Are the Diamondbacks Building a Contender or Just Spinning Their Tires?
Arizona Diamondbacks 2014
Recent moves dating back to before the 2013 season
During the 2012 season, rumors started swirling at the trade deadline, that Justin Upton could be traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Eventually he was moved with third basemen Chris Johnson the following offseason, to the Braves for third basemen Martin Prado, shortstop prospect Nick Ahmed, along with starting pitching prospects Randall Delgado and Zeke Spruill. While this appeared to be a good trade for both teams at the time, it left the Diamondbacks with a significant power void in the middle of their lineup. Trading Justin Upton helped to do what Kevin Towers wanted, in changing the culture of their offense, and focusing on making better contact. However with free agent Cody Ross replacing Justin Upton, the Diamondbacks felt like they had a void to fill in the middle of their lineup.
Mark Trumbo vs. Justin Upton
Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers, made the move to bring in slugging outfielder Mark Trumbo this offseason. In the trade he included Arizona's number two pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs, and Arizona's top outfield prospect Adam Eaton. Trumbo possesses a similar offensive skill set to Justin Upton, with his homerun power, but he has significantly worse on base skills and defense in the outfield. Another similarity between Upton and Trumbo, are the rates at which both strike out. Fangraphs shows that in both of their careers, Trumbo has posted a 25.1% strikeout rate, while Upton has posted a 23.3% strikeout rate. If Upton was striking out too much for the Diamondbacks in the middle of the order, what are they expecting from Mark Trumbo? Further examination of the numbers provided by fangraphs, shows us that the trade off from Justin Upton to Mark Trumbo, leaves the Diamondbacks with a lesser talent playing corner outfield for them in 2014.
The players that Arizona got in return for Justin Upton, were a combination of skillsets, but Prado for Chris Johnson appears to be a pretty even trade off so far. Analysis of this trade will include the other three players acquired, Zeke Spruill, Randall Delgado and Nick Ahmed. Zeke Spruill got a look with the Diamondbacks last season, and put on display, major control issues in 11 and a third innings of work. He was wildly ineffective, and may be limited to only pitching in relief in future big league stints. Randall Delgado started 19 games as a 23 year old for the Diamondbacks last season, and showed enough promise that the Diamondbacks will give him an opportunity this season. He will be counted on, now that more than one of their projected starters to open the season have fallen victim to injury. 24 year old Nick Ahmed, played all of his age 23 season at Double-A Mobile for the Diamondbacks, with very mediocre results. He batted .236 with four homeruns and 46 RBI, but his on base percentage was only .288 and he slugged only .324. Overall it appears that the Diamondbacks may have settled for a less than stellar package of players in the Justin Upton trade, only to find that Upton's departure left a huge void in their lineup. Another recent move that the Diamondbacks made, was trading potential everyday third basemen, Matt Davidson for closer Addison Reed. While Davidson is still a prospect and Reed is somewhat established, Davidson did show promise in his time in the big leagues last season. Trades like this, put a flawed organizational philosophy on display, when a closer is valued over an everyday player.
Between trading pitching depth in number 2 pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs, and trading top third base prospect Matt Davidson for a closer, the Diamondbacks are thin at both positions right now. Diamondbacks' ace Patrick Corbin recently found out that he needs Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged UCL, and will miss the season as a result. Pitcher Daniel Hudson is recovering from recent Tommy John surgery and is not expected back until mid-June. Free agent acquisition Bronson Arroyo, is also a potential disabled list candidate to start the season, with a bulging disc in his back. The Diamondbacks are now left trying to fill the voids left by injuries in an area of the team from which they traded away their depth. Right now, the Diamondbacks would probably like to have Tyler Skaggs back on the team, as he has a similar pitching style and skillset to their injured ace, Patrick Corbin. The Diamondbacks are not afforded this opportunity though, because of recent mistakes made by their General Manager Kevin Towers. Diamondbacks management may not have liked Justin Upton's attitude or approach to the game, but he and the Atlanta Braves made it work last season, with 96 wins and a division title.
Overall it may have appeared that the Diamondbacks had a good offseason, but the additions made to their team, were a more expensive replacement for what they recently traded away. Trading young everyday players for one inning relief pitchers, is not a great way to maintain future success. Ultimately the Diamondbacks have shortened their window of contention, with recent questionable moves. This does not guarantee that they will not contend for a playoff spot in 2014, but their current predicament shows that it is always important to maintain depth and keep the best talent within the organization. Smarter decisions by Kevin Towers, may have allowed the Diamondbacks to comfortably fill voids left by injury, going into the 2014 season.