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
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.
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