The Arizona Diamondbacks traded Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals. The return netted two young major leaguers, a Double A prospect and a draft pick, veteran leaders for the 2022 playoff team forming in the lower levels of Arizona’s farm.
There can be no reasonable expectation for contention in 2019 for Arizona now, not after losing their top starter in Patrick Corbin and their MVP in Paul Goldschmidt. Add to that the speculated departure of center fielder A.J. Pollock, the Robin to Goldschmidt’s Batman lo these past six years, and it truly is the end of an a gold(y)en era in the desert.
Cold comfort, Ken. That’s ice-cold comfort.
Taking a step back: Kendrick’s point does more-or-less get at the very heart of this trade. He and GM Mike Hazen must think this deal makes the Diamondbacks a better ballclub in the long run.
To give them the benefit of the doubt for a moment, trades like this do often kickstart a new generation of talent for an organization. Cleveland set the high water mark for trades of this ilk early this century with the trade of Bartolo Colon to the Expos in 2002. That midsummer deal netted Cleveland Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens.
The Indians had crashed back to earth after a stunning run wherein they made the playoffs in six of seven seasons. This deal marked the real end of the 90’s Indians.
Let’s be real, though, the bounceback wasn’t quick. The Indians next finished above five hundred with a 93-win club that missed the playoffs in 2005. That season was the first full season for Grady Sizemore, only 22 at the time, and Cliff Lee , 26, was a central part of the rotation.
Lee himself was dealt to the Phillies in 2009 for four prospects, including their current #2 starter Carlos Carrasco – who has a chance to finish an underrated career in Cleveland after being extended at a below-market rate earlier today.
So while the final dividends of a teardown deal like this aren’t likely to fully flower for years to come, there’s a good possibility the Diamondbacks will be able to invest this return and grow it into more than the four individual assets currently making their way to Arizona.
Morale of the story being, there is a bright side to this deal: if all breaks right, some sixteen years from now, a grandchild of this trade could be very well be halfway through a tremendous Diamondbacks career! And your grandchildren may be there to appreciate it.
“I love Paul Goldschmidt. But I love the Diamondbacks more.” – Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick
There’s no other reason to give up a guy like Paul Goldschmidt. Not when the Diamondbacks are just a year removed from making the playoffs. Not when fan interest is already likely to wane with the departures of Corbin and Pollock.
If we close our eyes, and wish real hard, we might be able to see the wunderkind grandchild of this trade who will one day lead the Diamondbacks back to contention in approximately 2040.
Or, we can open our eyes wide as we can, stare fear in the face, and take a look at what the Diamondbacks got in return for the best player in franchise history. Check out our individual reviews of the returns in this deal here, here, here and here.
There’s no reason to speak overlong about the draft pick acquisition portion of this deal. It’s a good pickup and a savvy inclusion in the deal for both sides. For the Cardinals, it’s essentially a free pick from MLB. They can pretend they never had it.
For Arizona, it’s a blank Scrabble tile, a joker when jokers are wild, it’s the unimprinted carbon-based replicant of a human body. The Diamondbacks can choose their own adventure now, unrestricted by the warm bodies currently inhabiting the Cardinals’ farm.
The most important moment of the Diamondbacks’ 2019 is guaranteed to happen in June. In shaping their future, Arizona now owns a host of picks in the top 85 of June’s draft, a huge opportunity to build out their farm system.
The overall return for the Diamondbacks is better than most people give them credit for, if only because it’s a definitive present-day net loss, and there’s no fair price for the face of a franchise.
Weaver, Kelly and Young are collectively close to ML-ready safe bet prospects because of their relatively high floors. They should become mainstays at Chase Field in short order. What’s at question is their likelihood for stardom.
On the other hand, the Diamondbacks most promising prospects are far away from actualizing their best selves. Their current “top prospects” include a couple of pitchers who might pitch in the majors this season, but that’s often how systems look. “Top prospects” is often parlance for “most ML-ready prospects.”
Prospects move up ranking boards as they move through the minor leagues. Guys like Blaze Alexander and Jazz Chisholm aren’t necessarily worse prospects than Taylor Widener and Jon Duplantier – at present, they have lower floors, but their projected ceilings likely exceed those of Widener and Duplantier.
The Diamondbacks could have continued to place their eggs into the basket of that younger class of prospect, but getting a couple more young players on the cusp of major league readiness is a nice way. to round out a system that lacks that brand of youngster.
Besides, the draft pick means they aren’t completely neglecting the Alexander/Chisholm class – that depends on who they draft. The league has evolved to a place where championship contenders arise as a brand of graduating class. The Cubs, Astros and Red Sox each boasted clumped groups of prospects who became ML stars while they were still affordable.
The Diamondbacks are seeing what happens when a prospect class isn’t robust enough. Goldschmidt, Pollock and Corbin were fun, but they weren’t enough.
Weaver, Kelly and Young may only bridge the gap to what looks like a strong class developing in the lower levels of Arizona’s farm system. Or they may become the veteran leaders who build the foundation upon which these young studs can integrate. They may become only competent enough to flip for further prospects at a later date.
By returning this collection of near-ready players, the Diamondbacks brass made the safe choice, they made the right choice, the choice that most limits the possibility of Option D: not returning any significant assets for the greatest player in franchise history.
Weaver and Kelly could be above-average regulars as soon as this season, and those are exactly the types of players that rebuilding clubs should target – players that appreciate into better assets by playing. The readiness of these prospects isn’t a sign that the Diamondbacks are on the fence about rebuilding – it’s a step towards doing it well.
Anyhow, it’s a step.
Diamondbacks Trade Grade: B+