Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers had a busy winter.
Following back-to-back 81-81 seasons, and entering the final year of his contract before being awarded an extension last month, Towers got to work right away in the offseason, claiming outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo off of waivers in early November before making a flurry of moves in December.
Most notable among those moves was probably the acquisition of slugger Mark Trumbo, acquired via trade from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The 28-year-old Trumbo, free agent pitcher Bronson Arroyo and relief pitcher Addison Reed, along with Eric Chavez — who was re-signed — made up the all of the Diamondbacks’ major league-level additions. The subtractions, which there were many more of, may have been more noteworthy.
As detailed by MLBTradeRumors.com, the Diamondbacks parted with a slew of players over the winter, including pitcher Tyler Skaggs, outfielder Adam Eaton, pitcher Heath Bell and infield prospect Matt Davidson.
MLB Trade Rumors offered a not-so-positive take on Towers’ activity.
One would be hard-pressed to offer a better description of this year’s Diamondbacks offseason than that written at the same time last year by MLBTR’s Steve Adams: “The Diamondbacks made a number of moves that raised eyebrows and invited skepticism this offseason, and they’ll have to improve on last year’s .500 record to silence those naysayers.”
After detailing the various moves — the loss of Willie Bloomquist, David Holmberg, Wil Nieves and the aforementioned four — the blog went on to recount the team’s ambitious pursuit of free agent Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who was reportedly offered a six-year, $120 million contract by the club.
Criticism of the trades necessary to land Trumbo and Reed followed.
I’ll stretch the scope of this heading to consider both of the Diamondbacks’ big trades, because they carry similar characteristics. Trumbo and Reed are both still young (28 and 25, respectively) and came with several years of control (3 and 4). The two are each dynamic, powerful players with some premium tools.
But neither brings a ton of overall value to the table. Trumbo’s power comes at the price of a ton of strikeouts and few walks, and he is not a plus defensively. Reed generates lots of whiffs and limits walks, but fails to get groundballs, has yet to line up his peripherals with results, and most importantly has a limited ceiling by the nature of his position.
Moreover, with lots of counting stats already in the bag, the two will not be cheap. With 95 career long balls, Trumbo already landed a $4.8MM deal in his first season of arbitration eligibility…
The same promises to hold true for Reed, who already has 69 saves to his name.
Ultimately, MLB Trade Rumors came down hard on Towers and the Diamondbacks for their parting with a lot of young talent, all for what they deemed a mediocre yield.
Most importantly, perhaps, the talent given up to obtain these two players — Eaton, Skaggs, Davidson, and (in effect) Holmberg — might have come in handy over the years to come. Somewhat remarkably, that group occupied four of the six top spots in Baseball America’s prospect rankings of the Diamondbacks before the 2013 season. Though none had made significant leaps forward over the last year, they all also moved closer to MLB readiness without suffering any major injuries.
In the aggregate, the D’backs gave up 23 years of control over those four prospects — much of which will come at league minimum — to shed Bell (along with $5.5MM of his salary) and add seven years of Trumbo and Reed (assuming both are not non-tendered at some point). While these moves probably make the team better for 2014, it is more than fair to wonder whether any near-term improvement is sufficient to have warranted that kind of sacrifice.
Towers has not hesitated to act aggressively to reshape his team’s roster, but it is not clear that he has substantially improved it after two-straight .500 seasons. The heat is on for results, especially after the recent outflow of future talent. If the team struggles out of the gate, or looks in need of a trade-deadline jolt, it will be fascinating to see what bold new moves the GM has in store.