The Arizona Diamondbacks continue to re-tool on the fly as they attempt to keep pace with the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West. Instead of adding salary with expensive veterans near the end of their careers, as so many contenders do each season, the D-backs have made moves to get younger and create room for their top-tier prospects. Sunday’s deal with the Baltimore Orioles is a prime example of the latter.
Arizona shipped off starting pitcher Joe Saunders to the O’s for reliever Matt Lindstrom. A cursory glace at the raw numbers suggests the D-backs got the better of the deal, but this trade was about more than earned run averages.
In Saunders, Baltimore gets a southpaw that drew significant interest on the free agent market last winter, before he eventually re-upped with Arizona. The general feeling is that the D-backs made a mistake in bringing him back, as Saunders is perceived to be struggling this season. A 6-10 record (yes, many people still think a pitcher’s record shows how well he pitches) is ugly, but the 4.22 ERA is respectable, though more than half a run higher than last season’s 3.69 mark. If you look a little deeper, however, you see a guy who has lowers his walk rate and raised his strikeout rate this season. He simply hasn’t been as lucky in 2012 as he was in 2013, when he was worth 1.0 WAR according to fangraphs. This season, Saunders has seen his BABiP against go up by 35 points over last year and 15 points over his career average. Despite that, he’s already been worth 1.7 WAR this season for Arizona.
So why would the D-backs deal him for a middle reliever? Arizona could use help in the bullpen, sure, and the perception of Saunders’ struggles no doubt played into the idea of moving him, but the biggest reason is that with the emergence of Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin, Saunders is no longer needed.
But, boy, does he fill a need in Baltimore.
The Orioles have been without Jason Hammel for part of the season, though he’s working his way back from injury and could return soon. After you get past he and Wei-Yin Chen, however, there is little in the way of reliable starting pitching in Baltimore. This club has given a combined 61 starts to the likes of Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton. Those six have ERAs of 5.95, 5.40, 6.16, and 5.59, respectively.
In other words, Saunders immediately makes Baltimore a better club, and they get him for the rest of the year by surrendering their fifth-best right handed reliever in Lindstrom. Nice work by Dan Duquette on this one.
John Parent is the Senior Director of Human Resources for the FanSided Network. He can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter @JohnJParent.