Last offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks made a potentially franchise-altering trade.
In a deal with the Atlanta Braves, the Diamondbacks acquired right-hander Shelby Miller and minor league left-hander Gabe Speier in exchange for outfielder Ender Inciarte, pitching prospect Aaron Blair and 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson.
The D-Backs' front office faced a lot of scrutiny around the league at the time of the move, and they still do now. In fact, the team's higher-ups are considering overhauling the front office. That's not all because of this one move, but it certainly plays a role.
I'm going to go out and say it: the Braves fleeced the Diamondbacks in this trade.
Atlanta headed to Arizona last night for the beginning of a four-game series. In uniform for the Braves was Swanson; in Triple-A for the Diamondbacks was Miller after struggling mightily this season.
However, I'm going to try my best and defend this trade from the Diamondbacks' perspective.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but you have to remember the circumstances the Diamondbacks were in when making the trade.
On Dec. 8, 2015, the Diamondbacks made the biggest splash of the offseason, signing starting pitcher Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million contract. Still, the team felt that they needed another ace-type piece in their rotation to really contend going forward.
That led them to the acquisition of Miller, who, as General Manager Dave Stewart told the Arizona Republic, was actually a cheaper price than that of Miami Marlins' ace Jose Fernandez or Cleveland Indians' ace Danny Salazar.
Miller, from every standpoint imaginable, was an organization's dream.
He was coming off a year where he posted a 3.02 ERA and a 3.45 FIP over 33 starts. He had three years of team control, all of which would have been relatively cheap through the arbitration process. And he was the top of the rotation piece that the Diamondbacks envisioned they were missing.
I'm not saying that I'm the greatest when it comes to predictions, but I even thought that the Diamondbacks did what they needed to become a contending team when it came time for my NL West predictions.
Sure, the return was a lot. That goes without saying. But let's look at it this way.
With two new starting pitchers in the rotation, Blair became an odd man out. The Diamondbacks did not have a spot open for a big league ready right-handed starter with Greinke, Miller, Patrick Corbin, Rubby De La Rosa and Robbie Ray in the fold, all of whom they could control through at least 2018.
They also had Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley, both big league ready starting pitchers that arguably carried more upside than Blair. So where does that leave him? Blair ends up becoming a bullpen arm, working in long or middle relief. In the Diamondbacks' mind at the time, he's expendable.
Inciarte was a tougher giveaway than Blair, but even still, there was definitely some reasoning behind the move.
Arizona still had some very capable outfielders to handle their spots on the big league club. A.J. Pollock is a star, David Peralta is serviceable (perhaps even more than that after posting a 138 OPS+ in 2015) and an opening would provide a spot for Yasmany Tomas, a Cuban who they gave $68.5 million to.
Again, though Inciarte posted a .303 batting average last year with a .747 OPS and great outfield defense, he could be considered somewhat expendable based on the Diamondbacks' situation and their having of other players that do provide value in their outfield.
And it must be remembered that Pollock, who was worth 6.6 fWAR last season, has missed every single game this season due to a fractured right elbow that he suffered in Spring Training. Though he'll return soon, that loss cannot be blamed upon the Diamondbacks' front office.
The same goes for Peralta, who only played in 48 games this year due to injury. In fact, his season is over.
So the Diamondbacks traded from a position that they thought they had a surplus in, but instead got burned when two of their three starting outfielders bit the injury bug.
Lastly, though, Arizona dealt Dansby Swanson. And I'm not quite sure why. It's hard to me to try and justify why he was included, but I will do my best.
Swanson, at the time, was not supposed to be in the Major Leagues until 2017 or 2018 at the soonest. He was just drafted, and it's hard to expect a player to be up as fast as he has come up.
The Diamondbacks wanted to contend now. And Swanson was a way to get the deal done, obviously, providing the prospect value it takes to get the trade partner to say yes. To Arizona, it appeared, he wouldn't be ready for awhile, and even if they were still contending then, it's still a gamble, as it is with every prospect.
Yes, I know Swanson was the No. 1 overall pick. And that the No. 1 overall pick should be at least a somewhat valuable Major League player. (There's something to be said that the first No. 1 overall draft pick got into the National Baseball Hall of Fame just this year.) But even still, it's a risk that might not even be ready for a few years.
But without a guarantee, and the fact that they'd be getting what they thought would be a great, potentially top-of-the-rotation type starter, I can almost see where they were coming from. The Diamondbacks dealt players from places where they thought they had surpluses, and sometimes, that's the best way to carry out an organization.
Unfortunately, they got burned for it, and I'm not sure that the members of the front office will ever recover from what is shaping up to be one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history.
Baseball season begins in a month. Spring Training games began last week, but the real news is that regular season baseball is just four weeks away. This Saturday night, I will be previewing the National League West division, after previewing the East and Central divisions each of the past two weeks.
1. San Francisco Giants -- 2015 Record: 84-78; Projection: 93-69
I don't believe in correlation without causation, but the fact that the Giants won the World Series in 2010, missed the playoffs in 2011, won the World Series in 2012, missed the playoffs in 2013, won the World Series in 2014, and missed the playoffs in 2015 is fairly interesting. The Giants appear to retool every other year to then subsequently win the World Series. And boy did they retool this offseason.
San Francisco added Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span over the winter, deepening both their rotation and lineup. On the offensive side of the ball, the Giants boast the likes of Joe Panik, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, and Matt Duffy, as well as Span, to give them a great order from the top to the bottom. This was a team that posted the second-best wRC+ in baseball without Span, so 2016 should be a similarly good offensive year for the team.
The Giants' downfall came in their rotation last year. As a group, that unit was worth a total of 7.2 fWAR, sixth-worst in the Majors. With pitching that bad, I'm actually surprised that the Giants played as well as they did last year. The front office obviously noticed the same issues, and they pounced. Cueto and Samardzija now give the Giants a much improved rotation that also includes Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain. This improved pitching, plus the fact that it is an even year, should carry the Giants to a division title.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks -- 2015 Record: 79-83; Projection: 91-71
I guess I still haven't learned my lesson, have I? I've always been high on teams that are considered the bigger winners of the offseason and then they falter and do not reach expectations. The Diamondbacks are different, though. They did something similar to what the Cubs did last offseason. The Diamondbacks took a young core in the form of Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, and Patrick Corbin and supplemented to it. That's different than the 2015 Padres, for instance, who basically built their team through free agents and trades. The Diamondbacks built their team, and now they are supplementing it. This is why I think this will work.
Who were those additions, you ask? Well, their biggest came as a huge rotation upgrade. Zack Greinke will now be leading a Diamondbacks' staff that also includes fellow new addition Shelby Miller, as well as Patrick Corbin, Rubby De La Rosa, and Robbie Ray. The rotation was a place of struggle for Arizona last season, and they definitely made the necessary moves this offseason to give them one of the more formidable staffs in baseball. Their bullpen, too, got an upgrade. This time it comes in the form of Tyler Clippard, who will serve as a nice bridge to closer Brad Ziegler. Last season, the Diamondbacks ranked 27th in fWAR from pitchers.
In the lineup, the Diamondbacks supplemented Goldschmidt, Pollock, and Peralta with Jean Segura. They hope Segura can find his bat in 2016. If so, he'll be an extremely good upgrade in the middle infield. Arizona also needs Yasmany Tomas, Jake Lamb, or Nick Ahmed to step it up in 2016 in order to make up for the loss of Ender Inciarte.
The Diamondbacks will be on the cusp of making the playoffs, but if everything goes well for them, I wouldn't be surprised if they are still playing come October.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers -- 2015 Record: 92-70; Projection: 88-74
It appears that the Dodgers have an unlimited amount of funds, but they still could not get David Price or Zack Greinke to sign with them in free agency. Even a deal with Hisashi Iwakuma fell apart, leaving the team to settle for deals with Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, and Yaisel Sierra. The Dodgers won the NL West in 2015, but this was partly because their pitchers combined for the second-highest fWAR total and fifth-lowest ERA in the Majors.
In 2016, where are the Dodgers going to get their pitching? Greinke, who was worth 5.9 fWAR, is gone. The Japanese Maeda is something of an unknown. Hyun-jin Ryu missed the entire 2015 season with a torn shoulder. Clayton Kershaw is the only anchor in this rotation. If it works out, more power to them. But, I'd rather have the Diamondbacks' Greinke, Miller, and Corbin in a three-game set as compared to Kershaw, Anderson, and Kazmir or Ryu.
On the offensive, the Dodgers should be just fine. Their lineup posted the third-best wRC+ in baseball last year, and it should be even better this year with a full season from top prospect Corey Seager. Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig are the heart of a power-heavy order that is among the best in the league. The Dodgers still have the firepower to make a run deep into the postseason, but their pitching remains a question mark.
4. San Diego Padres -- 2015 Record: 74-88; Projection: 74-88
The Padres' 2015 season was nothing short of a disappointment. The team put all their chips on the table last offseason, acquiring Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, Derek Norris, James Shields, and Craig Kimbrel via trade and free agent signings. Despite all those big names, the Padres were actually worse in 2015 than they were the prior year (77-85). Kimbrel and Upton are gone, but the Padres seem to be in between fully rebuilding or trying to contend. This uncertainty will lead to another subpar season.
Perhaps the biggest offseason acquisition for the Padres was the hiring of new manager Andy Green. He has never managed at the big league level, last serving as the Diamondbacks' third base coach, but needs to spark this team and develop a chemistry that they did not have last year.
The Padres' offense got additions in the form of Jon Jay and Alexei Ramirez this offseason, but the loss of Justin Upton in the middle of the order will hurt. Even with Upton posting a 122 OPS+, San Diego was in the bottom third in baseball in wRC+. They can be better this year if Norris can improve on his 99 OPS+ in 2015 and if Ramirez serves as a true upgrade over Alexi Amarista at shortstop (which he should).
In the pitching department, the Padres shouldn't be terrible. Their staff actually posted the eighth-best xFIP in baseball and top-three starters, Tyson Ross, Shields, and Andrew Cashner, all return. In the bullpen, Fernando Rodney takes over as closer. If the Padres want to beat this projection, they need their offense to pick up the slack. It's hard to see that happening, when the team appears to lack a real direction.
5. Colorado Rockies -- 2015 Record: 68-94; Projection: 70-92
The Rockies want to contend, but I just don't think that is possible. It may happen sooner rather than later, however. In 2016, the Rockies indirectly proved that they wanted to contend, signing Gerardo Parra and acquiring Jake McGee from the Rays to upgrade their lineup and bullpen, respectively. This team won just 68 games in 2015 and is not complete or deep enough to make any real noise in the National League this upcoming year.
I am a fan of the Rockies lineup heading into the season. Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and the Coors Field effect should give the Rockies one of the higher scoring offenses in the National League. Last season, though they did have Troy Tulowitzki for the first half of the year or so, the Rockies scored the fifth-most runs in baseball.
The only issue with the Rockies is their pitching. That's a pretty major issue, to be fair. Colorado's projected rotation consists of Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Bettis, Jordan Lyles, Jon Gray, and Tyler Chatwood. De La Rosa and Bettis each posted ERA+s over 100 (considered average). The bullpen should be improved, because the Rockies also added Jason Motte and Chad Qualls to go along with McGee. It's hard to know how much of a difference all these moves will make, but the Rockies probably won't be in the conversation in the National League this year.
Next up: AL East.
The Diamondbacks are setting themselves up to be a contender when 2016 comes around.
Very quietly, they have already been turning heads this season, going 63-66 coming into today. Many expected them to be much worse, considering they were the worst team in baseball last year.
But in all reality, the Diamondbacks have a great young core, including two of the National League's best players, Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, who rank second and fourth in the NL in fWAR, respectively.
Overall, all eight of the Diamondbacks' starters are under the age of 30.
So why are the Diamondbacks all of a sudden possible contenders in 2016?
Even with Goldschmidt and Pollock, Arizona has some really nice pieces that could continue to develop as they begin to enter their primes.
Outfielder David Peralta (.872 OPS) has been a breakout candidate this year. Cuban signee Yasmany Tomas (.739 OPS) continues to develop into a solid Major League hitter. And rookie shortstop Jake Lamb (.736 OPS) has been above average both offensively and defensively.
With all their offense comes their pitching. The return of Patrick Corbin from Tommy John surgery is a welcome sight. Add top prospect Archie Bradley to the mix and a possible mid-to-top free agent signing and the Diamondbacks have one of the more formidable rotations in the National League.
Many questioned the Diamondbacks thinking when they attempted to acquire Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline. However, Chapman is signed through next season, and if Arizona thinks they can contend, he would be a great supplement to an already above-average bullpen. If the Diamondbacks did get him and went ahead and re-signed him, that'd be an even greater and more worthwhile addition.
Obviously, they think they can contend. So, in 2016, watch out for the Arizona Diamondbacks. They have the talent to be a contender and very well may be.
Using Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds, you should be able to tell who has the best chance of doing just that. Teams really should take those odds to determine whether they should be buyers and sellers because more often than not, they are right.
After games being played on July 6 last year, five of the ten eventual postseason teams had a 80 percent chance of making the playoffs or better. Every team that did have an 80 percent or greater chance of making the playoffs on this date last year did.
The team with the highest percent chance to make the playoffs on July 6 that ultimately didn't was the Milwaukee Brewers, who had a 71 percent chance to punch their ticket, but collapsed down the stretch and failed to make it.
Only three (Orioles, Royals, and Pirates) had less than a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs following action on July 6. By July 31, the Orioles were up to a 71 percent chance, the Royals were at a 17 percent chance, and the Pirates were at a 46 percent chance.
Knowing this, I will use Baseball Prospectus' current postseason predictions to determine who should buy and who should sell at the 2015 Trade Deadline.
All In (85% or greater)
St. Louis Cardinals (99.3%)
There's no reason why the Cardinals, who own MLB's best record at 54-28, should consider selling. In fact, Baseball Prospectus says that they have a 99.3 percent chance of making the playoffs, leaving just a very small chance for an extreme collapse. If the Cardinals play just .500 ball the rest of the way, that would put them on pace for 94 wins, which would definitely put them in prime position to punch their ticket to the postseason. The Cardinals have no reason to do anything but buy.
Los Angeles Dodgers (92.9%)
The Dodgers have the second-highest playoff percentage in the league, and nothing suggests that this team won't buy at the trade deadline. I predicted them to go out and get Johnny Cueto, perhaps the best pitcher available not named Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are always willing to spend money and prospects to make their team better and can easily justify doing so at the deadline.
Washington Nationals (85.6%)
The Nationals have arguably not played their best baseball yet, but still have an 85.6 percent chance to make the playoffs. They could use some reinforcements in their bullpen, but most of the additions the Nationals will be getting will be players coming back from injury, such as Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg. They may not need to make a ton of moves in July, but if they do, they have good reason to do so.
Houston Astros (84.7%)
The Astros have already shown interest in some of the top pitchers that will be available, and Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds completely backs that up. Houston's playoff percentage, at 84.7 percent, is so close to 85 percent that I had to shove them into this category. The Astros have showed that while they are a bit of a surprise, they still can win ballgames and do it over a period of time. The Astros by no means are "pretenders," as they have been able to hold a comfortable AL West lead since late April.
Should be buyers (70-85%)
Pittsburgh Pirates (81.3%), Chicago Cubs (73.1%)
The Pirates and Cubs have a case of some serious bad luck. They are playing in the National League's toughest division and would be either leading or close to leading any other division in the league. The only reason I'm wary of either of these teams buying at the deadline is because they are not division leaders and have more of a chance to collapse and fall out of the playoff race altogether. Unless they believe they have a real shot at the Cardinals (which it appears they don't), they shouldn't completely unload their farm systems to go out and get the best guy on the market.
Kansas City Royals (75.3%)
Of the three teams in this category, I am most comfortable with the Royals buying at the trade deadline due to the fact that they lead their division by a comfortable margin and need just one or two pieces to really put the pressure on the rest of the division. All signs point to the Royals making the playoffs again this year, so I would go ahead and pencil them in as buyers at the deadline.
Los Angeles Angels (64.8%)
The Angels are in a good position right now. They are playing good baseball and have shown the need for an upgrade in left field. Of the teams listed in this section, I truly believe they are the best and most complete team, so therefore they should be buyers at the deadline. The Angels could use some rotation help as well, but if they patch up a few spots, they will get into the postseason. My verdict? They should be buyers.
AL East: New York Yankees (59.4%), Toronto Blue Jays (39.6%), Tampa Bay Rays (34.9%)
The American League East division is lumped together because the division is so muddled and close that really anyone could win it. Baseball Prospectus' simulations give the Yankees the best chance to go to the playoffs out of that division, but with some rotation help, the Blue Jays are the division's best team. The Yankees and Rays should stand pat or make small moves at the deadline, while the Blue Jays should go out and make a splash for a rotation piece.
Detroit Tigers (36.7%)
With Miguel Cabrera being sidelined with his hamstring injury, I'm going to pencil the Tigers in as should be sellers, but as this team continues to try and make a run once again, they will find themselves trying to buy. The Tigers are heading towards a Phillies-esque fall, and if they don't realize that soon, it could only get worse if they decide to buy at the trade deadline in hopes for one last run at the World Series.
Maybe/Stand Pat (20-30%)
New York Mets (28.9%)
Even if the Mets added an offensive piece, I don't think that would be enough to get them to the playoffs this season. With that said, however, I could see them dealing for a guy with more than one season of control, as their young and talented pitching staff comes into their own. The Mets couldn't justify buying for a rental player, but a guy who is at least signed through 2016 could make sense.
Baltimore Orioles (28.7%)
The Baltimore Orioles have a ton of free agents at the end of the season that they probably should move. The Orioles could be one of those teams that tries to get 25-man roster guys with more years of team control in return. The Orioles could be a team that buys and sells at the trade deadline, and I would be fine with that.
San Francisco Giants (22.9%)
It's an odd year. The Giants aren't good enough to win the NL West, and considering that they have to deal with the Cubs and Pirates for the Wild Card, it will be tough for them to really make a run into the postseason. However, they still have a good core group of guys and the team has proved me wrong before. They probably should stand pat.
Shouldn't buy (Less than 20%)
Minnesota Twins (18.2%)
The Twins just aren't that good. Sure, they had a good run earlier this season, but all the numbers suggest that they were going to fall out of first in the AL Central. The Twins should really try and go for 2016, when some of their rookies will be more polished.
Texas Rangers (15.0%)
While the Rangers shouldn't buy, they probably will, as I consider them to be in a similar boat as the Tigers are in. The Rangers could legitimately contend, but they would more than a couple of upgrades, to the point where they probably shouldn't go for it this season.
Cleveland Indians (13.5%)
The Indians were a popular postseason pick prior to this season, but Baseball Prospectus' simulations show that they would need some serious luck to actually get there. The Indians shouldn't sell any pieces other than the impending free agents because my gut says that they will be back in the postseason sooner than later.
Boston Red Sox (11.8%)
The Red Sox are in a tough position right now. It might not be time for a fire sale quite yet, but it's definitely not time to go out and try and contend this season.
Seattle Mariners (7.0%)
The Mariners have had some issues staying in the race this season, and while they shouldn't sell off their entire team, they really shouldn't be buyers either.
Oakland Athletics (6.8%)
The Athletics are already shopping their pieces and it looks like they will be sellers.
Arizona Diamondbacks (6.4%)
The Diamondbacks are a team that should stand pat. They still have pieces to contend in the near future and as their pitching improves with guys coming back from injury, they could be a legitimate contender coming 2016.
Atlanta Braves (3.8%)
The Braves, especially in the offseason, have committed to becoming a selling team. They don't have any exciting pieces, but even though they have kind of surprised, they should by no means buy.
Chicago White Sox (3.2%)
The White Sox are in a tough position. They reportedly won't have a fire sale, which makes sense considering how much money they spent in free agency, but they need to get rid of Jeff Samardzija and still be planning to try again in 2016.
San Diego Padres (2.7%)
The Padres could buy at the deadline, but in all reality, they shouldn't. They've got some important games coming up that they need to win if people start seriously seeing them as contenders. Once again, they are proving that the winners of the offseason don't necessarily win during the season.
Miami Marlins (1.6%)
The Marlins shouldn't go into a fire sale, but Mat Latos, Dan Haren, Brad Hand, and other free agents at the end of the season should be gone.
Cincinnati Reds (1.1%)
The Reds have Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and possibly Aroldis Chapman available, and while they won't sell until after they host the All-Star Game, I expect it to come, as it should.
Colorado Rockies (0.2%)
I'd pull the trigger and deal Troy Tulowitzki. It's time for a real change in Colorado if they want to be relevant down the road.
Milwaukee Brewers (0.2%)
The Brewers should enter into a fire sale.
Philadelphia Phillies (0.0%)
Now, these rankings and categories don't mean that each of these teams will do as I advise. Their postseason percentages could change and perhaps an addition is all they need to do that. However, Baseball Prospectus' odds are very accurate and should not be taken lightly. Teams really should use them to determine whether they could justify buying at the deadline.
Yesterday, the Mariners acquired outfielder Mark Trumbo in a six-player deal with the Diamondbacks, marking the first notable trade of this year's Trade Deadline season.
The Mariners offense is bad. They have scored the third-fewest runs in baseball, below really bad teams in the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds.
Yet, the Mariners still find themselves not quite out of it. They're only five games below .500 and only 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card. With just some life out of their offense, the Mariners could be much better.
Mark Trumbo could be that life. He hits for a lot of power and could drive in a lot of runs for a team that needs a lot of runs to be driven in.
I'm a saber-savvy person. And being saber-savvy means that RBI mean nothing, or almost nothing.
Trumbo has had issues getting on base throughout his career, as his career .298 OBP ranks 38th-worst among 353 qualified hitters in baseball since he came into the big leagues in 2010.
When Trumbo is not hitting home runs, he is not getting on base either. Despite a high .464 career slugging percentage and an even better .506 mark this season, Trumbo is barely better than average at creating runs on offense.
Trumbo's wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) is 115 this year, suggesting that he has created 15 percent more runs as compared to the league-average player, adjusting to park effects.
I'm expecting that number to go down. The only reason Trumbo's wRC+ is that high is due to his power. But Safeco Field, where the Mariners play, is an extreme pitcher's park.
So, basically what I'm saying is that Trumbo's home run rate is bound to go down. And since he cannot get on base, likely due to being a free-swinger, Trumbo's overall offensive value is going to go down. How much? I don't know.
What I do know, however, is that Trumbo will likely be replacing Logan Morrison at first base. Morrison, whose career slugging percentage is over 20 points below Trumbo's, has the same career wRC+, likely due to his higher walk rate and better OBP. This season, his wRC+ is a mere 15 points behind. But that could improve due to a low batting average on balls in play.
If you could fuse Logan Morrison and Mark Trumbo together, you would get the ideal player for the Mariners situation. But you can't. Morrison has the on-base abilities and Trumbo has the power. In Safeco Field, however, you need both to be productive.
The Mariners front office likely made this move in desperation of a flailing offense. The Mariners lost five games in a row and were just swept by the New York Yankees.
But digging deeper, Mark Trumbo will not fix the Mariners offense.