Oh Winter Meetings, what would we do without you?
Just when the baseball world was starting to process the fact that Zack Greinke is now an Arizona Diamondback, the D-backs went and shook things up again.
On Tuesday night, Arizona acquired former Atlanta Braves ace Shelby Miller as well as minor league prospect Gabe Speier in a trade. In exchange, Atlanta received outfielder Ender Inciarte and shortstop Dansby Swanson, who was the first-overall pick in June’s draft, alongside right-hander Aaron Blair — one of the Diamondbacks’ top pitching prospects.
Was the cost high? Yes.
Inciarte was an every-day outfielder for Arizona, under control for five more seasons. He hit .303 in 2015, stealing 21 bases and tallying 38 extra base hits. Swanson was the organization’s top prospect, and he hit .289 in his first season of minor league ball and helped lead the Hillsboro Hops (Short-season A) to a Northwest League championship. Blair seemed to be on the cusp of reaching the Majors, as he struck out 120 batters between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015.
D-backs general manager Dave Stewart isn’t oblivious to the talent he gave up in the trade, but he is confident that the move was the right call.
“I don’t think it’s risky. If I thought it was risky I wouldn’t have done the deal,” Stewart told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Wednesday. “We gave up two number one picks and we gave up what we consider to be an everyday outfielder. The price of a No. 2 starter — a guy who has the opportunity to be a No. 1, 200 innings per season — it just depends how you value it.”
Despite Stewart’s conviction that the trade for Miller wasn’t risky, there was plenty of disagreement. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, one baseball executive anonymously called it “the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Stewart doesn’t care.
“I don’t even feel the need to respond to them, especially somebody that won’t even put their name in the newspaper. If you said it, stand up and say you said it, first of all,” Stewart said. “I think that any team in the same position that we’re in would’ve done the same thing to enhance their starting rotation. If you’ve got an opportunity to win then it makes all the sense in the world to make a deal like this. If you’re going to be a bottom dweller that doesn’t have an opportunity then it doesn’t make sense.”
Still, others believe that trading away Inciarte, Swanson and Blair wasn’t a good move, going so far as to say that it could destroy the future of the organization.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Nashville during Winter Meetings on Wednesday, Stewart disagreed with that thought.
“I would say that is incorrect. That’s three players. Believe me, they’re very highly regarded players. But three players do not make our future. That’s a part of our future and a great part of our futures, but we’ve got second round picks, third round picks, fourth round picks…the draft goes to 40.”
Still, trading prospects away isn’t something Stewart enjoys doing. In fact, he said he heavily values prospects and their development.
“When you make deals, people always ask me what is the worst part of my job? And it’s always been sometimes you do things that you don’t want to,” Stewart added at the press conference. “Believe me, I didn’t take any great pleasure in trading Touki Toussaint or Aaron Blair or, in this particular case, Dansby Swanson. But in the short-term it makes our major league team better. It gives us an opportunity to win today, and that’s what my thought was in the moves that we made.”
Considering the state of the Diamondbacks’ farm system and the fact that Arizona has repeatedly said addressing their starting rotation was the biggest offseason goal, the move actually makes a lot of sense.
“We feel that we’re in the right place at this time to contend and move forward and if we were going to do that we had to improve our starting rotation with a top of rotation type guy that gives us an opportunity and gives us a chance, that gives us the workload that Shelby Miller will give us,” Stewart told Bickley and Marotta.
The 25-year-old right-hander already has three seasons in the bigs under his belt with at least 31 starts each season. Despite his record of just 6-17 in 2015, he posted an ERA of 3.02 with 171 strikeouts over 205.1 innings and allowed just 13 home runs. From a financial perspective, he’s also under control for three more years ,which is another plus.
With Miller as the No. 2 starter, Stewart said Arizona is starting to look like World Series contenders.
“I think as a whole with Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Patrick Corbin, Rubby De La Rosa, Robbie Ray, Chase Anderson, then we’ve got Archie Bradley, Zack Godley, we’ve got some depth now in our rotation,” he said. “Whether we become a World Series team or not, that will depend on how well we play, how well we execute and how we go about our business. But we certainly have the pieces to be there at the end of the year if we do all things correctly.”
But even with the newly-minted depth to their rotation, the hot stove isn’t cooling down just yet. Stewart said there might be another move left up the Diamondbacks’ sleeve before Winter Meetings come to a close on Thursday.
“I’m comfortable but I’d still like to find a piece for our bullpen. That would be the wishlist,” he said. “If we can pad it from the front side that’d be great if we can do something on the back end that would be great as well.”
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