Venom Strikes Roundtable: Talking Toussaint trade
It’s the trade that everyone keeps talking about.
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On Saturday, the Arizona Diamondbacks shipped Bronson Arroyo and his hefty contract to the Atlanta Braves for gritty utility infielder Phil Gosselin. The price of shipping out Arroyo’s contract created one of the biggest discussion points in some time when it comes to an Arizona Diamondbacks trade.
Along with Arroyo, the Diamondbacks sent prized prospect pitcher Touki Toussaint to Atlanta. Toussaint was one of the top prospects in the organization, and was a top-100 prospect in baseball.
Immediately, backlash from fans, industry experts and rival executives became the story of the trade. The Diamondbacks had made a straight salary dump at the expense of a very good future prospect. The Diamondbacks talked about wanting to get younger and having payroll flexibility.
It seemed as if immediately everyone knew it was a terrible trade that had just been made by the Diamondbacks. However, could there be some sort of justification for selling off a top prospect?
The Venom Strikes staff gives their thoughts on the second trade between the Diamondbacks and Braves thus far this season.
In a trade that’s sure to ruffle some feathers, the Dbacks decided that dumping a contract was more important than stockpiling young arms. It’s a move that justifiably will shake the trust in Tony La Russ and Dave Stewart. Did it make sense? Yes, at least part of it. They got the unloading of Arroyo’s contract correct. With the emergence of the young arms in the desert, Arroyo become expendable (especially after Tommy John surgery).
Even the return was nothing to complain about. Philip Gosselin, a reserve infielder, is still in his mid-20’s and has a clearance rack price tag to his name. With him being out until after the All Star break, he won’t factor in the lineup soon. For the amount of money that Atlanta will be swallowing, it’s a fair exchange.
This is where the fans are crying foul. And they are right. Touki Toussaint was the 16th overall pick of the 1st round in the 2014 MLB Draft. At 19 years old, Touki was an uber-asset that could’ve been used in a more high profile trade. It appeared as if the brain-trust had already given up on Touki, siting that there were prospects ahead of him on their charts. The silver lining is that Stewart hinted that the dumping of money will free up cap space to make a major move in the future.
We’re looking at the most curious decision yet made by Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa. Their motivations were clear: unloading Bronson Arroyo’s contract.
They seemed to want that badly enough they were willing to take utility infielder Phil Gosselin, decidedly not Babe Ruth, back from the Braves. Fine. Not great, but fine.
But it’s the inclusion of Touki Toussaint, a 19-year-old top pitching prospect for the DBacks, that’s ruffled so many feathers, and rightly so. This is a kid who Arizona drafted in the first round of the draft last year. We’re still a long ways from knowing if he’ll ever amount to anything on the major league level, but he has the stuff.
And more importantly, he’s an asset. Trading him for the rights to donate Arroyo seems silly and short-sighted. The Diamondbacks are a team that should have eyes on the future, not just their pocket book. In this deal, it’s hard to say that wasn’t the case.
This sounds like a great idea, because this was so out of the realm of what anyone would have expected. So here is my two cents:
On the surface it seems like the Diamondbacks were just paying whatever price the Braves asked in order to dump a huge salary for a player who cannot help them now. I love Toussaint as much as any prep pitcher selected in the last three drafts, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to say the Diamondbacks gave up a sure thing, or even a top five prospect, for the monetary savings from Arroyo’s contract.
You have to take into consideration some other factors in calculating the benefit for the Diamondbacks. First, Toussaint was given a $2.7 million bonus last year, which was above slot for the 16th pick; now, the Braves get to finish paying that off. It might not seen like much, but the rough estimate should be about $2 million left of the bonus to be paid since they are generally spread out over the number of years before they become eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Second, after they spent on Toussaint, the Diamondbacks went out and dropped $8.27 million to sign Yoan Lopez.
The Lopez signing actually cut the amount they can spend on international amateurs to a max of $300k over the next two seasons. Now, Toussaint and Lopez have little to do with one another save for the amount of money they are making. Since the Diamondbacks are essentially out of the international market for the next two seasons, they can use the savings from Arroyo, Toussaint, and Trumbo (and whomever else they are able to dump) to pursue multiple higher level stars.
Also, if you think of it from the Diamondbacks’ perspective, how high was Toussaint ranked internally? Third? Fifth? Maybe as low as tenth? I can’t answer that, but if a team was willing to take $10 million this year, $4.5 million in buyout next year, and the remaining $2 million of the prospect I was willing to send, I would seriously consider whom, prospect wise, is available. So, let’s say the Braves said “we want your fifth best prospect.” Well, Swanson isn’t signed yet and is ineligible to be traded until the season after his draft year. Bradley, Blair, and Shipley are still ranked higher than Toussaint. How do we think they rank Yoan Lopez? based on the money they fronted, probably higher. There is a high likelihood second round pick Alex Young would have come in higher ranked. Gabriel Guerrero is a consideration as a higher ranked guy. And how about Peter O’Brien? Also probably higher.
So, arguably, the 18-year old, first professional season Touki Toussaint was probably in the realm of being ranked ninth within the organization. Since he was years away, the loss really isn’t great at all. Would you, with a yearly payroll around $90 million, sell your ninth best prospect, who is not expected to help you for 3-5 years, for $16.5 million in salary availability over the next two years? For me, it would be hard to pass up because every prospect can;t be untouchable, especially those prep pitchers.
The trade wasn’t as much about Toussiant as it was about shedding Bronson Arroyo’s contract. With the team no longer paying him, getting rid of a good portion of Trevor Cahill’s contract and not having to pay Mark Trumbo before or after arbitration, the team seems to be positioning itself for making a run at a big free agent (David Price, perhaps?). There is still Aaron Hill’s contract on the books and a significant outlay for Addison Reed, both of whom could be gone soon as well to clear even more space.
As far as Toussaint being shipped out, it is shocking. He has already made some nice progress with a 3.69 ERA in seven starts at Class A Kane County this year. It seems to me that Arizona wants to win sooner rather than later. If you want proof, just look at the draft earlier this month when their first 11 picks were all college selections. If moving Toussaint allows them to clear salary room to make a splash this year or the offseason, that is a price they were willing to pay. This is not Kevin Towers trading Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer, two guys that were Major-League ready. Toussaint’s contribution would have been three years from now, at the earliest.
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