On Fandom, And The Gregorius-Bauer Trade

Liz Condo-US PRESSWIRE

A few days have now passed since the deal that sent Trevor Bauer out of Arizona, bringing the team back young shortstop prospect, Didi Gregorius. With the dust settling, I figured I'd talk about the trade (but more my reaction to it) at some length.

To be honest, I can't get that worked up about it, because I don't feel it's a trade that I can give any kind of meaningful evaluation at this point, since it's trading one prospect for another. Accurate judgment of the two players' actual production - rather than speculative "potential" - doesn't seem possible, when neither has had more than a few weeks at the major-league level. There's a good chance that won't change, for Didi Gregorius at least, in the immediate future. It seems quite likely he will start 2013 in Triple-A, and more than possible he will spend the entire season there, with Cliff Pennington manning the position for the Diamondbacks next year.

Whether Gregorius takes over for Arizona in the season after next, depends both on his performance and that of Pennington; the latter's price will be steadily increasing, as he goes through arbitration, so that may factor into the decision. But I suspect it will be the latter half of 2014, at least, before Gregorius has enough playing time to offer any kind of realistic evaluation as to his talents at the major-league level. And even then, as a 24-year-old he'd still be young, with his best years likely ahead of him [as we hear quite often regarding Upton!]. Last season, only two shortstops that age were full-time players for their teams: Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro.

The other thing that tempers my opinion was that I don't care about "winning" the trade. It really doesn't bother me much how more wins Bauer and co. help their new teams achieve - providing that the players we get help Arizona to win more games too. And, as noted above, that need not be in 2013 or even 2014 - I'm looking at this almost entirely from a long-term perspective, past whenever Pennington departs. And, behind the door marked "shortstops", the Diamondbacks cupboard is all but bare, save for a tin of mystery meat labeled Chris Owings. Could be filet mignon. Could be Spam. Could be Kit-e-Kat. We just don't know.

And that last sentence sums up so much about this. Can Gregorius hit at the major-league level? Will Trevor Bauer become a psycho? What does the future hold? We. Just. Don't. Know. Hard to get worked up about such complete...whatever the opposite of omniscience is. And, as an aside, the presence or absence of Bauer makes very little difference to my degree of Diamondbacks' fandom. I am a supporter of the team, rather than any one person on it. As a fan, I want the trade to work out for the team - and so, will believe that it is going to make us better down the road, until I get adequate evidence to the contrary.

Pretty much, I have faith in Diamondbacks' management. Kevin Towers has been a GM since before some readers here were born: he has the same amount of experience in the job as Billy Beane (15), and the teams under his management have won as many division titles too (five) [Admittedly, with a little more in the way of resources, but Towers' richest club, the 1998 Padres, were still down in 14th place, by payroll]. Under him, we have averaged 87.5 wins, while being ranked 25th and 24th in salary. It's the most in consecutive seasons by the D-backs since 2002-03, when our payroll was 4th and 10th. I think all he has earned a degree of confidence - or, at least slack.

This may not be logical, but this is sports fandom we're speaking about, which rarely is. I've been a fan of Arsenal FC for over forty years, simply because their team captain at the time had a name vaguely similar to mine. I am a fan of the Diamondbacks, because in 1988, Mrs. SnakePit moved to Phoenix from Pittsburgh - but for that, I could be running Bucs Dugout, and bemoaning our 20th losing season in a row. It might be more like religious faith - not sure, I'm not religious - with Pope Kevin the First, head of the church, and imbued with papal infallibility. Of course, that infallibility is more theoretical than actual, but if you don't believe in your team, what's the point?

So, my lack of aversion to the trade was neither "contrariness" nor "shilling" - both of which I was accused of, in the comments on the trade stories. It's optimism, driven by a genuine hope that every move the Diamondbacks do. will turn out for the best - even if it's not necessarily a trade on which I would, personally, have pulled the trigger. What certainly does get my goat, is blaming Towers for moves which don't work, while ascribing any ones that do to "luck", or even for trades which haven't actually occurred, but which people are sure he will make. I think history shows us that Towers is very good at surprising us: no-one even mentioned Gregorius until the deal was almost done.

That said, I think this certainly was a risky deal, in the sense it's probably not one we'll look back on in five years, and wonder what all the fuss was about. It's almost the Schrodinger's Cat of baseball transactions, a wave-form possessing a chance of collapsing into something which will either make Towers look like a total genius, or justify all the "Worst Trade EVAH!" comments. It may turn out to be the defining moment of Towers' tenure as GM, in the same way that the Eric Byrnes extension ended up as the tipping point for the Josh Byrnes' regime. What that definition will end up being... Well, we just don't know.

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