The Arizona Diamondbacks made an unpopular trade this weekend, one that on paper is extremely hard to justify.
Sending 2014 first-round draft pick Touki Toussaint to Atlanta along with Bronson Arroyo’s contract for a utility player was just what it seemed like — a salary dump. Trading away top-end talent in the organization is nothing new to Arizona. Remember the three-team trade with Tampa Bay and Cincinnati in which Arizona gave up pitching prospect David Holmberg just to clear Heath Bell’s money? Holmberg hasn’t amounted to anything yet, but still let’s not make a habit of this because it’s just not good for business.
That chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart are in this position has everything to do with past mistakes, mistakes that were made before each of those men got here. Now they are cleaning up other people’s messes and, unfortunately for them, having to make decisions that aren’t necessarily all about baseball but often mostly about finances, balancing the budget and getting some financial flexibility down the road — something fans just don’t get too excited about.
1) It started when the D-backs traded catcher Miguel Montero to the Cubs for Jefferson Mejia and Zach Godley in a move that saved Arizona $40 million. Miggy was a good player, not great and probably was overpaid by a few million for his true value. But since he was traded, Arizona has had five different players catch for them in less than half a season — Tuffy Gosewisch, Gerald Laird, Jordan Pacheco, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Welington Castillo. And their top minor league catcher, Peter O’Brien, decided he didn’t want to catch anymore and moved to the outfield.
2) Then, the D-backs made the decision to cut Cody Ross. Arizona spent $9.5 million to make him go away. Him and his 10 home runs and 53 runs batted in over two years just wasn’t cutting it, so he got cut. Signing him to a three-year, $26 million deal paved the way to trade Justin Upton, but it was a total waste of money as Arizona got no value out of Ross. He was so bad that they couldn’t trade him and ended up cutting their losses, and they were expensive losses.
3) Trading Trevor Cahill to the Braves. In doing so, Arizona paid $6.5 million of his $12 million salary to make him disappear. Yes they saved $5.5 million because they found a total sucker in Atlanta to take him, but still it is money wasted. That Cahill was given a four-year, $30 million contract extension from the Diamondbacks was just dumb, dumb, dumb.
4) Trading the remaining $10 million left on Bronson Arroyo’s contract to allocate funds for future use came at a steep price — pitching prospect Toussaint.
Basically Atlanta bought the Diamondbacks’ first-round pick from last year for $10 million. Arroyo seemed like a sure bet at the time — he had never been on the disabled list and was a consistent 200-inning pitcher. But the move backfired, Arroyo got hurt last year and is likely not going to pitch this season. La Russa says the $10 million saved will be spent down the road not go in the owners pocket.
La Russa and Stewart do have this club headed in the right direction. The D-backs are young and exciting and hanging around the race for a playoff spot in mid June. The organization added quality young power arms in Rubby De La Rosa, Robbie Ray, Allen Webster and a former Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson. They signed a Rookie of the Year candidate in Yasmany Tomas and he is paying big dividends. Castillo looks like a solid catcher who can really help this club both offensively and defensively. They hired the right manger in Chip Hale who is getting the most out of this team on a daily basis.
So while making trades for financial reasons is never good, it is part of the business and something that unfortunately they are doing because of past mistakes.