D-backs receive less-than-stellar reviews after busy trade deadline
Unloading three long-time pitchers and one of 2020’s few bright spots for a handful of prospects said it all about how the Arizona Diamondbacks front office evaluated the current roster.
It wasn’t good enough.
Dealing fan favorite Archie Bradley, who had played well since being named a closer before this season, marked a full reverse-course by general manager Mike Hazen and his team that came into a shortened 2020 season with high expectations of making the postseason.
Instead, Arizona dealt Bradley, starting pitcher Robbie Ray, lefty reliever Andrew Chafin and starting center fielder Starling Marte in exchange for prospects, longer-term contracts and, most importantly, more financial flexibility looking toward 2021 and 2022.
The return: LHP Caleb Smith, RHP Humberto Mejia, LHP prospect Julio Frias (per reports), INF/OF Josh VanMeter, OF Stuart Fairchild and LHP Travis Bergen. The Chafin deal could also result in more cash or a player to be named later coming to Arizona.
What are the main takeaways from all that coming out of four trades?
While people stopped well short of saying the Diamondbacks got jobbed — many understood their thinking — the overall understanding is the team failed to meet expectations, leading them on this unexpected path. Now, it has less talent than before Monday’s flurry of moves.
Here is how MLB analysts viewed the D-backs’ deadline decisions from a national perspective.
LOSER: Arizona Diamondbacks
Without knowing the identity of the player to be named later that Arizona will get as the third part of the return from Miami for Starling Marte, it’s hard to really grade the Diamondbacks’ deadline. Still, they join the loser class simply because of the trajectory of their season. They went from a popular sleeper pick to go deep into October before the season to a so-so 13-11 start — which gets you into the 2020 playoffs — to a 14-20 mark on deadline day. Thus, Arizona heads into the final month with Madison Bumgarner on the injured list and having traded Marte, Robbie Ray and Archie Bradley for a group of players whom their fans are going to have a hard time being excited about, to put it kindly. It’s not that they were unnecessary or bad deals; time will tell on that. It has just been a very disappointing season in Phoenix.
The Diamondbacks saved more than $3 million by making four trades, but their deals also were motivated by their desire to get players back for Ray and lefty reliever Andrew Chafin, who are free agents after this season, and Marte and closer Archie Bradley, who had only one more year of club control remaining. The returns appeared relatively modest, but by adding five players under long-term control and two players to be named, the team at least improved its organizational depth.
LOSER: Arizona’s 2021 Season
Even after the team traded Paul Goldschmidt ahead of the 2019 season, Arizona was still able to compete. It’s not entirely clear what their plans are for next year, but moving Marte, who has a reasonable option, and Archie Bradley isn’t a great sign that the D-backs plan to get better next season. They still have a lot of talented players, but even with Madison Bumgarner’s salary going up next season, the team has only around $50 million in salary commitments in 2021, about half what they were looking at after last winter. Perhaps the D-backs are going to use that financial flexibility this offseason, or look to their farm system for reinforcements (they check in at ninth in our rankings right now), but their trades seemed more of the cost-cutting variety, and with the Dodgers still the Dodgers and the Padres on the rise, a contending season for Arizona is going to be difficult without more talent.
The Snakes were expected to contend in 2020, but a brutal first month-plus of the season got in the way of those expectations. So they approached the deadline as sellers. … As for the young talent they got back, outfielder Stuart Fairchild qualifies as interesting, albeit with a limited ceiling, and young arms Humberto Mejia and Julio Frias have some upside and could benefit from fresh coaching eyes. Overall, though, it’s a fairly modest return given the major-league talent Arizona gave up. They clearly waited too long to move Ray.
Bradley to the Reds for VanMeter, Fairchild: B
It’s hard not to wonder if Arizona might have gotten a better haul for one of baseball’s name-brand relievers. But relative to Bradley’s actual value, it’s a solid package.
Chafin to the Cubs for player to be named later or cash: B-
Depending on what they get, this will amount to either a slight payroll dump or a presumably low-level minor leaguer for the Snakes. Considering they traded a specialist reliever who’s currently injured, not bad.
Marte to the Marlins for Smith, Mejia and Frias: B+
Regarding Smith’s aforementioned tease, he specifically had a 3.41 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 66 innings through his first 12 outings of last season. Arizona has the right idea in thinking there might be more where that came from. Mejia has a 2.40 ERA in the minors, while Frias is coming off a 2.83 ERA at Low-A in 2019.
All told, a solid haul for barely more than a year’s worth of Marte’s services.
Ray and cash considerations to Blue Jays for Bergen: B+
Given his results and how little time he has remaining between him and the open market, it’s a wonder that Arizona got anything for Ray. What’s more, Bergen could actually be a useful addition. The lefty reliever has a 1.69 ERA and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors, and he already has some MLB experience.