The Athletics traded a reliever and got back a young player that, despite his struggles to date, already has shown more power than anyone on the Oakland roster not named Josh Willingham. Yes, they used Brad Ziegler to (hopefully) free Brandon Allen.
First, the Diamondbacks’ perspective. As much of a head-scratcher as this trade seems to be, there is probably only one redeeming factor. Ziegler is under team control until 2014 and has been one of baseball’s. most consistent relievers so far in his career. Since 2008, he has accrued 2.9 WAR, good for 33rd most among relievers. That’s built on the fourth-best groundball rate over that period as well (62.4%). A career SIERA of 3.49 looks sustainable. Even if he’s not the cheapest arbitration case (he’s already being paid over a million per season), he’s a very good reliever that will cost Arizona less than market value for the next three seasons.
Still, they gave up a bounty to improve their bullpen. And possibly created a hole at first base that they need to fill by trade or callup. For now, that hole will be filled by the recently called up Paul Goldschmidt. Scouts are suspicious of Goldschmidt, but his stats are delicious. The Diamondbacks will give it a chance.
Brandon Allen has flaws. So far, he’s struck out in over a third of his 200 major league plate appearances. His career contact percentage (67.1%) would be fourth-worst in the league if he qualified for the batting title — right between Mike Stanton and Carlos Pena. Even though he’s performed well so far in the outfield, it’s more likely that he’s a first baseman long-term.
And yet Allen still as plenty of potential. He never struck out this much in the minor leagues. His 23% strikeout rate on the farm can be considered a minor red flag, but it does not predict a 35% major league strikeout rate. So far, he’s shown above-average major league power (.191 ISO), so once he connects, the ball does travel. Considering that his 209 PAs have been stretched over three years, it’s also fair to say that none of his major league statistics are really reliable anyway. This 25-year-old is still young enough to find his .267 Triple-A ISO exciting.
Allen does join an organization that has multiple parts that have similar statistical profiles, so it’s unclear how ‘free’ Allen really is now. Probable future first baseman or DH Vernon Chris Carter has a 31.8% major league strikeout rate, a 23.7% MiLB strikeout rate, and a .262 Triple-A ISO. He could be Allen’s statistical twin in some respects. Michael Taylor is a big burly dude finally showing some power in Sacramento. Given the flaws that their three most powerful prospects share, it seems like Oakland has done the right thing to amass multiple options. At least one of these players won’t work out, but if one does, they’ll finally have the young power hitter they’ve been searching for.
That the Athletics also got a 24-year-old Triple-A lefty with a career minor league strikeout rate over nine out of the deal is just cherry on the cake. Yes, Jordan Norberto might be a LOOGY, and yes, he’s got terrible control so far (4.8 BB/9 MiLB career). Yes, he’s also just a reliever at this point.
But hey, maybe they can pump Noberto up and then dump him for a struggling young position player with power down the line. It’s worked once before.