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Looking Back At Two Trades That Didn’t Happen

Sometimes it’s fun to look back and ask, ‘What if?’

Arizona Diamondbacks Photo Day Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

With it being All-Star Weekend, I decided to mix things up and go with a lighter post. And since the trade deadline is coming up, I decided it would be fun to talk about two big Diamondbacks trades that didn’t happen.

Justin Upton to Seattle Mariners for Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, and Stephen Pryor

Ah, the good ‘ol Upton veto. At the time, I remember being very upset that Upton rejected this trade as it seemed like a massive haul.

Taijuan Walker was one of the top prospects (top 10) in baseball. Nick Franklin was a top 100 prospect. Stephen Pryor was in the Mariners top 10. Charlie Furbush was a reliever with a funny name.

This was a haul.

However, this “haul” has so far not turned out to be what was expected. We already know about the ups and downs of Walker. And while he’s been a good pitcher, he hasn’t turned into the dominant ace like expected. Nick Franklin was a massive disappointment that is now on his fourth team. Stephen Pryor has 32 IP of Major League experience and hasn’t pitched professionally since 2015.

Upton Trade Rejection.csv

Player Career fWAR
Player Career fWAR
Taijuan Walker 6.1
Nick Franklin 0.5
Stephen Pryor 0
Charlie Furbush 2.3

That’s just under 9 WAR for what would have been three years of Justin Upton (who put up 10.6 fWAR in that time). This massive haul would have been a massive failure.

Instead, the Diamondbacks ended up trading Upton to the Braves for what was considered a significantly weaker return: Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Nick Ahmed, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Drury.

While none of those players have turned into stars, the Diamondbacks problably got more value out of this bunch. Collectively, they’ve only put up 6.7 fWAR for the Diamondbacks to date, but we still have three more years of Ahmed and Souza Jr. (as part of the Drury trade) left. And if you go by bWAR (which values Ahmed’s defense more), the WAR is already more even.

Neither trade has turned out great for AZ, but the Seattle Mariners trade would have been a big failure.

Patrick Corbin, Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair, and Brandon Drury to Miami for Jose Fernandez

This would have been one of the biggest trades in MLB history, with three players of MLB experience, a #1 draft pick, and a pitching prospect going to Miami all for one player.

This trade is really hard to analyze because of Jose Fernandez’s death. Though you have to wonder if he’d still be alive had this trade occured, because the boat life in AZ just isn’t the same as the Miami scene.

Jose Fernandez was an amazing pitcher. He battle dsome injuries in 2014 and 2015 but in 2016, he had 6.2 fWAR through the middle of September before passing away. The Diamondbacks would have had upwards of three seasons of a true ace - probably somewhere in the 15-25 WAR range depending on health and performance.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks would have given up an insane package and honestly, are probably for the better. Corbin is pitching nearly at Fernandez’s caliber this season and while it’s only one season before he hits free agency, he’s also going to get us a late first round draft pick, assuming he signs with another team. Dansby Swanson is still a big question mark but his future is still bright (2.2 fWAR to date). Ender Inciarte is a solid major leaguer (7.4 fWAR from 2016 - present). Aaron Blair more-or-less predictably didn’t succeed (-0.7 fWAR) and Brandon Drury is still young with a modest upside (0.8 fWAR to date).

When you consider the strong performances from Corbin last year and especially this year, the solid above-average value from Inciarte, plus a full 6 years of Swanson and Drury (or the three years of the Souza Jr. trade), the Diamondbacks probably would have surpassed the total value of Fernandez but it would have been close.

Instead, the Diamondbacks traded Swanson, Inciarte, and Blair for Shelby Miller and we all know how that’s gone.

The Diamondbacks went 69-93 in 2016 and probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs even with Fernandez. But how would 2017 have looked with Fernandez but no Corbin or Drury?