paired Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb with another star pitcher, one who was just 27 years old and entering his prime. But, on a deeper level, it showed that the organization felt Haren was the final piece to a championship puzzle. Given that the Diamondbacks have played in exactly 0 postseason games since then and have amassed a record of 172-200, it would appear that Josh Byrnes swung and missed on the trade as badly as Mark Reynolds does on a curve ball.
This is not to say Haren has been a bad pitcher for the Diamondbacks. His first two seasons in the Valley were good, with the right-hander winning 30 games, striking out 429 batters and putting his name into CY Young consideration for parts of each season. His disaster of a 2010 season notwithstanding, the blame for the team's struggles should not rest on his right shoulder alone. However, the poor shape the franchise is in, with a lack of prospects to look forward to, can be directly attributed to his acquisition.
When the Diamondbacks made the trade, giving up pitchers Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith, as well as infielder Chris Carter and outfielders Aaron Cunningham and Carlos Gonzalez, they were following the theory that when you are one piece away you give up potential, because you're trying to win now and there are no guarantees that the players you're shipping out will ever amount to anything. Besides, the Diamondbacks already had plenty of young players who were still developing at the Major League level, so it is not like they were lacking for youth. But, it seems as if the D-backs' young players have hit their respective ceilings, with only Upton and Reynolds being potential stars, so it seems the current roster does not have much room to improve.
Worse, when you look around the division and see Gonzalez (who homered off of Haren Thursday) playing well in Colorado along with other young players (Troy Tulowitzki, Ubaldo Jimenez), as well as good futures for the teams in Los Angeles (Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney) and San Francisco (Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain), you almost wonder where things went wrong for the boys in Sedona Red.
All you need to do is look back at that key moment, when the Diamondbacks felt they were one piece away from contending for a title. They mortgaged their future to get that piece, but all it led to was a forgettable present.
For more of Adam's thoughts you can follow him on twitter @theAdamGreen.