So a last place team trades a guy with a 7-8 record and 4.60 ERA and who is on the books for $25 million over the next two years and some fans and national media can’t understand it.
Before we dissect the Diamondbacks trade of Dan Haren to the Angels for Joe Saunders and three prospects lets first realize that Arizona needed to trade Haren. They are in last place with him and they certainly can remain in last place without him. He is a good but not great pitcher who makes a lot of money. He leads the league in home runs allowed, hits allowed and Arizona has won just one of his last seven starts. And let’s not forget he usually struggles in the second half of the season. To his credit he is a workhorse, leads the league in strikeouts and those type of pitchers don’t grow on trees. But this isn’t like the Mets trading Tom Seaver or Seattle trading Randy Johnson so let’s not make Haren out to be something he is not.
To understand why the Diamondbacks are trading Haren look no further than how disproportionate the Diamondbacks payroll is. Take a look at how much money, or in this case how little money, they have invested in their bullpen. Then take a look at how little they have invested in their bench. This is about reallocating funds as well as replenishing a minor-league system that needs some major replenishing. Don’t get me wrong, I like Haren, but this team isn’t close to winning right now and he doesn’t fill the seats when he pitches.
Now, the Diamondbacks may not admit this but they are finally putting a plan in place to be competitive for the future — which could be in as little as two years. And let’s be honest, Haren is the one player on the team that could command a 4-for-1 type of deal. So he was the one to go. Because trading him helps the team stockpile young talent more than any other player on the roster and it allows them to use some of the savings from his contract and put it towards a closer. For those of you Diamondback fans that have forgotten because its been so long since you have seen one for the home team, a closer is someone who comes into the game usually in the 9th inning with a lead and preserves the lead by getting the three outs necessary to end the game — something Chad Qualls proved incapable of doing this year.
Now what fans need to understand about this trade from a player perspective is that it is not about getting left-hander Joe Saunders or Triple A reliever Rafael Rodriguez or Class A starter Patrick Corbin as much as it is about getting the player to be named later. You see the best player in this deal coming from the Angels, the one with the most upside, is the player to be named later — Tyler Skaggs. Only 19, Skaggs is a legit top prospect.
A 19-year old who is the real deal. A tall left-hander who could end up being a Jon Lester type, although he doesn’t have Lester’s velocity at this point but again he is only 19. The Diamondbacks loved him in last year’s draft and if the high school third baseman Matthew Davidson wasn’t on the board when Arizona picked in the first round they would have chosen Skaggs, who went to the Angels with the pick before them. So to get a pitcher who from the scouts I spoke with Sunday say has the stuff to project out as a #2 starter is a major plus for Arizona.
Let’s take it a step further — Skaggs is now the #1 pitching prospect in the Diamondbacks farm system and Corbin is probably fourth behind Skaggs, Jarrod Parker and Eric Smith. Skaggs can’t be announced yet because Major League Baseball rules say that a player can not be traded for the first year of his first contract, so he won’t officially become Diamondback property until sometime in August.
Corbin is also left-handed, tall, lanky and projects out as a #4 starter. He is just 21-years-old so there is room to grow and he has had success this season for Rancho Cucamonga in his 11 starts. Rodriguez is a dime a dozen guy which most middle relievers are, so don’t get too excited about him. He is right-handed, has decent stuff and is close to major league ready compiling a 5-3 record with a 3.04 ERA in Triple A. As the fourth player in the deal it’s not a bad get to get another bullpen arm.
As for Saunders he is under the Diamondbacks control for the next two years being arbitration eligible in each of those years, so I expect he will make around $13 or $14 million over those two years or if you want to look at it another way they will get two years of Saunders for what it would cost them for one year of Haren. He is also left-handed and has had success, winning 17 games in 2008 and 16 in 2009 before slipping this year where he sports a 6-10 record and 4.62 ERA.
Now Saunders isn’t an ace and the D-backs certainly don’t have a top of the rotation guy. But Haren wasn’t stopping losing streaks either this year, let’s not forget that.
With Saunders, Ian Kennedy, Edwin Jackson, Barry Enright and Rodrigo Lopez, whom I expect the D-backs to try and re-sign, Arizona has some depth at starting pitching but clearly lacks the dominant starter. There are two ways to rebuild — one is to remake the roster in hopes of competing right away, the potential trade with the Yankees which would have brought Major-League ready minor league pitchers Ivan Nova and Zach McAllister would have addressed that or you can stockpile young talent and put a two to three year plan in place, which is the direction it appears Arizona is going and if we are honest with ourselves is the right direction to go.
And if more trades are made in the next week they should be made with that same eye on the future getting prospects and clearing salary. When Haren got here in 2007 we all thought the D-backs 1-2 combination of Brandon Webb and Haren would lead Arizona back to the World Series. Instead it ended up being the Phoenix Suns version of the back court in 2000.
Diamondback Notes —
At this point I think it is very very safe to say that Stephen Drew and Mark Reynolds will NOT be traded this season. Arizona has focused on moving Kelly Johnson, Adam LaRoche, Chad Qualls and Chris Snyder. If they get a good offer for Edwin Jackson he could be gone as well. But chances are they will only move one or two of those players. Qualls has drawn some interest and could end up in Colorado. Johnson should be getting more play than he is because he is under the control for another season after this year, Philadelphia could be a landing spot for him. Arizona may have to wait to see where Adam Dunn lands before they get any legitimate offers for LaRoche. Snyder is going to prove difficult to trade.