Yesterday was a bit chaotic trying to do the recap, listen in on the Hazen phone call and post game interviews, while keeping up on all the trade deadline moves. With some time on the airplane to digest and a surprisingly good connection, here are Five thoughts
1.) Mea Culpa
I did not think Greinke would be traded. I said never say never, but I also said it was very unlikely. So I was dead wrong there. True it came together literally in the last seconds before the trade deadline, and the outline of the deal only came about very very late as well. And they did have to pony up 24 Million in order to be able to get prospects back. So the notion they could get a return without putting up money was probably never realistic.
On the other hand they got a more than I thought they would for the 24 million. Of course the team didn’t only give up 24 million. They gave up Zack Greinke for upwards of 70-75 starts between now and the end of his contract in 2021. Lets not overlook that. Don’t make the mistake of handwaving away that value on the basis of low expectations for competing in 2020-21
2.) Avoid Hubris:
I mentioned to Sean that Roland Hemond once said to me that nothing scared him more than when everyone unanimously told him what a great trade he made. Sean pointed out that teams are much better or uniformly able to evaluate players nowadays, as are writers and pundits. But I think the underlying message Roland was trying to convey was one of humility and to avoid hubris. He’s a wise man. It’s a lesson I’ve failed to heed too often in the past.
There are plenty of question marks surrounding the prospects the team got back in the Greinke trade. Honestly if one of them manages to give the team more than 3 above league average seasons in the future, they probably did pretty well.
· I love Seth Beer’s bat like everyone else, but he doesn’t have a position until they have a DH in the NL. His Clemson coach didn’t want him playing first base because he’d have to catch the ball too often.
· Corbin Martin is a question mark until he makes it all the way back from TJ surgery. See Walker, Taijuan
· JB Bukauskas is most likely a reliever
· Josh Rojas is a minor league over achiever that is old for his level.
OK, it’s not really as dire as all that. But you see what I just did there? I cast doubt in four bullet points. The positives that can be listed out for each of these players outweighs the negatives. But nothing is guaranteed. Still this was something the team needed to do, and I’m glad they did.
3.) About that “Buy Move”
I don’t know much about Zac Gallen. I’ve never seen him pitch. I see the same numbers as everyone else. The underlying peripherals suggest to me a mid 3’s to low 4’s ERA type guy. Mike Hazen said they liked his strike throwing ability and his durability. I was told that the DBacks scouts were on him for a long time. Then again the same person told me that the prospects you end up regret trading away are the ones like Jazz Chisholm with a ton of tools. I tried really hard to be convinced by the experts that I should have more belief in Chisholm’s upside. He wowed me in the Arizona Fall League. But that K rate……..it just seems to me that it lowers his ceiling considerably.
4.) Mike Leake
He’s cheap, and the trade cost to get him was low. So there is zero risk here, and he might not be too bad. But the nature of this type of “average innings eater” pitcher is One Good, One Bad start alternating. Factoring in that, some possible decline setting in, and the fact that he is “replacing” Zack Greinke in the rotation, and I think he is going to booed off the mound more than a few times in Chase Field. And this is if he’s the 95-100 ERA+ guy he’s been over 2018-2019. If he’s any worse than that, it will be pretty rough for him I fear.
Another concern is there is a lot of mileage on his arm. Innings eaters are innings eaters until they’re not. Remember Bronson Arroyo ? Mr. Durability, league avg innings eater. 9 straight seasons of 200 innings with 104 ERA+. Came here and gave the team 14 starts at 92 ERA+ and then got hurt and was done.
Leake is very similar in this regard averaging 30 starts, 190 IP and 100 ERA+ for the last 8 years. He’s younger than arroyo was when he came here, but started his MLB innings eater role earlier too. So there is some risk here despite the history, (or maybe because of it.)
So underperformance or injury may be a tad more possible than most people are thinking about. And that will be really unfortunate if that happens, because he’s wanted to be here forever, and by all accounts he’s a good guy. Fingers crossed it goes well for him and the team. But if you were to offer me right now a 95 ERA+ and 2/3 IP per start and no starts missed, I sign up for that in a heart beat.
Remember, Merrill Kelly has a 4.52 ERA, and a 98 ERA+ and is averaging 5 2/3 IP per start. So that’s what I’m hoping for/expecting.
5.) 2019 and Beyond
When I published my final pre season projections the team looked like a 79 win team on paper. Of course there is a lot of variance in the individual projections both over and under. But the total output is remarkably similar to where they are now.
During Spring training I was talking to Nick Piecoro about how I kept coming back to roughly a .500 team on paper for 2019. His comment was “I don’t see any way Mike Hazen lets this team finish .500”. His inference was he would either buy hard or sell hard, and they would either press towards 90 wins or drop well below 80 depending on the path chosen.
Yet Mike Hazen chose neither path. He attempted to once again thread the needle and both buy and sell at the same time. It remains to be seen how the team finishes the season. But it’s worth noting that that Won Loss projections at Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus and 538 didn’t move very much with Greinke trade. Perhaps half a win less. (On paper). That’s because while they are projected to get less at the top end of the rotation, they are expected to get more at the back end and it’s close to a push
The trade deadline in behind them now. The players and manager are all saying it was a distraction and now they can get back to the business of trying to win games. Clearly 2019 is not the priority for Mike Hazen right now, despite his desire to want the team playing meaningful games. He may not have torn it down to the studs, but he has made moves to bolster the future at the expense of the present.
I’m more hopeful for the future than I was 36 hours ago. I wasn’t that hopeful for 2019 in the first place. Just remember, the players haven’t quit. They may or may not be good enough to go on a run and make the wild card. The odds are stacked against them, now more than ever. But their focus is on winning. How cool would it be if they did, while at the same time the organization is building towards the future ?