Disclaimer: I’m as uneasy about the Arizona Diamondbacks trading Trevor Bauer away as anyone.
That said, I’m willing to reserve judgment on Kevin Towers’ latest trade, the one that sent the former No. 3 overall pick along with pitchers Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers in exchange for shortstop Didi Gregorius, first baseman Lars Anderson and pitcher Tony Sipp. The general manager was able to land the shortstop he coveted without having to part with right fielder Justin Upton.
That would have been a real bad move.
In making the trade he did, Towers parted with his second top pitching prospect in as many offseasons, and given how well Jarrod Parker pitched for the Oakland A’s last season, the latest deal should definitely give one pause.
And while that deal netted Arizona an established pitcher in Trevor Cahill, this one brought an unproven 22-year-old shortstop who has a reputation for being an excellent defender and mediocre hitter. Could Gregorius develop into a quality starter who fills the team’s hole at short for the foreseeable future?
For this trade to work out, he better.
Many believe Bauer is destined to become a frontline starting pitcher, and his minor league track record would suggest just that. However, his four-game stint in the big leagues left much to be desired — both with his pitching and attitude — and the team, in its quest to fill holes, felt dealing him was the way to do it.
“When we went into the winter we wanted to improve our bench, we wanted to add a left-handed bat at third base, we wanted to hopefully acquire a shortstop that we would control for some time, a premier shortstop, which we think we did,” Towers said Tuesday after the trade was announced.
Towers said he was only willing to part with Bauer if it netted them Gregorius, so it’s clear the third-year GM values the 6-foot-1, 185-pound shortstop rather highly.
Many seem to doubt the GM’s assessment of Gregorius, with ESPN’s Keith Law saying the shortstop “might end up a 2-WAR (wins above replacement) shortstop, but that’s about it” and Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe writing “the fact remains that Bauer could still emerge as the best of [Arizona’s starting pitching] bunch within the time that he’s under the Indians’ control, and the key player the Diamondbacks got in return for him, former Red Gregorius, is not guaranteed to fix their shortstop problems.”
However, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan wrote “The unpredictability of Towers scares other executives, who wonder if he’s really as crazy as he seems or if he actually knows more than everyone else and is fleecing people with a smile on his face”, and that’s the key here.
There is no guarantee that Bauer will be a successful major leaguer, just as there is nothing that says Gregorius has to be an abject failure. Just because Bauer was recently selected at the top of the draft does not mean he will be an outstanding player who should never be traded.
See Beasley, Michael if you subscribe to the theory that high picks should be untouchable.
As it stands, the Diamondbacks obviously felt of all the starting pitchers at their disposal — Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, David Holmberg, Archie Bradley, Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Bauer — it was Bauer who was the most expendable.
Not all of the D-backs’ top pitching prospects were going to make an impact in Arizona; some were destined to be dealt. Towers’ job is to determine which are least likely to succeed and then make a move while they still have value.
And speaking of value, it appears the right-hander’s was not nearly as high as many thought. At least, not if the “prize” in the deal was a prospect as middling as Gregorius.
“We’ve got very good reports on him,” Towers said of the shortstop. “He’s athletic, could probably play defensively right now in the big leagues.
“When I saw him, he reminded me of a young Derek Jeter.”
That’s a lofty claim, especially given the fact that Gregorius is a career .271 hitter with minimal power and pedestrian speed on the base paths.
Towers said his gut tells him Bauer is going to have a “very good career” and that his hope is this is a deal that works out for both teams.
“He was a tough guy to part with; we were fortunate that we have a lot of pitching depth,” he added.
The Diamondbacks now have a little less pitching depth but another option at shortstop. They may have just surrendered a future ace and received a utility infielder, or, maybe, they sold high on a pitcher about to flame out in the Majors and acquired the next great middle infielder.
Then again, perhaps the result will be something in between.
We just don’t know.