Jan. 24, 2013
Since there aren’t many blockbuster trades involving 25-year-old two-time All-Stars and occasional MVP candidates, the reaction to the Justin Upton trade in the baseball world has been plentiful. Here’s a summary of some of the more interesting takes from various experts and analysts.
FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal writes that while Upton didn’t necessarily fit into the D-backs’ team-first philosophy due to being — in the words of one executive — “not a leader, an all-out hustle type,” his trade will hurt from a performance standpoint for a team that’s now lacking star power.
Give me Justin’s 40-homer, .900 OPS promise. A team won’t win with 25 Paul O’Neills slamming their helmets or 25 David Ecksteins hustling like crazy. No, a team needs difference-makers. Justin certainly is one, and he’s still only 25.
who is the most feared hitter in the Arizona lineup now? Prado? Ross? Jason Kubel? Miguel Montero?
Not good enough.
ESPN’s Keith Law, even less impressed, criticizes the D-backs for getting “50 cents on the dollar” for Upton, also referencing the Trevor Bauer trade earlier in the offseason in terms of not getting sufficient return for a valuable piece. The takeaway:
For the second time this offseason, (the D-backs have) taken less than full value in return for a player the whole industry knew the team wanted to move. … Arizona’s return boils down to this: One year of Martin Prado, six years of a fifth starter in Randall Delgado, two fringy prospects and one non-prospect. If that sounds like a good deal to you, I have some beachfront property in Phoenix to sell you.
To be fair, Law states that he’s basing his assessment on the D-backs getting only one year out of Martin Prado, who’s scheduled to become a free agent after the 2013 season. But GM Kevin Towers said Thursday that he hopes to have an extension for Prado finalized by the start of spring training, and that could change the dynamic of the deal based on this analysis from Law’s piece:
Prado is a versatile player who’ll probably be Arizona’s full-time third baseman, solving a need for the club. … He’s an above-average defender at third who generates most of his offensive value with high contact rates; when he hits .300, which he has done three times in the past four seasons, he’s potentially a three- to four-win player at third base … so this is a bet that he’ll keep making contact and fill the void at third. That’s enough to offset the loss of Upton’s bat and glove for one season.
In a similar vein, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted this good news/bad news analysis regarding the perception of the D-backs around baseball at this point:
General perception of D-Backs among rival execs: 1) They have a very good, underrated team for ’13. 2)Squandered a lot of value this winter.
He followed that up with this tweet regarding the D-backs’ addition of Prado:
Rival evaluators on Prado/D-Backs ’13: A perfect fit, in terms of the type of player that he is and what Gibson/KT want in change of culture
Olney did not clarify the “change of culture” comment when asked, but it seems likely that he was referring to Towers mentioning during Thursday’s press conference that the D-backs prefer a “grinding, gritty player — hard-nosed.”
That preference isn’t necessarily shared, though. ESPN’s Jayson Stark polled seven front-office types and came back with the following results:
We surveyed seven big-league executives and scouts Thursday. And while they had reservations, all but one of them would have made this deal without blinking.
“Great deal for Atlanta,” said one AL exec.
“Love, love, love this for Atlanta,” said an NL exec.
“Any time you can trade for a player like that,” said another NL executive, “an All-Star-caliber player who’s that young (25 years old), it has to improve your team.”
For those wondering, the one dissenter cited the loss of Prado’s leadership for a team that now has little of it with Prado in Arizona and Chipper Jones in retirement.
And for the sabermetric types, Grantland has an analytical piece titled “Why no one is declaring Arizona the winner of the Justin Upton trade,” with the general sentiment being that the winner of any trade is whichever team gets the best player. To that end, writer Jonah Keri points to the D-backs’ signing of Cody Ross to create an outfield overflow followed by the trade of Upton — a better player by almost any measure — to resolve it. An excerpt:
Though the best player in the trade went to another team, it’s possible that Justin Upton going to Atlanta doesn’t make the Diamondbacks significantly worse in 2013. From Arizona’s perspective, that’s about the best thing you can say about this deal. …
What’s most frustrating about this trade is that the Diamondbacks may well have been contenders in 2013 if they hadn’t gone Crazy Eddie on their roster this winter. The D-Backs scored 46 more runs than they allowed last season, suggesting a team with a true talent level closer to 86 wins than the 81 they actually won. A healthy Upton plus some growth from the team’s highly impressive stable of young arms may well have propelled them into the thick of the NL West race. …
The most likely result of all this maneuvering is a Diamondbacks team that’s somehow worse this season than it would have been had it done nothing, and worse in 2014 and 2015, with key players gone and the prospects coming back years away from producing value or possibly never delivering much value at all.
On the more favorable side, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that, according to one rival scouting director, the D-backs’ acquisition of minor league shortstop Nick Ahmed in the deal gives the organization some impressive depth at the position.
Rival scouting director says #Dbacks now have three of top 15 SS prospects in #mlb
The other two shortstops referenced are Chris Owings, who spent most of last year at Double-A Mobile, and Didi Gregorious, who came over from the Reds in the Bauer trade and is expected to compete for the starting job in spring training.
Finally, for those of you looking for some good-for-the-Diamondbacks analysis, there’s a very sabermetrics-heavy piece from Dave Cameron at FanGraphs, with the overall takeaway being that the D-backs and Braves added similar value in the trade.
From just a 2013 perspective, this deal probably doesn’t move the needle that much. Both teams received one above average player, and no one else in the deal is likely to make a huge impact at the big league level this year. It’s the years after this one that will determine whether this trade was worth it for both sides.
Hey, it’s something.
— Matt Swartz
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