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Arizona Acquires Juan Miranda

Earlier this month, new Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers declined first baseman Adam LaRoche‘s $7.5 million option for the 2011 season, preferring instead to pay a $1.5 million buyout. Yesterday, Towers sent a teenage arm to the New York Yankees to pick up a long-time minor leaguer with a LaRoche-like skill set.

Arizona acquired first baseman Juan Miranda from the Yankees in exchange for right-handed prospect Scott Allen. Miranda, 27 or 29 depending upon which bio you believe, has scarce big league experience, putting up a 112 wRC+ in 94 plate appearances with New York over the past three seasons. He defected from Cuba in 2004, but wasn’t granted citizenship in the Dominican Republic until 2006. The Yankees inked the lefty batter to a $2 million deal in ’06. In more than 1,200 Triple-A PA since, Miranda has a .287/.374/.481 triple-slash, an 11.4 percent walk rate and a .194 Isolated Power.

According to CHONE’s last projection update in late August, Miranda profiles as a .263/.333/.474 hitter (about +7 runs per 150 games, or 625 PA) at the major league level. LaRoche comes in at .268/.337/.477 (+5 runs/150 games). [Update: Just to clarify, CHONE’s runs/150 games, or runs per 625 PA, is based on what a player’s projection would look like in a neutral league and park; that’s why Miranda’s slash stats are slightly lower than LaRoche’s but his runs/150 figure is higher – the triple-slash stats are for Miranda in New York and LaRoche in Arizona, while the runs/150 figures are neutralized. The slash stats are in a particular offensive environment, while the runs/150 aren’t.] It’s hard to say what the difference between the two is defensively, though LaRoche has generally rated poorly by both UZR and Total Zone. At worst, Miranda figures to be a similar defender, and he’s likely better. Basically, the D-Backs got a LaRoche doppelganger who will make a hair more than the major league minimum.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Miranda is more than first base insurance for Arizona – he’s no special player, and the team could still pursue other options via free agency or trade. But an interesting side question to this trade is, what does this mean for Brandon Allen and Gerardo Parra?

The 6-foot-2, 235 pound Allen played first base exclusively prior to 2010, save for some rookie ball games in the outfield with the White Sox in 2004. But Allen played 33 games in the left field with Triple-A Reno this past year and 14 with the big league club. He showed lots of patience (17.4 BB%) and pop (.267 ISO) at Reno in 2010, but he did that in a cozy offensive environment, and CHONE projects him as a .245/.328/.440 major league batter (-4 Runs/150). If Miranda is the first baseman on Opening Day, Arizona would have to weigh whether Parra’s quality defense makes up for his weak hitting (.280/.324/.399 projection, -13 runs/150). Over the course of a full season, we’re talking about an offensive gap of nearly a win in favor of Allen.

Scott Allen, meanwhile, goes to the Yankees in the Miranda deal. The 19-year-old was an 11th round draft pick in the 2009 draft. In 2010, he posted rates of 9.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 78 innings pitched at South Bend of the Low-A Midwest League. According to Baseball America, the 6-1, 170 pound Allen sits 87-91 MPH with his fastball, mixing in a decent high-70s slider and changeup and a fringy curveball. Allen didn’t crack either Kevin Goldstein’s or John Sickels’ recent lists of top Diamondbacks prospects.

This looks like a worthwhile, if minor, deal for both teams. Arizona gets a cheap, functional first baseman who might prevent them from overpaying for a second-tier free agent option, and the Yankees get a young arm with some upside for a hitter who had no future in the organization.