Kevin Towers’ Trades: A Look Around the League

Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With just 45 games remaining and the D-Backs playing average baseball at the moment I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the deals that GM Kevin Towers made over the last year and see how the players involved are doing. I’m not going to go through all of them, but there are definitely some big names that left the organization that I’m sure many of you are curious about.

 I’ll start with the big D-Backs-Braves trade that sent Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to Atlanta. Ironically, I think Johnson has been the most valuable guy in this trade over the course of the season and he has really found his stroke. The 28-year-old leads the National League in batting average with a .338 clip and has 26 doubles to compliment. He sits in ninth in OBP in the N.L. with a .376 as well.

Justin Upton had a monster April (12 HR) that surely had some Diamondback fans fired up but he quickly cooled off and kind of muddled along for the next three months before picking it back up in August. After his player of the month award for April, Upton would belt just four home runs over the next three months and hit just .211 in May. This was the Upton we remembered. August has been a little more kind as he has six home runs and a .356 average through the team’s first eleven games.

Overall though, Upton is not blowing anyone’s hair back with his .267 average, 120 strikeouts, and 21 doubles. 17 of his 22 home runs have been solo bombs as well which has kept his RBI total rather low at 67. His home run total has definitely spiked (17 in 2012) but you could certainly attribute that to an uber motivated April after being traded by the team that drafted him number one overall. I can’t say that I miss him in right field this season. You?

Image: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Moving along to the other bold move of the off season when Towers sent our highly touted prospect, Trevor Bauer, to the Indians in a three way deal that saw the club receive SS Didi Gregorius and LHP Tony Sipp. Bauer quickly saw time in the big leagues in 2013 as he received his first start on April 6 against the Rays. However, much like his time with the D-Backs a year prior, Bauer struggled with his command and after just four appearances between 4/6 and 6/28; the righty has not received another call-up.

During that span, he completed 17 innings while walking 16 hitters and allowing 10 earned runs on 15 hits, including three home runs. Also proving Bauer was just not himself are his eleven strikeouts, considerably below his career average.

RHP Matt Albers went to Cleveland with Bauer and has experienced a pretty good season out of the bullpen with a 3-1 record and 3.33 ERA through 46 innings pitched.

Also shipped out before this season was our long-time center fielder Chris Young who went to the Athletics in a trade that brought Cliff Pennington to the desert. As C.Y. really struggled in 2012 and was already a career .235 hitter, I was OK with him being traded despite his excellent defense. However, I would never wish a season on him like the one he is experiencing. In his 77 games and 250 at bats, he has put together a paltry .197/.288/.388 slash line. And this is on a team that sits in second place in the A.L. West and has won 67 games.

Lastly, even though we let SS Stephen Drew go to the Athletics for virtually nothing (and to save some money), he was a big part of our organization for years so I’ll mention him and the year he is having with the Red Sox. Through 306 at bats he is hitting .255 with 18 doubles, 6 triples and 9 home runs. When he faced the D-Backs in Fenway a couple weeks ago he finished 6 for 9 with 4 runs scored, a home run and three RBIs.

As you can see, not many of the players that were sent packing have done a whole lot just yet. Chris Johnson has probably been the best out of the group. However, on our end of these deals, we have received Martin Prado who has really turned it on the last month or so and has hit .357 since the all-star break and has collected 25 doubles on the year. As Prado let the pressure of being “the guy” in the Upton trade slide away, the 29-year-old has been excellent. While it would be a stretch for him to reach his 42 doubles from 2012, he has already matched his home run total, 10, and has been invaluable in the field shifting around the infield and recently making the move back to left field to make room for Eric Chavez before he hit the DL and now prospect Matt Davidson.

Tony Sipp has enjoyed stretches of good baseball for us going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 37 SO in 31 innings pitched but was sent down to Class AAA Reno to make room for Brandon McCarthy recently.

Didi Gregorius took the baseball world by storm when he was called up early on due to some infield injuries and his defense is as good as any shortstop in the game. However, in the last month he has been ice cold at the plate hitting .163 and he has struggled mightily against lefties all season hitting just .189.

During this same time, Cliff Pennington has hit .316, begging the question of whether Didi should be in there every day because of his outrageous defense or if you play with an average defensive player in hopes of more offense. Yes, I just said more offense with Cliff Pennington in the same sentence – I know.

The Diamondbacks have also gotten some looks at Zeke Spruill this season who came over in the Atlanta deal. Despite struggling against the Rangers in Arlington, he has pitched well out of the bullpen and could very well pitch at the big league level most of next season. Before his start against Texas he had a 31 2/3 consecutive scoreless streak going at Reno.

Another arm that the D-Backs have to be excited about is Randall Delgado who went his first nine starts without allowing more than three runs and has a very respectable ERA of 3.48 through 64.2 IP. With injuries to Cahill and McCarthy, and with (now traded) Ian Kennedy struggling most of 2013, Delgado has provided some stability on the back end of the rotation. And he is only 23. That means we have Corbin (24 years old), Miley (26 years old), Cahill (25 years old) and McCarthy being the old man at 30 years old to round out our rotation. This alone should give D-Backs fans something to be excited about for future years.

So what do you guys think? Do you feel good about the trades that Towers has made with these players?

Follow me on Twitter at @ndougherty313 and our team at @venomstrikes.

Topics: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chris Johnson, Justin Upton, Kevin Towers, Randall Delgado

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  • Tom Lynch

    After all that wheeling and dealing, the record isn’t much better than it was last season. I would have to say based on 2013 alone, it has been a wash. Long-term, perhaps the D’backs come out ahead.

  • Randy Hill

    Didi Gregorious is who we thought he was, a poor hitter with a decent, but not great glove (ie. a million miles from ever being Derek Jeter). Bauer has been as bad as Didi, stuck in AAA with terrible command. Didi is 23 with a consistently low OBP and SLG over his 6 year minor/major league career, making him unlikely to turn out better than a weak starter or bench player. Bauer is 22, who has put up a 3.29 ERA and nearly 10 Ks per 9 innings in 3 minor league years, his potential is a top of rotation starter. We are still losing that trade just as badly now as when we made it. Bauers value was and is far higher than Didi’s.

    Justin Upton is have a very good offensive year .849 OPS for a 130 OPS+, plus excellent base-running (he’s always been ranked one of the top corner outfielders in baserrunning). Prado has a .730 OPS good for a 100 OPS+. The difference is that Prado is a good defensive player who has a ton of positional flexibility. Upton is having his worst defensive year statistically (historically UZR has ranked him one of the best defensive RF due to his speed and range, which is far more important than his bobbles and arm). But this year he’s cost his team 9 runs according to Baseball Reference (Fangraphs a bit kinder).

    Overall, Upton is about twice as valuable as Prado this year (2.1 – 0.9) according to Baseball Ref’s version of the catch-all WAR stat, and almost 3x as much according to FanGraphs (3.0 – 1.1) which uses UZR for defensive measurements. The one quibble you can make is that no version of WAR does much to credit Prado for the value of his positional flexibility, but it’s also tough to imagine that bridges all of the gap. We have Prado signed for 4 years for $40M, Atlanta has Justin for $38M over 3 years.

    Even if Chris Johnson hadn’t gone nuts this year we lose this trade pretty strongly. Delgado isn’t likely to be much more than a back end starter, and that doesn’t bridge the gap between Prado and Upton, especially since Upton is entering his prime while Prado will soon be leaving his. Clearly this trade was made to save money, it was never intended to be “won”.

    But in the long run to build a consistent winner on a bottom tier payroll, you need to find cheap home grown stars. Since he turned 20 years old, Justin Upton has turned in 3 “Star” years, and 2 clunkers, but all at very young ages. If he starts consistently turning out Star years he’ll sign a $150M deal when he’s a free agent. I’d rather bet on him maturing into a consistent star than sell him cheap, just like I’d rather gamble on Bauer maturing into a stud starter than take on another mediocre shortstop prospect.

    I’ll say it again. Upton, Parra, CY, Goldschmidt, Montero, Roberts, Drew, Eaton, Hudson, Kennedy, Parker, Corbin, Miley, Skaggs, Collmentor, Cook, etc, etc, Towers inherited a staggering amount of mostly cheap talent that was directly responsible for the 2011 team’s success and has spent the two years since frittering it away on the mostly head scratcher deals. The team ended Hudson’s career through an astounding level of misuse, and seemed to be trying to repeat that with Kennedy this year before they finally dumped him for almost nothing. Not only this year, pretty much all of Tower’s moves have been painfully predestined to produce a lot of pain for this teams fans now and down the road.

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