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Diamondbacks trade prime young talent for gritty gutty lunchbucket gamers

[ 89 ] January 24, 2013 |

de

This should work out well.

Kirk Gibson likes toughness, but then again Kirk spent half his career on the DL.

Comments (89)

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  1. Is this the “bully pulpit” equivalent in baseball?

  2. Well, Prado isn’t a bad player by any means, but yeah: if this is the way the organization is thinking as they trade away Upton, Young, and Bauer, it really doesn’t bode well for their future.

  3. Here’s a fun parlor game: a lineup of players who can’t be Diamondbacks due to a lack of fiery intensity on the field:

    C- Buster Posey
    1B- Albert Pujols
    2B- Robinson Cano
    SS- Derek Jeter
    3B- Ryan Zimmerman
    LF- Stan Musial
    CF- Curtis Granderson
    RF- Roberto Clemente
    DH- Jim Thome

    SP- Greg Maddux
    RP- Mariano Rivera

    • Paul Campos says:

      I’m just barely old enough to have seen him a few times on TV in the last couple of years of his career, but I’m surprised Clemente is on this list. I thought he was a pretty fiery guy on and off the field (or “moody” which is what fiery non-white guys were called back in the day).

      • Well I’m not old enough to have seen him, so I guess I was just going on the modern take on him, which is generally that he was “classy” and gentleman like, which I mentally associated with Musial after typing that. Either way, he was a black Hispanic star, so he’d probably get run out by the Dbacks teabagger owner sooner or later.

        • LosGatosCA says:

          Roberto had a reputation as a ‘whiner’, you know, because he had an accent I guess and I once read an interview where he talked about a green electrical pulse machine (or something) he used on his elbow. Maybe that’s why he could throw everyone out.

          But he got a hit every world series game he ever played in, which seems pretty flukey for a guy with an accent.

        • Jeffrey Kramer says:

          I think Hank Aaron gets the “low-key, doesn’t look like he’s on fire, no shouting or fist-pumping” nod for RF. DiMaggio would presumably get it for CF.

      • Mudge says:

        I suspect any sensible owner would want a team of Clementes, not a team of, even. Kirk Gibsons.

        • Green Caboose says:

          What? You don’t want a team of guys who hit two clutch home runs in their career and are pretty good offensively and mediocre defensively the rest of it (with lots of time on the DL as Paul points out)?

          • howard says:

            back in the days of pink message slips, i got back from lunch early one week to find a call from someone i knew in la but no message line.

            so i didn’t call back for another couple of days.

            turned out my caller’s brother had an extra ticket for s world series game and while she wasn’t a baseball fan, she knew how much i would appreciate seeing a series game.

            but since i hadn’t called back in time, the ticket had moved on to some else, and that’s how i didn’t get to see gibson’s 1988 home run in the flesh (there’s a further story of the circumstances under which i watched the game, but it’s not suitable for a family audience i’m afraid).

            which is essentially irrelevant to this thread other than i like the excuse to tell the story.

            • Fighting Words says:

              As a Bay Area sports fan, I only wish that I could never have seen Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series.

      • howard says:

        i’m old enough to remember clemente quite well, and no, he would not make anyone’s list of the all-intense team….

        • howard says:

          i’m summoning up from memory the wonderful roger angell reference to clemente’s “effulgent” play in the 1971 world series: that i’ll accept!

    • Captain C says:

      I’d put them in this batting order:
      Jeter
      Clemente
      Musial
      Pujols
      Thome
      Cano
      Zimmerman
      Posey
      Granderson

      You’d win a lot of games with that lineup.

      As to the two pitchers, you probably wouldn’t need any others (at least for one game); In his prime, Maddux could go 8 innings on about 80-90 pitches, and Mariano could take the 9th.

  4. Mudge says:

    Rosenthal even mentions David Eckstein, the epitome of gritty but bad baseball players.

    Perhaps this will be a trade that is bad for both teams.

    • Dana Houle says:

      Eh, I wouldn’t say a competent fielding second baseman with a .345 career OBA was a “bad player.” Hyped out of all proportion to his actual contributions on the field, no doubt, but he was a decent player for a few years.

    • Fighting Words says:

      I have to say that as a short guy, I always have a soft sport for the short players. Darren Sproles, David Eckstein, Early Boykins, etc.

      This is even though “diminutive” David Eckstein is actually two inches taller than I am.

    • howard says:

      yes he mentions eckstein, but then he also makes his one weak move in an otherwise excellent article, which is acting like paul o’neill wasn’t a good player.

      o’neill as a yankee: 1 war per 52 games; upton 1 per 55.

      o’neill’s ops+ as a yankee: 125; upton’s 117.

      i don’t see what rosenthal’s point was supposed to be with that comparison: you’d be happy to have a bunch of paul o’neills on your team….

    • Henry Holland says:

      I’m glad David Eckstein was an Angels player, he was a good –not great, merely “good”– player for them. Considering some of the horrors I’ve seen play SS for the Angels since 1974, to call him “bad” is idiocy.

      And really, being overhyped is a reason to think a player sucks? Wow.

  5. Dana Houle says:

    Eh, I’m not sold on Justin Upton. Two of his last three seasons he hit only 17 HR’s, he gets thrown out on a third of his SB attempts, his OPS was under .800 and last year RISP w 2 outs he hit .203. I’m not overly impressed. 17 HR’s for a supposed top tier corner OF? Hell, playing in a huge park even fellow first overall pick Delmon Young hit more than 17 HR’s last year.

    Upton’s still young, so maybe he’ll become as good as expected. But I’m skeptical.

    This is good news, however, because I’ve been worried for months the Tigers would trade for him. Now I’m glad they won’t make that mistake.

    • “Still young” being…24 years old. With an MVP caliber season on his resume. But holy fuck, he lost some power last year after he hurt his thumb and he doesn’t hit well in games that start at 3:00 with the roof closed, so fuck him.

    • Sherm says:

      I’m totally sold on J-Up. He’s an incredible talent. Check the list of rookie players who posted an ops over 800 at the age he did it. An impressive list. His down years were from injuries (shoulder and thumb). The braves fleeced tower, who has now sold low on two amazing talents by announcing his intention to do so. What a maroon.

      • If you’re talking about Bauer, you’re probably overstating the case a little bit (shortstops are more valuable than pitching prospects, Towers has a well earned reputation for evaluating pitching, and Arizona has Skaggs and Bradley in the system still), but yeah, trading away Upton without getting a single elite young talent is really bad. Maybe even worse than acquiring Cahill!

        • Sherm says:

          I was referring to Bauer. Sold low and let everybody know in advance that they disapproved of his personality. As for Cahill, at least he didn’t give up somebody good like jarred Parker.

          • I wouldn’t necessarily call Bauer an “amazing” talent. One of the game’s best pitching prospects, sure, but not a truly elite one like Bundy or Walker. Certainly not a once a decade talent or anything. Heck, on pure talent I actually think Bradley is a better prospect. Gregorius isn’t a wowing return, but if he develops into an everyday shortstop who saves a ton of runs on defense, adds value on the basepaths, and hits well enough to hold down the 8th spot in the lineup it won’t be an awful deal given how scarce those kinds of shortstops are.

            • Sherm says:

              Agreed on Bauer. But they did sell low on him, and I don’t agree with trading a high ceiling prospect like him for a lower ceiling prospect simply because the latter fills a positional need.

              • Not positional need, positional scarcity. Shortstops are just harder to find than even 1-2 starter types. If Gregorious ends up being a competent everyday shortstop, there’s a very good chance he’ll be more valuable than Bauer.

      • Dana Houle says:

        His 2011 season was very, very good. And I’m open to possibility that he had a shitty attitude last season but that in the right situation–away from Gibson–he could do well. But I can’t help but notice that BJ Upton’s best season by far was when he was 22 years old.

        • “And I’m open to possibility that he had a shitty attitude last season but that in the right situation…”

          Like not playing for a team whose owner publicly ripped you when he knew (and acknowledged!) that you were playing with a thumb injury?

        • Sherm says:

          On the train and unable to find list I referred to. But largely hall of famers with the worst player being vada pinson. Plus, he had an 899 ops the following year at age 21. These are historic numbers at those ages.

          • Dana Houle says:

            BJ Upton’s OPS in 2007, the first season he played more than 50 games, when he was 22, was .894. I get your point, but like I said, that makes me hesitant to say he’s as promising in the long term as, say, Stanton, much less McCutcheon (who’s improved year to year).

            BTW, the first round of that draft where he was the #1 pick was loaded: Him, Zimmerman, Braun, Tulo, Ricky Romero, McCutcheon, Jay Bruce, Ellsbury…

            • “BJ Upton’s OPS in 2007, the first season he played more than 50 games, when he was 22, was .894. I get your point, but like I said, that makes me hesitant to say he’s as promising in the long term as, say, Stanton, much less McCutcheon (who’s improved year to year). ”

              Not sure what B.J. has to do with anything other than being the guys brother, but okay. It’s worth noting that Upton’s “inconsistency” is entirely related to his power, and that he’s pretty darn consistent in terms of batting average, OBP, and K% and BB% (he actually walked more in 2010/12 than in 2009/11). So you’re basically left complaining that a 24 year old isn’t consistently slugging .500+.

              • brad says:

                BJ having such close genetic relation tells us more about Justin than just about any other means of predicting, and the fact that BJ peaked as a hitter very early in his career (thus far) might just be considered a relevant factor in predictions. Might be that Upton boys reach full physical maturity faster than average, and peak sooner.
                The other complaint is that he’s a right fielder, so if he isn’t consistently slugging .500 there’s a very real question of how valuable he is.

                • Dana Houle says:

                  But…but…sabermetrics! Say! Ber! Met! Rics!!!!!

                  [FTR, I think they have value, but people who ignore all other aspects are what Bugs called maroons.]

                • Sherm says:

                  That makes a lot of sense. The Aaron and the DiMaggio brothers clearly support your hypothosis.

                • To say nothing of the much larger mass of major league players who have brothers that never even became professional baseball players in the first place!

                • elm says:

                  Heck, how well could one predict Jose and Ozzie Canseco’s careers based on the other?

                  And those dudes had exactly the same genetic material.

                • brad says:

                  Actually, the DiMaggios were both gold glove CFs. One was a bit of a better hitter, yep, but looking at one can still tell us something about the other.
                  As for Ozzie vs Jose, much as I hate to cry steroids about anything at all, might just be some evidence for better living through chemistry, there.

                  Point is, the path of BJ’s career is a relevant data point in looking at Justin. One data point among many. Calm down, kids.

                • elm says:

                  I don’t think anyone has ever posited that taking steroids can add 40 homeruns in a season. (And, besides, there’s no reason to think that Ozzie didn’t take steroids.)

                  And “bit better hitter?” Joe was as much a better hitter than Dom than Dom was of Vince (did you know there was a 3rd brother? Also a centerfielder, but lead the league in strikeouts 6 times, had a sub-250 career batting average and .413 slugging percentage.)

                  And did you know Barry Bonds has 2 brothers, one of whom (Bobby Jr.) never made it out of the minors and the other who never played at all)?

                  This is a ridiculous argument and Brien put it best: how many major league players have brothers who never played at all? Why can BJ tell us more about Justin than Ed Musial can tell us about Stan?

                • brad says:

                  Wow, again, calm down.
                  “A bit better” was said firmly tongue in cheek. I’m a Yankee fan, I know my Joe.
                  And what I’m saying is it’s a valid data point to consider. It does not determine how one values Justin at all, but is worth being among many things considered.
                  I know my sabermetrics reasonably well, I have a decade’s worth of BP annuals before they became pointless to keep buying, and usually visit Fangraphs multiple times a day. I understand average career arcs for players and the potential Justin has shown at a young age. I also know that average career arcs are not legally binding commitments on players to develop value linearly or for the age 27 season to automatically be their most valuable. BJ is, to say again, A data point among many to be considered in projecting Justin’s career.

                • brad says:

                  Ok, I did say it was very relevant, I don’t mean to try to shift goalposts.
                  And I stand by the original. If you’re trying to figure out how his body will develop and age as a major part of projecting him then a brother a few years older is the absolute best resource you have. I could have been clearer about that, and Dana’s mildly anti-sabr bent seems to have tarred me by association, but still…

    • djw says:

      RISP w 2 outs he hit .203

      Oh, come on. Isolating situational hitting doesn’t have any predictive power. This has no place in a serious attempt to figure out Upton’s future value.

      Generally speaking, 24 year olds who’ve had 2 outstanding MLB seasons and 2 pretty good ones provide considerable future value. You’ve offered no good reasons to think Upton is a uniquely bad bet amongst this elite group.

      • Dana Houle says:

        Oh, I’m sorry, I thought mediocre seasons had equal predictive value to good ones, and being brother to a guy whose best year was when he was 22 and has sucked in his late twenties was also a reason to doubt that Upton would be a reliable superstar. Thanks for convincing me that only idiots would be skeptical that a corner outfielder who in 2 of 3 seasons had an OPS under ,800 would be a superstar,

        • “being brother to a guy whose best year was when he was 22 and has sucked in his late twenties was also a reason to doubt that Upton would be a reliable superstar.”

          It’s honestly hilarious that you keep saying this like you really, truly, believe it.

          • Dana Houle says:

            Look, you act like an asshole on these threads. There was a time when someone being an asshole to me prompted me to want to rhetorically bludgeon them, but I’ve gotten over that, and now I mostly don’t have any interest in engaging with people like that. So you should probably find something more productive to do than interacting with me, like watching Zoolander with the sound off or maybe punching a gerbil.

    • rea says:

      playing in a huge park even fellow first overall pick Delmon Young hit more than 17 HR’s last year.

      Since they moved the fences more than a decade ago, Comerica hasn’t been all that bad for home run hitters.

      • Dana Houle says:

        But for HR’s it’s still not good, especially for righthanders. The one thing Delmon had going for him at Comerica is rightfield isn’t ridiculous and he hits a lot of his HR’s to right.

        • rea says:

          for HR’s it’s still not good, especially for righthanders

          It’s 345 down the left field line line and 370 in left center, with a low wall. It’s middle of the road, really. And of course, a right handed hitter for the Tigers led the league in HRs in 2008 and 2012.

          • For the 2011 season, Comerica actually played as slightly more friendly than average for right-handed hitters in terms of home runs (104 home runs for every 100 in the rest of the league), and below average for lefties (98).

            http://www.fangraphs.com/guts.aspx?type=pfh&teamid=0&season=2011

            • Dana Houle says:

              OK, can’t resist:
              Of the 10 Tiger hitters who had the most AB’s in 2011, 8 were either righthanded or switch hitters.

              Visiting lefthanded hitters faced righthander Justin Verlander (Cy Young/MVP), righthander Rick Porcello (sinkerballer) and righthander Doug Fister (league-leading 0.458 HR/9IP), and a bullpen of righthanders Al Alburquerque (13.9 SO/9IP, no HR’s yielded in 43 IP), Joaquin Benoit (0.7 HR/9IP) and Jose Valverde (49 saves in 49 opportunities).

              Yeah, I’m sure it’s purely the air pressure, humidity and dimensions of the stadium that explain those HR stats you cite.

              Players don’t matter! Viva Sabermetrics!!!

              • elm says:

                In what world does sabermetrics say that air pressure matters and players don’t? If you’re going to make comments like that, you kind of have to expect Brien to be an asshole to you.

          • Dana Houle says:

            Well, yeah, that’s a sign that the park is average and not that one of the two best hitters of the last 10-15 years would have hit more home runs had his home park been smaller.

          • Dana Houle says:

            Also, sure, the Tigers weren’t good for the first 6 years, but in the 13 years they’ve been in Comerica–during which time they’ve made the playoffs three times and the World Series twice–other than Cabrera they’ve had only 2 30 HR seasons, both exactly 30, one by Bobby Higginson and the other by Curtis Granderson. So obviously the park is HR friendly, and there’s no chance that Cabrera would have more HR’s if he played in a more HR-friendly park.

  6. efgoldman says:

    The public in Arizona dooesn’t give a shit; the owner doesn’t give a shit Why should something called “Lawyers, Guns & Money” give a shit?

  7. CaptBackslap says:

    The article makes the whole thing sound even weirder. D-Backs executives said that he has a good work ethic and plays hard. But he doesn’t deliberately make it look like he’s playing hard, and that is just not acceptable.

    • My guess (to rip from Calcaterra) is that Towers is just looking for a “nice” way to say that the racist teabagger owner poisoned the team’s relationship with Upton and they had to trade him for cents on the dollar after Upton blocked a trade to Seattle.

      • Henry Holland says:

        I wouldn’t doubt there’s racism involved with Upton but the Angels said the exact same thing about Jim Edmonds, he wasn’t intense, didn’t play with fire, wasn’t giving his all for the team etc. etc. The fact that he was one of the 2 or 3 best CF in baseball and an excellent hitter didn’t matter, it drove the team and his teammates *nuts*, the Angels couldn’t wait to trade him after the 1999 season. Woops! I was glad Edmonds was on a WS winning team in 2006, same with Eckstein.

  8. Njorl says:

    Every game one of two teams win. That’s hardly impressive. But grit, that’s not something you see everyday!

  9. commie atheist says:

    This Giants fan would like to thank Kirk Gibson for making a repeat more possible next year.

    As much as I loved Cody Ross in 2010, I don’t think a team of 25 Cody Rosses would finish anywhere near .500.

  10. Jim Lynch says:

    I’ve watched and/or listened to the broadcasts of most Giants/D-Backs games since Upton broke in, and consider him a good, solid, dangerous player. He’s one of those guys who always seems to be at the plate when he can do the most damage. Superior outfielder, threat on the bases, very decent average. Simply put, he’s bad news if your team is playing his. Like all Giants fans, Cody Ross will always have a place in my heart, but Upton is far and away the better player. I’m glad he’s out west and has settled back east.

  11. Scott Lemieux says:

    Alderson really needs to get on the horn and see what the D-Backs will give up for Daniel Murphy. He’s gritty, gutty, scrappy, has great makeup, and he’s a professional hitter.

  12. JB2 says:

    One of my all-time faves, Gibby’s long-time teammate Lou Whitaker, often pointed out that diving for every ground ball makes no sense, given that baseball is played pretty much every single day from the start of April to the end of September.

  13. and then there are the terms like “gritty”, “scrappy”, “blue collar”. Notice how those are only ever used to describe White players?

  14. brad says:

    Yep, that package Arizona got sure is nothing but grit. Prado’s career OPS+ is only a few points lower than Upton’s, he plays a position at which there’s a legit dearth of talent in the bigs currently (not to mention just about anywhere else you ask him to), he was more than twice as valuable than Upton last year, and has been around a 4 win per full season player in his career. And then there’s the minor leaguers in the deal.
    Even assuming Prado isn’t resigned, let’s do some back of the envelope WAR math. Upton is hardly a guaranteed producer, but for the sake of argument say he produces 5 wins a year for the 3 years left on contract. Johnson is a total throw in, but give him a win for the hell of it, 16 wins total over 3 years for $38.5 mil for Upto, plus guess $1.5 for Johnson to make an even $40 million, $2.5 per win.
    Pencil Prado in for 3-4 next year. Say that the 4 non impact talent minor leaguers add up to one league average season per year after their rookie years, for 5 years of 2 wins a piece, 10 wins over 6 seasons. 13-14 wins, conservatively, over 6-7 seasons. Prado makes $4.75 mil this season, say the 6 years of team control of the rest adds up to $15 and change for a nice round total of $20 million for those 13-14 very rough wins, for about $1.5 per.
    I’m not sure how to evaluate the fairness of that, especially considering the extreme variability in it all, but boil it down and it seems like about an equal exchange of WAR, with Arizona giving up value in how they’re distributed in exchange for better bang for the buck. And there’s just as much upside for Arizona as there is for Atlanta, really. Upton could have MVP seasons, and two of the minor leaguers could develop into league average players.
    Tl;dr: stupid post, Campos.

    • brad says:

      Additionally, Atlanta has to spend that roughly $40 million no matter what, Arizona’s only guaranteed commitment in the trade is Prado’s $4.75 this coming season. If they pay any of the minor leaguers any real money it’ll be for producing actual value.
      That difference has real value.

      • brad says:

        And finally, Arizona had 4 starting outfielders and no legit 3rd baseman. Now they have less depth and one less hole. On paper, at least, that’s a better allocation of resources.

        Yes, I’d rather have Upton than any of the other three, maybe aside from Eaton if you consider cost. And yes, if it were my team I’d be worried about trading potentially rare talent for what amounts to depth. But this isn’t Myers for Shields.

    • Anon21 says:

      Say that the 4 non impact talent minor leaguers add up to one league average season per year after their rookie years, for 5 years of 2 wins a piece, 10 wins over 6 seasons. 13-14 wins, conservatively, over 6-7 seasons.

      Honestly, I don’t know that this is so conservative. Delgado, at least, should have major league value, but league average is probably optimistic, at least for this coming season, and maybe past that if he doesn’t improve his offspeed stuff. The other guys in the deal are fringe prospects (Spruill, Ahmed) and a non-prospect (Drury). There’s a good chance that the three of them put together fail to produce any net value for the Diamondbacks at the major league level.

      • brad says:

        Well, what I’m saying is that out of 24 player seasons among the 4 of them, I bet they can find 5 2 win seasons. And I agree that 3-4 of them would be expected from Delgado.

        And I also understand that compacting wins into a single roster slot has real value of its own, and is harder to do than gather depth. I’m not saying it’s a good trade, necessarily, but I don’t see it as a fleecing, especially considering the conditions. When they couldn’t get Upton to sign off on going to Seattle it became a buyer’s market.

        • Anon21 says:

          Really, it became a buyer’s market when Towers created a huge traffic jam in the outfield by signing Ross. I haven’t seen a satisfactory explanation of that move yet that doesn’t circle back to giving him an excuse to trade Upton.

          • brad says:

            I was going to play devil’s advocate, but you’re right, no excuse for it becoming a buyer’s market. Best I can think of is they “had” to sign Ross first to keep him. But you just don’t let a player like Cody Ross force your hand in a move like this.

    • “with Arizona giving up value in how they’re distributed in exchange for better bang for the buck.”

      Erm…no. If you’re getting relatively equal value, the fact that Atlanta is getting it from one player as opposed to 3-4 is a huge boon, since they can then add even more wins with the additional roster spots they have unfilled.

      • brad says:

        There are 2 slots on the 40 man involved for both teams in this trade, according to my understanding. Upton and Johnson for Arizona, Prado and Delgado for Atlanta. I might be wrong about the other 3 minor leaguers but I haven’t seen mention of them needing rostering, and it looks like Delgado should have options remaining, so if anything Arizona opened up a slot to play with a bit.
        Assuming Johnson sticks with Atlanta, that is.

  15. Jeffrey Beaumont says:

    Isn’t the point here that Arizona traded away a 24 year old talent for a thirty year old talent? I think they are only 5.5 years apart, but that is prime-career for an athlete.

  16. rea says:

    I’ve been a Tiger fan long enough that I can remember Gibson’s first few years in baseball, back when he was an All-American wide receiver who didn’t really understand how baseball worked. And you know what his reputation was? Not “scrappy”–that came later. He was regarded as a very talented guy lacking in discipline and having a shitty attitude. He fought with Sparky Anderson constantly. Kind of like Justin Upton . . .

    • CaptBackslap says:

      It would be unusual if Gibson didn’t viscerally dislike someone who reminded him of a less-developed version of himself.

      • rea says:

        Except that Upton is much farther along than Gibson was at that age (partly because Gibson played 4 years of college football)

  17. Manju says:

    Tim Tebow’s available.

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