Sometimes it takes a few years to truly evaluate the winners and losers of a baseball trade.
Take the Diamondbacks’ trade of Max Scherzer, for instance. On December 9, 2009 Arizona engineered a three-way trade with Detroit and the New York Yankees that netted the D-backs Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson. The Yankees got Curtis Granderson and the Tigers got Scherzer, Schlereth and Phil Coke.
The trade looked good for all three teams early on. Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA for Arizona in 2011 and won 15 games the next season. Granderson hit 41 homers and drove in 119 runs in 2011 and hit 43 homers with 106 RBI a year later. Scherzer went 12-11 with a 3.50 ERA, 15-9 with a 4.43 ERA and 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA in his first three years in Detroit. It worked for all teams involved the first three years.
But only Scherzer duplicated that early success and built upon it. Kennedy, now with the Padres, and Granderson, now with the Mets, have struggled ever since. Scherzer, meanwhile, led the American League in wins each of the last two seasons going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and winning the Cy Young in 2013 and last year went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA. This year after signing a seven-year, $210 million free agent contract with the Nationals, he is 10-7 with a 2.11 ERA and a no-hitter at the All-Star break. So in that three-team trade the best player was clearly Scherzer — it just took a few years to determine.
Since taking over the reigns from former general manager Kevin Towers, the Diamondbacks’ new regime of chief baseball officer Tony LaRussa and GM Dave Stewart have made quite a few trades. Most of these deals will take some time to evaluate as plenty of minor league prospects were involved. Others were salary dumps, like Miguel Montero to the Cubs and Trevor Cahill to the Braves.
But one trade stands out to me thus far. One trade has some real serious potential to work out in Arizona’s favor. One trade that looks like an early steal. Time will tell, but moving shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees in a three-team trade that saw pitcher Shane Greene go to the Yankees and gave the Diamondbacks left-handed starting pitcher Robbie Ray and infielder Domingo Leyba, looks like a winner from Arizona’s perspective.
Gregorius was brought to New York to replace the guy Towers once compared him to — Derek Jeter. Halfway through the season Yankees fans are wondering why New York didn’t make a trade for Troy Tulowitzki instead. Gregorius can’t hit. He is batting.238 with four home runs and 19 RBI. While he’s good defensively, his lack of offense is a concern. He is still just 25, but in parts of three seasons, his career batting average is .241.
As for Ray, he has been nothing short of outstanding in his brief time with Arizona. He is a hard-throwing lefty who in eight starts is 3-4 with a sparkling 2.16 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 50 innings. Ray is just 23, but there are some early signs he could be a fixture in the D-backs’ rotation for the long haul. He has gone at least six innings in his eight starts. He has allowed more than three earned runs only once. And in three of his starts — against the Rangers, Angels and Mets — he’s gone at least five innings without allowing an earned run.
Ray reminds me a little of former Yankees lefty Ron Guidry — though when Ray was on the show last week and I mentioned that to him, he had no idea who Louisiana Lightning was.
The youngster has the make-up to be good, really good. It is very early, but in a small sample size, getting Ray and giving up Gregorius looks like a solid win for Arizona.