D-Backs Make Headlines While Angels, White Sox Make Gains

When Kevin Towers took over the Diamondbacks as general manager, one of the first things he did was make a trade. In Mark Reynolds, he had a 27-year-old entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. The big righty had clear strikeout problems, and he wasn’t known to be an asset anywhere in the field, but what made Reynolds was his power. Strength was his defining characteristic, and to that point Reynolds owned a career 108 wRC+ while being worth about eight WAR. In short, he was simultaneously flawed and useful, and Towers gave him up to the Orioles in exchange for a couple relievers. One of them is all right.

Towers is still in charge of the Diamondbacks as general manager, and the most recent thing he’s done is make a trade. As had been rumored for a good while, Towers pulled the trigger on a deal to bring in Mark Trumbo. Trumbo is a 27-year-old entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. The big righty has clear strikeout problems, and he’s not known to be an asset anywhere in the field, but what makes Trumbo is his power. Strength is his defining characteristic, and to this point Trumbo owns a career 111 wRC+ while having been worth about seven WAR. In short, he’s simultaneously flawed and useful, and Towers got him from the Angels in exchange for Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs. Both of them could be quality young players.

The situation, naturally, is different for the Diamondbacks organization. And general managers and all people are always welcome to change their minds about things based on new information. But Monday night, on MLB Network, Towers went on and emphasized that he wanted to add some power to his lineup. Comparing the moves makes for an interesting parallel, because while Reynolds and Trumbo aren’t identical, they are different brands of the same thing. Towers sold one of them low, and he bought one of them high.

I guess I should lay out all of the details, because this is actually a three-way trade between the Diamondbacks, Angels, and White Sox. In sum:

  • Arizona gets: Mark Trumbo, PTBNL from Chicago, PTBNL from Los Angeles
  • Arizona gives: Tyler Skaggs, Adam Eaton
  • Los Angeles gets: Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago
  • Los Angeles gives: Mark Trumbo, PTBNL
  • Chicago gets: Adam Eaton
  • Chicago gives: Hector Santiago, PTBNL

The first remark is the harshest. While Trumbo’s a fairly well-known player, and while three-way trades are always good for intrigue, it might well work out that this trade doesn’t include any star players. It might not even include any good players, if good means at least above-average. Towers claims that the players to be named later are good, but rumor has it they’re both eligible for the Rule 5 draft, and they’re coming out of empty systems, so it’s not like they’re going to sway things more in Arizona’s favor. The way I see it, it’s an overall overrated exchange, where the White Sox do best, the Angels do fine, and the Diamondbacks confuse.

For the Sox, it’s basically a swap of Santiago for Eaton. The player to be named isn’t valueless, but he’s probably not a prospect of note, so it keeps things cleaner to think of this as a one-for-one. Santiago is a cost-controlled starter who can eat up some innings in the back of a rotation. Eaton, though, is a different kind of cost-controlled starter, and there’s a good chance he’ll be able to play a regular center field going forward. He even comes with an extra year before free agency.

Santiago’s strength is that he can miss some bats. The rest of his reality is that he doesn’t throw enough strikes or generate a high number of grounders, and you can see where this is going — his peripherals don’t come close to matching his sub-4 ERA, and in cases like this we always side with the peripherals. As a starter, Santiago looks below-average, with limited room for improvement. There’s some chance he ends up a reliever, which he was in 2012. He’s a potential long-term player who’s not a real long-term asset.

Eaton’s coming off a year of reduced stock, thanks in large part to an elbow injury that cost him playing time. There exist some questions about his defensive capability, and he’s a groundball guy more than he’s a power guy. What he does is make contact, run well, and mostly swing at the right pitches, which seems to establish something of a modest floor with limited upside. Of course, players like Eaton have failed before, but for a long time, for low prices, he could be average or a little better than that. That’s better than Santiago, which is the only thing that matters here.

Shifting to the Angels, they lose Trumbo, but they were prepared for that. They lose a player to be named, but presumably they’re always prepared for that. The deal addresses their lack of rotation depth, and while I’ve already said what I have to say on Santiago, he can at least be a functional sixth or seventh starter. Skaggs is the get, and he should work out of the rotation right away. He’s theirs through 2019 if they want him.

You can’t talk about Skaggs without talking about what he used to be. Two years ago, Baseball America considered him baseball’s 13th-best prospect. One year ago, they considered him baseball’s 12th-best prospect. Now he’s coming off a disappointing year that saw him pitch with reduced velocity. He didn’t pitch anywhere in September, the Diamondbacks preferring to give him the month off. As the problem, they identified some mechanical flaws, but it’s never been a secret that Skaggs was available for the right price.

Now he’s back in the organization that gave him up for Dan Haren. He’s 22 years old, and though he was throwing more in the high-80s than the low-90s, his secondary stuff was intact and Skaggs was still able to miss bats. It’s easy to see how Skaggs could be on the way to busting, but he still has promising statistical indicators, and of course there’s the history. As his diminished self, Skaggs can pitch out of a rotation. If he bounces back some, he can pitch toward the front of one. Buying low on young pitchers is a sure-fire way to end up with a lot of disappointing young pitchers, but Skaggs has clear promise and is the best gamble here to end up legitimately great.

One also can’t ignore that, this year, the Angels will save about $4 million. They’re a team that’s been hard up for money, so that’s not insignificant. They’ll save money next year and the year after that, too, presuming they would’ve otherwise just kept Trumbo. There’s a decent chance the Angels get nothing out of this. There’s a decent chance they get a good young starter.

Finally, the Diamondbacks. As Dave Cameron wrote earlier, Trumbo is simultaneously underrated and overrated. He’s not as good as his dingers and he’s not as bad as his OBP, and with his relatively low projected salaries, he stands to have some surplus value. It was worth trading something to get Mark Trumbo. But for three years of Trumbo getting paid many millions, Towers gave up six years of Skaggs and five years of Eaton. You’re not going to convince me that a couple players to be named later make this look good.

The easiest thing is to look at the projections. Steamer projects Trumbo for a 2.2 WAR, and it projects Eaton for a 1.7 WAR. However, that’s 1.7 WAR in 200 fewer plate appearances, so just on that alone, Eaton at least looks equivalent. Based on the projections, Arizona acquired an outfielder for a cheaper, equivalent outfielder and a talented young starting pitcher to boot. What Arizona gained, certainly, is a lot of power, which is exactly what Kevin Towers wanted. What Arizona didn’t gain, or at least what Arizona didn’t gain much of, is overall value. Even if you figure Trumbo will be better than Eaton in 2014, the gap can be only so big because Trumbo is only so good, and then there’s Skaggs being included in addition.

Trumbo might have as much raw strength as anyone else, but it doesn’t look like he’s on the verge of improving. He swings and misses too often, and he chases too often. He’s experienced in the outfield, but he’s not an asset there and now he’s clearly blocked at first base. Arizona will make for a much more hitter-friendly environment, but that doesn’t make Trumbo more valuable — that’s why we have park-adjusted statistics. Trumbo will be a pure power hitter slightly out of position, and though Eaton doesn’t share his handedness, it’s hard to see how Trumbo makes Arizona that much better.

It might be a very incremental, short-term upgrade. It probably doesn’t help the Diamondbacks catch the Dodgers, and it cost more than incremental short-term upgrades ought to. Maybe, Eaton just hangs around as a fourth outfielder, and maybe Skaggs busts completely, but it’s not just about their futures. It’s about what else Arizona might’ve been able to do instead, and it seems to me like they could’ve done more than this. Trumbo is exactly what Kevin Towers wanted, but what Kevin Towers wanted isn’t enough of an improvement to warrant the return.

Arizona gets the most visible player in the deal, and the player most likely to deliver the most highlights. Los Angeles gets the top pitching prospect, who could go in any number of directions. And the worst team involved makes the best deal involved, turning a mediocre young starter into a potential everyday center fielder who could stick around for years. It’s not going to be easy to turn the White Sox into winners, but these kinds of fairly quiet moves can help a whole lot more than they hurt.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

93 Responses to “D-Backs Make Headlines While Angels, White Sox Make Gains”

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  1. Timeghoul says:

    Can we just contract the Diamondbacks, Royals, and Mariners? These teams continue to prove that they’re inept over and over.

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    • Ben says:

      Keith Law loves this deal for the Angels and explains Skaggs’ decrease in velocity:

      “http://insider.espn….95&refresh=true (Insiders only).

      Skaggs took a step back in 2013 as the Diamondbacks shortened his stride, resulting in a higher release point that cost him several miles per hour on his fastball and depth on his breaking ball. Lengthen him out so he finishes out over his front side again and he should be back to 90-94 mph again with the hammer he had as recently as 2012, when he projected as a potential No. 2 starter and was the best left-handed starter prospect in the game.”

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      • Earl says:

        the best part about the “lost velocity” claims are that if you actually look at his velocity on this very website, it barely changed!

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        • Jackson says:

          No minor league data for velocity.

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        • Ben Gburek says:

          I am a Diamondbacks fan and I am certain that Skaggs’ fastball veloccity declined as the season went on. When Skaggs was first called up, he was throwing in the low-90s on his fastball. Later in the year, Skaggs rarely even touched 92 and his average fastball was about 88.

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      • Bill says:

        I like Law, but I have a hard time believing the D-backs missed something this obvious. I guess we’ll see. My bet is he gets bitten by the dreaded Fabrum Bear before the Angels close up in Tempe Diablo.

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        • Ken says:

          Missed what? The Diamondbacks were the ones who tinkered with his mechanics.

          As for the rest of your comment, you’re an idiot.

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      • GMH says:

        Keith Law’s comment makes absolutely no sense. Over-striding causes a decrease in velocity, not an increase, because over-striding is a consequence of the pitcher’s front side rushing to home plate, leaving his pitching arm to lag behind. Over-striding causes a decrease in arm speed.

        I find it difficult to believe that any MLB pitching coach or minor league instructor worth his salt would teach stride length. The pitcher’s stride length is a natural consequence of his mechanics, what the pitcher does with his hips after coming to the balanced position in his delivery. So if the D-Backs coaches did something that caused Skaggs to shorten his stride, it is almost certainly due to them identifying a mechanical flaw in Skaggs’s delivery. My hunch is they saw Skaggs rushing and/or not keeping his front side closed. These are two of the most common mechanical flaws, and even experienced pitchers can fall prey to them. Correcting these flaws would cause arm speed and hence velocity to increase, not decrease. And Skaggs’s stride length would shorten as a natural consequence.

        So Law has demonstrated yet again that he knows absolutely nothing about pitching mechanics. That lack of knowledge is patently demonstrated by his nonsensical assertion, “Lengthen him out so he finishes out over his front side again.” Law either relies on scouts who are complete morons (possible, but unlikely), or he doesn’t know enough to properly synthesize what the scouts are telling him, and he just parrots lingo to make him sound like he knows what he’s talking about.

        If Skaggs’s velocity drop is due to a mechanical flaw, then that flaw is most likely due to Skaggs rushing to home plate, opening his front side too early, or both. It is not caused by Skaggs’s length of stride.

        If Skaggs doesn’t have a mechanical flaw, then the Angels traded for damaged goods.

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        • Jack says:

          >So Law has demonstrated yet again that he knows absolutely nothing about pitching mechanics.<


          Keith Law is spot on. You're not.

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        • fromthemachine says:

          I think you’re misreading it.

          Arizona wanted him to have a higher release point. That, in effect, changed the length of his stride.

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    • David Bruno says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I think what gets lost in the shuffle is that Arizona does a very good job of evaluating their own young starting pitching. When they traded Bauer last year, the analytics community thought they got 60 cents on the dollar, but it turns out that Bauer has not progressed in his development as expected. One could argue the same has been true for Skaggs. Arizona likely saw this as an opportunity to sell a very marketable asset – an asset that the market was likely overvaluing in Arizona’s view. Remember, Skaggs was linked to trade rumors this time last year, so maybe Arizona doesn’t see the projection in Skaggs that other organizations do.

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      • ValueArb says:

        Except that they overrated Didi and now want to trade him after his tailspin batting performance the last 5 months. Apparently they realized they have two better SS, the ones they already had.

        I’d still rather have Bauer, if he figures it out he’s a good starter, not a glove only SS.

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      • Yeah... says:

        …just as they did with Scherzer

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        • Ben Gburek says:

          Scherzer did have to make serious mechanical changes in Detroit but yeah, the Dbacks traded Jarrod Parker too

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  2. Gabes says:

    Looking at Eaton’s player page, if “Oliver” is right, this will be a heist for the ChiSox. As a Sox fan, a potential outfield of Viciedo, Eaton, Garcia, and De Aza fills me with equal parts terror and excitement

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  3. BJsworld says:

    Yeah … I’m going to have to disagree with Jeff on this one (something I rarely do).

    Santiago has a lot of value. He may not be elite, or anything close to elite, but there is value in having a cost controlled arm that has the upside of delivering a FIP in the high 3’s to low 4’s. In a world where Scott Feldman earns $30M over 3 years, I have to believe that Santiago would do even better than that. In terms of value, the Angels just acquired some decent production for virtually no cost.

    Skaggs though is the prize. 12 months ago the guy was a top 20 consensus pitcher. While 2013 was not a great year he still has plenty of upside. I would have been pretty happy if it was just Skaggs for Trumbo. Landing Santiago makes this a landslide.

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    • BJsworld says:

      *Should read consensus top 20 PROSPECT … not player obviously.

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Last year, 187 starters threw at least 50 innings, and by xFIP- Santiago ranked 160th, at 117. Of course, the stat isn’t perfect, but it gives you a pretty good idea. Feldman tied for 84th, at 102, to use your example. Santiago’s not a disaster, but he’s not far above Triple-A quality. Yeah, it’s good that he’s so cheap and cost-controlled, but he ultimately probably won’t be great for the winning effort.

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      • Mike says:

        Are we sure the Angels even view Santiago as THEIR starting pitcher? It’s more likely that they view him as a swingman/depth piece. Ken Rosenthal pointed something out to that effect. A few hours ago, their GM (Dipoto) said he’s going after another starter.

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        • Preston says:

          Does it matter. The Angels are strapped for pitching in the bullpen and the rotation. They traded a player they didn’t want who was relatively costly, for two players who can contribute for cheap at positions of need. If Santiago wins the 5th starter spot, it means he’s an upgrade over what they had, if he goes to the bullpen, he’s an obvious upgrade there.

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      • not_sure says:

        Why would you compare a guy who threw 149 innings to guys who threw 50 innings?

        To enhance your point of course, which is why anyone does anything ridiculous in sports debates.

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        • AK7007 says:

          Get over it. He was 99th out of 120 that threw at least 130 innings. 80th percentile is not awesome. Santiago delivers surplus value as an inning sponge/swing man/reliever at the minimum salary since teams trot out sub-replacement starters every year for X number of starts at the back of the rotation.

          But those kind of pieces aren’t priceless – and probably less valuable than Eaton to the White Sox. But it is plausible that the Angels would prefer Santiago to Eaton (since this is basically what the third team was, flipping Eaton without actually being a second trade) – their roster already puked up Bourjos because “surplus outfielders.”

          That’s not to say that I wouldn’t have preferred Eaton+Skaggs for Trumbo if I were in the Angels shoes, just that I can actually see the non-insane thought process that would lead to the actual decision that was made. Can’t say the same for Kevin Towers’ peanut brain.

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        • Raising the inning limit to 100 (to eliminate relievers and AAAA players) makes Hector Santiago look worse.

          With 50 inning limit Santiago rank 160 out of 187, putting him at the bottom 14.4 percentile of that population.

          With 100 inning limit Santiago rank 135 out of 145, putting him at the bottom 6.9 percentile of that particular population.

          Why stop there? If you set the inning limit to 140 (Hector Santiago threw 149), he rank 105 out of 107, bottom 1.9 percentile.

          All that took me less than 10 mins. Please do some research next time before you hit post.

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        • FanGraphs Supporting Member

          Because a higher innings count would be selective for good starters. This was actually meant to compare Santiago against worse arms, which is quite the opposite of trying to enhance my point. Don’t go around assuming the worst, please.

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    • C'mon Man says:

      Hector Santiago has an FIP (4.49)that doesn’t really approach the high 3’s to low 4’s over his first 224 innings. He has below-average command, doesn’t get very many ground balls, and has problems with the long ball. He’s got relief pitcher profile all over him. He has a big fastball and can get swings and misses with average secondaries and command issues.

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      • Ben says:

        Hector Santiago is a cheap, replacement-level MLB swingman. That has some value, but not a lot.

        Can we move on please?

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  4. JS7 says:

    Toward the end of the season, the L.A. Dodgers clubbed six home runs in an 8-1 drubbing of the D-backs, which was a game that saw the eventual NL West champs look a little too comfortable in the dugout.

    “I was sitting behind home plate that game and when it showed up on the Diamondvision of stuffing bananas down their throats, I felt like we were a punching bag,” Towers told Arizona Sports 620?s Burns and Gambo Tuesday. “Literally, if I would have had a carton of baseballs I would have fired them into the dugout from where I was sitting behind home plate.”

    Towers is an idiot! The Dodgers were eating BANANAS? In their DUGOUT??????

    That is, without hyperbole, the single greatest act of disrespect on a baseball field in the history of the sport. Towers would have been in his rights to charge onto the field and summarily execute every member of the Dodgers’ roster and coaching staff. I mean, c’mon, bananas? BANANAS!!!!

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  5. Ben says:

    My initial gut reaction to this trade was that the Whitesox were clear winners, the D’Backs clear losers, and they Angels were about a push, but I was too lazy to do any actual digging to test these notions. Mere hours later, we have an article chocked-full of facts and analysis.

    Fangraphs allows me to be lazy AND still get the information I want. I know of no higher praise I can offer.

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  6. Jack Zduriencik says:

    Great pick up by the Angels.

    Trumbo has hit 30+ HR’s and had 100 RBI last season.

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  7. Slats says:

    That Prado/Upton trade worked out well for these guys. Lol. Lost all respect for Towers a long time ago and he should be long-gone from managing any baseball organization.

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  8. Grebe says:

    When this story broke, I read the news article on one of the major sports sites. I then took a quick glance at the comments beneath the article (we all have our bad habits). There were quite a few people asking how the Diamondbacks were able to give up so little to acquire a player who had 100 RBI. And that’s fine, it’s not a fan’s job to have a deeper understanding of the game.

    I just wonder if the people running the Diamondbacks were asking the same question.

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    • Franco says:

      I’d love to see a retrospective on historical trades through the lens of modern sabremetrics. We have the glaringly obvious bad trades to everyone like the Bagwell one. No need to go remind people of Kazmirs for Victor Zambranos.

      I’d be interested in the trades that people at the time always thought favored one team but in reality favored the other. The Joe Carter trade (CLE to SD) is one that remember people thinking was a wash ever a couple years after the fact.

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  9. Teddy Rochlis says:

    If only the Dbacks kept rizzo as GM oh well glad the nats have him.

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  10. Kevin Towers says:

    Trumbo better take pride in being a D-back!

    People know I’m a D-back. Ya want proof – everywhere I go, people call me a D-back.

    And THAT’s the kind of player I’m looking for!

    +17 Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Matt says:

    It sucks being a Dbacks fan right now. At least we haven’t moved Bradley for Dom Brown yet.

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  12. Dasein says:

    Rick Hahn has quietly done a pretty good job so far. He seems to understand that the White Sox are not just one or two pieces away from contending, and is running the team accordingly.

    As much flack as Jerry Reinsdorf gets as an owner (much of it deservedly…the Paul Konerko re-signing has Reinsdorf written ALL over it), his loyalty to his employees almost certainly helps guys like Hahn feel secure enough in their jobs that they don’t have to do something drastic to “win now.”

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    • Rob says:

      I think the White Sox front office is pretty underrated as a whole. Over the years it seems to me that they’re one of the few teams that really understands the concept of buying low on talent.

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      • crw says:

        Agreed. Hahn doing a nice job to undo the damage done by Kenny Williams, who has surprisingly let Hahn make smart moves such as this one. If they could make some strides in their first year player draft department this team could be contending in 3-5 years. Seriously, the drafts still have Kenny written all over them, the Jared Mitchell-athlete-non-baseball-player types over and over.

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        • Chris K says:

          I agree with your point, but I think 3-5 years is a tad conservative. When Ramirez and Dunn come off the books they’ll have plenty of cash to sign 3b and C talent, which will be the only glaring holes in that lineup. This is assuming that some combination of Beckham/Semien/Sanchez/Anderson can hold down up the middle.

          A lot of cost controlled, good SP in Sale, Q, and Johnson, a serviceable young OF, a strong young core of the bullpen in Webb/Reed/Jones. If Abreu hits and, to iterate, they spend on FA talent to shore up the holes, this team could be back in it as soon as 2015.

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  13. striker says:

    What are De Aza’s projections as a LF?

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  14. Jack Zduriencik says:

    Gabba gabba hey, gabba gabba ho

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  15. JLRC says:

    I think FIP has not been especially useful for Santiago. His walks are not randomly distributed and are typically rather tightly clustered. They come in bunches, almost like we think of “the wild closer” who turns up his game once he’s made things close. I think going forward, his ERA will consistently outpace the expectation you’d have based on FIP. With that said, he still has his warts and is a little old for a guy who has proven so little.

    Eaton is a pretty great return and it is mystifying why they gave up on him so quickly. Had they taken Santiago, it would have made more sense than losing him and Skaggs for Trumbo, who could quite easily be the least valuable player of the trio next season.

    I don’t know why you quote the Steamer projection when it is assuming a part-time role or an injury-riddled season, neither of which appear especially likely. The Oliver projection seems quite a bit more realistic, at least in terms of playing time. He’s never dealt with injuries before last year and Rick Hahn has already crowned him the everyday centerfielder.

    Each team has some chance to win the deal based on the talent exchange, but the odds-on favorite has to be Chicago. LA took two gambles, but not bad ones, and could get a great deal of value with those two, more than Eaton could ever do if they both pan out. Trumbo seems the least likely to change/improve and might be the smallest “gamble” but offers little payoff, though being strong always means there is upside. Putting him in LF everyday just about kills that upside for me, though.

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    • Bip says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I don’t think that explains why he should outperform his FIP. Walking a lot of guys in sequence probably actually inflates the run value of a walk, as going from a –1 to a -21 base state increases run expectancy more than going from — to –1.

      The way that a guy can give up a lot of base runners without giving up runs is more related to home run and hit distribution, as those are the events that have the potential to have a real run value that varies widely from their expected run value, depending on the baserunners. So if Santiago’s hits and homers happen to come when no one is on base, that would allow him to outperform his FIP.

      That doesn’t seem very likely. More likely a guy with 224 career innings has experienced some lucky hit distribution so far.

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  16. Noah Baron says:

    I don’t understand how the Angels aren’t the clear winner in this deal. Sure, Skaggs velocity decreased. But if he performs, is that really a problem? I think not, and he certainly had a great 2013 season, even if the conventional stats don’t capture it.

    He had a 3.07 FIP in AAA, and a 3.95 xFIP in MLB. He turned 22 in July. He should be regarded as a premier pitching prospect, and getting a premier pitching prospect for a flawed player would be a win by itself. But they also got Santiago, giving them two solid rotation spots for 2014.

    I guess this is also a good deal for the White Sox, however Eaton is a flawed defensive player, so it’s not as if they are getting an all-star. It just amazes me how bad this deal is for the Diamondbacks.

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    • AK7007 says:

      Well, two teams gave up stuff that they were fully willing to give up in exchange for good stuff. A third gave up interesting pieces, made themselves worse in both the short and long term, in exchange for “right-handed power.”

      So, it’s not exactly hard to call this one.

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    • Bip says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I’d hardly call Santiago a candidate for a “solid rotation spot”. The Angels filled their rotation with junk last year, and it burned them. Just because Santiago “is a starter” doesn’t mean that he will help his team like one.

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  17. dirtbag says:

    Kevin Towers is smarter than the so-called experts. That isn’t meant sarcastically. The Arizona Diamondbacks’ GM knows what he’s doing, and has both the background and track record to prove it. Skeptics panning his recent moves don’t have his 16 years of experience as a big-league general manager, nor have they been a minor-league pitching coach or scouting director.

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    • ahamsterman says:

      cool sarcasm bro

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      • AK7007 says:

        It’s a direct David Laurila quote from this article, hosted on this very site: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/qa-kevin-towers-diamondbacks-gm/

        Times like those that make me wonder what people see in Laurila. I understand that to be taken seriously, Fangraphs should have an interviewer or two, but Laurila is quite the piece of work. And he probably takes bribes from old-school execs to write puff pieces about the horrible things they do to their rosters because they don’t know better.

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        • Bip says:
          FanGraphs Supporting Member

          And he probably takes bribes from old-school execs to write puff pieces about the horrible things they do to their rosters because they don’t know better.


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        • AK7007 says:

          Bip, that was just exaggeration. I know that you can’t ask ML GM’s overtly aggressive questions or else you won’t get an interview. “Asking the tough questions” hyperbole isn’t even a possibility – most seem to have unusually thin skin. But Kevin Towers was given a huge pass by the main interviewer for Fangraphs in that interview. And it irks me. Apparently bothers dirtbag as well.

          I guess when a major public manager is doing questionable things, I would like to see somebody, well question it. Even if it does result in the interviewee standing up and walking out.

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    • Bill says:

      I see the sarcasm, but…it is difficult to argue against Tower’s track record. He’s either extremely lucky or he does some things very well. However, this is a bad trade. I don’t care what kind of track record he has. This trade is bad. Unless, of course he has some insider knowledge of injuries to Skaggs and Eaton like the Mariners did with Pineda.

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      • ValueArb says:

        His track record is getting hired at an organization overfilling with talent, and then slowly piss away all that talent in bad trades and signings.

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      • Bip says:
        FanGraphs Supporting Member

        It seems to me that very often our perception of different GMs, with some notable exceptions, does not align with the way their teams perform. There can be a few reasons for this:

        1. They are usually privy to information about players to which we have no access.

        This trade suddenly doesn’t look as bad for the D-Backs if Skaggs has a nagging injury that has been affecting his velocity, and that is why they changed his mechanics. Maybe Eaton has been made aware of his defensive shortcomings and reacted poorly, showing unwillingness to improve. Though these particular cases are unlikely, what is likely is that #1 is generally true.

        2. There is enough variation and uncertainty in player performance, that the luck is the biggest determiner of team success

        If this trade has a 60% chance of working out better for Anaheim than Arizona, that would still make it a win for Anaheim. If that is true, then it is not at all unlikely that down the road we’ll remark how it worked out much better for Arizona. A GM make few enough large transactions that we want not expect very much regression over a season, or even multiple seasons, so KT could be riding a lucky streak for much of his career.

        3. The GM’s impact on team construction is very small compared to that of scouting/player development

        KT could also be riding a lucky streak in that he has worked for teams that are very good in this respect. If that is true, he will have worked for good while not improving them.

        4. Our method of assessing GM’s is totally bogus

        This is built primarily on our assessment of players, and less so on assessment of prospects and contracts. I think we can say our assessment of players is pretty good. Our assessment of contracts is, by comparison, much more simplistic, and may be often inaccurate. Our valuation of prospects is also difficult, because they tend to have more “all or nothing” risk than players who have had major league success. Low-floor high-ceiling guys are not as straightforward to value as high-floor low-ceiling guys. It’s not likely we’re doing any worse than anyone else (especially because mainstream assessment of GMs focuses entirely on wins and playoff success) but I’m sure there are many way are assessment of trades could be improved.

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        • AK7007 says:

          Where is there a misalignment with recent Kevin Towers perception/success? Back in the day, he was pretty much ahead of the field with regards to pitcher acquisition. Recent, more-Saber oriented times? Less so. The 2011 D-backs roster was basically the same team as 2010 with better luck (see: bullpen volatility), Daniel Hudson instead of Edwin Jackson, and no Mark Reynolds. Since then, he has slowly deconstructed his roster without improving it. Padres before that? His teams were starting to gradually lose.

          Basically, what I want to see is a logical and non-insane thought process that I can follow for each move. Multiple times, Kevin Towers appears to favor “player makeup” over you know, “baseball skills.” So the thought process that leads to the decisions he makes sounds ludicrous.

          Points one and two that you make are spot on – they know a ton we don’t and there is information asymmetry between teams as well, but a lot gets lost to randomness. These things need to be overcome by a good GM, in fact they must if they want to keep their jobs. You know how you do that? By having a good process to start with. Tipping the odds ever so slightly in your favor with every move. They won’t all work – you are gambling. But you can load the die with good decisions.

          That brings me to point three – that scouting/player development is more important than the GM. I kind of agree. I’d like to add statistical analysis into that mix as well. However, I would also point out that it is the GM who hires the support staff around themselves in order to make good decisions. The scouts, the nerds, the accountants, the training staff, sports therapists, coaches (including player development guys) – the GM should be in on the hiring process for all these people, or have hired the guy/girl who hires those people. So, maybe Towers hired people that were great at all these things in the year 2000. But it’s 2013 now, and it doesn’t seem to be working as well.

          Point four I have trouble following, but I will admit that everything I said could be wrong. And that GM assessment is bogus. But I would like to hear a reason why it’s wrong, even if it’s just theoretical. Everything I said is what I would consider logical thinking, not data, most of it makes sense. Arguments for why Kevin Towers is good at his job don’t make much sense. Defending the “hit more batters, give me gritty players” GM is going to be tough – he just seems like he’s from a different era, and overmatched in this one.

          Even his recent comment about Skaggs was a head-scratcher. “You know, it may be a mechanical adjustment, who knows?.” Who knows?! As in, you don’t know and just traded him blindly without seeing if your player development guys can give you more info on his recent struggles? You are supposed to have more info on your players than anybody else! I hope that you are just lying to the media to guard the fact that you were hiding info from your competitors. (Not that hiding info from competitors is wrong, it is totally smart)

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  18. Joe says:

    Fun fact. Last spring Kevin Towers said that Adam Eaton was the sparkplug that would make the Dbacks offense shine. Less than a year later, he was traded while his value was at its lowest.

    I am so proud that this nincompoop gets to run my team…

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    • AK7007 says:

      He probably thinks that he “gave up a super gritty piece of his team, but sometimes business happens. You have to make sacrifices to get right handed power into a lineup.”

      Even as a Giants fan, I hate the work that KT is doing in Arizona right now. I’m now to the point that stupid moves even by division rivals annoy me.

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  19. Ted Nelson says:

    Interesting article overall and I generally agree that Towers made a mistake. A couple of points you should consider in your analysis, though.

    1. You can’t ignore volatility. It’s finance 101 that an investor will necessarily prefer an investment with the same return if the volatility is lower. So, even if Towers happens to agree with Steamer, he’s arguably getting a much surer ~2 WAR out of Trumbo. Doesn’t make it a good deal, necessarily, but it makes it a better deal and is worth considering. Eaton’s projection for 2 WAR is based almost entirely on MiLB stats. The jump from AAA to MLB is pretty huge, so while I’m ok with Eaton as a player I would assume the volatility around his 2 WAR is much greater than Trumbo who has done it three out of three MLB seasons.

    2. I wouldn’t just default to the peripherals without making more of a study of it. I’m not saying Santiago is an exception after just two seasons out performing his FIP, but he could be.

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    • Ben says:

      Your first point is a good one if all he traded was Eaton for Trumbo, but he paid a premium (Skaggs and cost-controlled years of Eaton) for the right to hedge his bets. It would be one thing to make a 2-for-1 trade and take on salary in order to consolidate their talent if they were a clear championship contender of a team, but they’re merely on the playoff bubble.

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  20. GoodasGoldy says:

    Why do Eaton and Skaggs get projected upside but none for Trumbo. He’s just beginning his prime years and has already shown impressive power in a home park that suppresses power. Arizona’s park should give his already impressive ISO a significant boost.

    The knocks on Trumbo’s defense to me are unsubstantiated. He’s been bounced around positions due to injuries and needs. But he has gotten significant innings at 1B and his DRS and UZR/150 show him to be much better defensively than the stuff being written. His time in LF is so limited any knocks there are just noise until he gets to play the position for awhile.

    So I don’t know if this is going to be such a stinker. Trumbo has displayed a lot of power, shows a continuously improving walk rate, is just entering his prime and is coming to a hitters park. That’s a lot of pluses.

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    • ValueArb says:

      Trumbo entered his prime a couple years ago, and his improving walk rate got him all the way to a .294 OBP last year.

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    • Randall Floyd says:

      I’m sort of with you. I feel like Trumbo’s calling card (power obviously) is indisputable and also happens to be the commodity that is most difficult to find in MLB right now. Perhaps Arizona paid a high price in the eyes of some, but I don’t think either player ceded was quite what they were lauded to be during their respective prospect apexes. I prefer Eaton to AJ Pollock but with Gerard Parra & Cody Ross in tow, the Diamondbacks have/had plenty of warm bodies.

      I can see why all three teams did it but I don’t think this is any sort of disaster from Arizona’s perspective.

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    • Bip says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      It doesn’t matter that he’s coming to a hitter’s park, since his value is going to be relative anyway. If his ISO increases because of park value, his change in value is neutral; he’s performing at the same level, but with different circumstances.

      In fact, if he doesn’t improve, he can be said to have lost value.

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  21. Big Daddy says:

    You know, I read where it says “Los Angeles gives” and saw Mark Trumbo’s name and immediately thought “Trumbo’s not on the Dodgers.”

    Even several years after the change, when I see “Los Angeles”, I still think Dodgers, not Angels.

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    • Bill says:

      I guess it’s for the same reason that when I see Philadelphia I think of the Phillies and not the Orioles because the Orioles don’t play in Philadelphia.

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  22. Carson Palmer says:

    Why is no one considering that Trumbo is PROVEN and Eaton and Skaggs are not? Trumbo will only be paid $5m or so each of the next 3 season. Based on FA salaries, that is dirt cheap. A guy who has hit 30 HRs in 3 straight seasons is nothing to take for granted, and he’s moving into a better park. Eaton and Skaggs could both be NOTHING. Just my thoughts. AZ has a plethora of OFs and SPs of Eaton and Skaggs caliber and I’m not sure they could’ve gotten more in return.

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    • ValueArb says:

      He’s proven to have a very hard time getting on base and a harder time than average getting to balls in the field. He’s a proven 30 homer hitter and a stiff in every other dimension.

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    • Pete Carroll says:

      ‘Sup Carson.

      Anyhoo, I agree largely. Mark Trumbo will be very affordable over the next handful of seasons & I feel that his relative reliability/floor is being glossed over in numerous analyses of this trade. I think there’s a better than average chance that the Diamondbacks end up being just fine with this trade both in the short term & the near future.

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    • Bip says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Trumbo could injure his shoulder and lose his power. And Trumbo with no power isn’t even a bench player.

      There’s always uncertainty on both sides people.

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      • Carson Palmer says:

        Anyone could get injured, clown. If a player has no injury history, you don’t project injuries in a trade…

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  23. HuggyB says:

    I think you need to dig a little deeper into what Arizona is doing and it may not be a good thing. Trumbo is going to play left. Does that stick Prado back at 3rd and Davidson back to AAA. Will they try to trade Prado for a starter. Is Pollock the answer in CF or is Parra going to play there. We will have to see how this shakes out as they seem to be going to make another deal for a starter, but I would rather see Davidson at 3rd everyday, there’s your potential power bat as well.

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    • GoodasGoldy says:

      I would expect Davidson is headed for AAA to continue developing at 3B and work on his hitting deficiencies while Prado covers 3B. It also seems pretty clear that Parra/Pollock are headed for a CF platoon which based on their numbers should be pretty effective both offensively and defensively.

      If Cody Ross isn’t physically able to start the season in RF I expect they’ll go everyday with Parra and Pollock in CF and RF. They need to see if Pollock can be an everyday guy in CF because Ross has proven throughout his career that he should be mostly platooned (as has Parra).

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  24. christo says:

    On volatility, for the Angels, it’s about replacing the dumpster fire that was Joe Blanton’s mound time last year and raising the floor of the fifth-starter slot. IF Santiago replaces Blanton’s 20 starts that were just eye-burning awful, AND performs at the same level as last year (which was a big bucket of meh for the most part), for a starter slot, it’s a 2-2.5 win swing for the Angels (even though a case could be made that Santiago is 2014 Jerome Williams for the Angels but that would presume that the Angels don’t sign another pitcher).

    While DiPoto talks about opening up money to go get another pitcher, they have to sign Trout before things get ugly. It feels like we’ll see a Trout contract in the spring, after they sign Joe Saunders for two years and $14M, because that would be very Angels-y.

    Is this a good situation? Nope. This would also be soooo Angels. But let’s play the game:

    2014 rotation by projected starts: Weaver – Wilson – Richards – Saunders – Santiago – Skaggs
    2013 rotation by starts: Wilson – Williams – Weaver – Vargas – Blanton – Richards – Hanson

    The floor would be raised, if ever so slightly, but I think it’s less volatile, barring injuries of course. With the Angels, it’s sort of like they’re going through a debt management course. First, fix your costs. Richards, Santiago and Skaggs are projectable fixed costs for the foreseeable future with the probability of seeing a total of 50-60 starts among them without the comparable brutality of Blanton-Williams-Hanson of 2013. Only slightly better, but better is the key here. This is the Angels. It’s a small step forward.

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  25. Ben says:

    Maybe someone told Towers his team needed a big trade. One where he really swings for the fences, strikeouts be damned, and this is how he interpreted it?

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  26. Crabby Old Woman says:

    I just recently started reading the articles and comments here. It is so refreshing to see real intelligent exchanges of ideas and analysis, without the personal insults and flame wars prevalent elsewhere.

    I’m clearly the most ignorant person here so I won’t say much, but thanks to all you people for keeping it on a high level.

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  27. DNA+ says:

    “Arizona will make for a much more hitter-friendly environment, but that doesn’t make Trumbo more valuable — that’s why we have park-adjusted statistics.”

    This is a misconception. Park-adjustments describe how the average hitter is affected by the park. However, that average has a distribution around it. Some hitters, because of their specific tendencies, will be affected more than the average, and some will be affected less. The friendly hitting environment in Arizona very well may make Trumbo more valuable than it does other hitters if he is in the right tail of the distribution.

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    • Bip says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Yes and no. It doesn’t make Trumbo a more valuable player in our estimation. His skillset is the same. It does make him more valuable to his team if they use him optimally, however.

      It’s like RBI. We don’t credit players for RBI’s because it is context dependent, but if a guy has a skillset that is good for driving in runs, then he teams is benefited by putting him in a position to do so.

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      • DNA+ says:

        Value is defined by how you help the team. You are confusing ability with value. They are related, but they aren’t quite the same thing.

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  28. Max says:

    I think we are all missing the true value of Trumbo — he is a massive, extremely strong player who could help Arizona win a stupid and pointless brawl after they intentionally bean some players. The Towers way…

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  29. nada says:

    this trade has an incredibly simple explanation I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned. Perhaps Skaggs simply refused to intentionally injure opposing players. Witness the glory that is Kevin Tower’s doucheness:

    “It won’t be as simple to get rid of any offending pitchers, though.

    “Some of them, contractually, it’s tough to move,” he said. “But I think come spring training, it will be duly noted that it’s going to be an eye for an eye and we’re going to protect one another.

    “If not, if you have options there’s ways to get you out of here and you don’t follow suit or you don’t feel comfortable doing it, you probably don’t belong in a Diamondbacks uniform.””

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