The NL managers after the annual luncheon - Pic from @Dbacks
Well, still no sign of the Really Big Trade, but it was probably the most interesting day so far. Two bench spots were sorted out by the Diamondbacks, who signed Eric Chavez and Wil Nieves, as backup at third and catcher respectively. Let's chew over those moves, and the rest of the day's news.
Eric Chavez spurns Yankees for Diamondbacks
Ah, isn't that just lovely? Chavez, who turns 35 on Friday, was perhaps partly lured by the prospect of getting to spend more time at home, since he lives in the Phoenix area. He saw more playing time last season, in New York, than for any year since 2006: for once, it wasn't Chavez getting injured, but him taking advantage of someone's else's injury. He started 73 games for the Yankees, mostly at third-base, as the result of Alex Rodriguez's broken hand. With A-Rod likely to miss much of the first half, they wanted to bring Chavez back; see the headline for details of how that worked out.
Eric, in his prime, was pretty freaking awesome. From 2000-2004, he never had an OPS lower than .850, while average 148 games and 4.4 bWAR per season. He's definitely a lot better against right-handed pitching, with a career OPS that's 181 points higher when he has the platoon advantage. It might also be worth noting that he tends to be better in the second-half - overall, he has hit .255 before the break, compared to .283 after it. Not much of a track record at Chase Field to go on; only 23 AB, with four hits including a home-run. We'll see whether he benefits from playing there in the same way as fellow left-hander Jason Kubel.
Nick Piecoro said "The Diamondbacks are tentatively targeting between 300 to 400 plate appearances for Chavez," which is quite a hefty slate for a bench player. Depending on how Eric Hinske performs, it's possible Eric v2.0 could see some time at first-base, and of course, there is also the expanded schedule of interleague games, half of which will see the team needing a designated hitter. That's a spot which was occupied by Kubel most of the time this year; perhaps the signing of Chavez can be seen as slight data pointing to a possible trade of Kubel coming down the pipe? That's largely speculation, however.
Nieves returns to the team which refused to tender him a contract last week, but the $800K he'll be getting doesn't seem significantly diffierent from what he would have got in arbitration. This felt largely like it was a trial separation, where a couple agree to see other people, before deciding that they're better off staying together after all. Steve Gilbert reports that we had tried to get ex-Diamondback Rod Barajas on board, but were not able to come to an agreement. I suspect Barajas likely wants to get more than the single start every week that Nieves will see, and be paid accordingly.
The obvious result of this is that the team is now overstocked with players. Under contract for the 2013 season, Arizona now have:
Starting infield: Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, Cliff Pennington, Chris Johnson.
Starting outfield: Kubel, Adam Eaton, Justin Upton
Bench: Nieves, Willie Bloomquist, John McDonald, Hinske, Gerardo Parra, Chavez
The odd man out could be John McDonald, but Piecoro reported Kevin Towers as saying the team might not trade anyone until spring training.
Elsewhere, the main focus of the day's rumors seemed to center on a multi-team deal which would see Arizona getting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians. Cleveland and Texas were the other franchises reported to be involved, with Justin Upton ending up with the Rangers, and an Arizona pitching prospect going to Cleveland as our contributions to the trade. The prospect names most often mentioned are Trever Bauer and Tyler Skaggs, but it would seem to me to be an enormous overpay to give up Upton and one of those two for Cabrera. Frankly, it'd feel like an overpay to do Upton for Cabrera, straight up. Kubel and Skaggs might be more like it, I'd say.
If it seems like there have been a lot of these mega-trades being discussed this week...it's probably because there have. Kevin Towers told Jack Magruder:
"Honestly, in all my years, I would say I’ve had more multi-team trade discussions than any time ever. Had very few just direct one-on-one. A team doesn’t have what we are looking for but another team does. There have been at least three teams involved in every discussion I have had. Sometimes four. Sometimes five. You think you are close, and you wait on a team, and then one of the four teams goes quiet. So head in another direction and see if there is a fit somewhere else. Gain momentum there, and then wait to hear back on that one. I really don’t know."
But there may not be a last hurrah for the team on the final day tomorrow, with Towers believing the team has addressed most of the obvious holes: "What I wanted to do was to leave here filling the key holes, which was our bench and our backup catching. We’ve done that." There is still an interest in getting some starting pitching, but that doesn't have to happen this week, and Towers again stressed there is no need to trade, saying "If we come to spring where we are at, we’re OK." There is always the Rule 5 draft though: Steve Gilbert quoted Towers as saying there was a 60-40 chance Arizona takes someone - more likely a pitcher.
Finally, here's the winner of the Most Ludicrous Trade Rumor of the day from a (semi-)legitimate source.
Think I can safely say that's not going to happen...