Since the 2009 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks have been giving away their best young pitchers for next to nothing. In fact, they’ve traded away at least one starting pitcher every since since and most of them are providing value today that the Diamondbacks are in severe need of in their rotation. I’ve compiled six good examples of the team dealing away potentially valuable starters with questionable returns.
December 8, 2009
This year: Fresh off his winning the Cy Young Award last season, Scherzer is currently leading the American League in strikeouts and sports a tidy 2.59 ERA. His 6 wins are tied for third most in the AL and he’ll likely earn a compensatory draft pick for the Detroit Tigers following the season (presuming he ends up signing elsewhere as a free agent). Kennedy currently plays for the San Diego Padres and Jackson is with the Chicago Cubs. Nobody that Arizona received for either player is on their current 25-man roster.
July 30, 2010
Parted with: Jackson
This year: After having a rough 2013 season, Jackson has rebounded a bit for the Cubs with a sub-4.00 ERA thus far. He’s given up only two home runs on the season and has struck out nearly a batter per inning in a solid, if unspectacular, start to 2014. Holmberg was a throw-in on the Heath Bell salary dump trade this past winter, netting the D’backs Justin Choate (who’s in the minor leagues) and Todd Glaesmann, a career minor leaguer who retired before the season even started. Hudson, meanwhile, is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery and hasn’t pitched in a game since the 2012 season. The Diamondbacks are holding out hope that he could be used in the bullpen upon his potential return later this season.
December 9, 2011
This year: Since we’re focused on starting pitching we won’t delve too deep into Cook, but it’s worth noting that he’s developed into an All Star caliber reliever for the Oakland A’s. Parker had a solid season a year ago, but underwent Tommy John surgery during spring training and will miss the remainder of the 2014 season. Breslow was eventually traded for Scott Podsednik (who’s been out of the Major Leagues since 2012) and Matt Albers, who later became a throw-in to the Trevor Bauer trade and signed with the Houston Astros as a minor leaguer this past offseason. Cahill currently sports a 5.77 ERA, has been moved to the bullpen, and has been worth roughly 0.5 wins BELOW replacement level so far in 2014. Even with Parker missing the entire year, the D’backs are receiving less value from this trade than the A’s this season.
December 11, 2012
Parted with: Bauer, Albers, Bryan Shaw
This year: Bauer has put a messy 2013 season behind him and finally seems to have gotten his mechanics in order. In two starts with the Cleveland Indians he’s thrown 12 solid innings, including six against a Tigers offense that is one of the best in baseball. Across that stretch he’s allowed only three runs while striking out 13. Shaw has developed into a key member of the Indians’ bullpen, making 25 appearances with an ERA of 1.54 to show for his efforts. Albers is now in Houston after reaching free agency this past winter. Sipp posted a 4.78 ERA last season while walking more than five batters per nine innings before being given his release. Anderson has remained in the minor leagues since the trade, hitting below the Mendoza Line at Triple-A a season ago. Gregorius lost the starting shortstop job to Chris Owings. He received five plate appearances in the Major Leagues before that, with a pair of strikeouts and no hits.
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July 31, 2013
Parted with: Kennedy
This year: Kennedy has pitched to a 3.79 ERA, but his 2.75 FIP and 1.18 WHIP suggest he’ll be even better throughout the rest of the season. He’s struck out 9.6 batters per nine, while walking just 2.0. Stites has been an average reliever in the minor leagues, while Thatcher has pitched at replacement level out of the D’backs bullpen.
December 3, 2013
Parted with: Tyler Skaggs
This year: Adam Eaton (whom the D’backs also parted with) has become the starting center fielder for the Chicago White Sox, but more importantly Skaggs has shown some promise for the Los Angeles Angels. His 4.14 ERA is a bit rough around the edges, but his 3.66 FIP implies that he’s pitched better than his ERA suggests. Regardless, he’s been above replacement level and was walked only 2.1 batters per nine innings. Schugel has been about average so far at Double-A, while Jacobs is batting just .254 in High-A. Trumbo slugged .502 but was hitting just .210 before landing on the disabled list. Baseball Reference has him worth 0.4 wins below replacement level so far this year.
Currently the Arizona Diamondbacks have the worst starting rotation in the National League. Their combined 5.20 ERA is last in the NL, with only the White Sox (5.22) coming in worse across Major League Baseball. They boast the fewest quality starts, 16, and the highest opponent’s batting average, .276. Opponents are slugging .466 against them, a full 32 points higher than the next worst on the list, the Colorado Rockies, who play their home games in Coors Field. They’ve allowed more hits (303), total bases (511), runs (176), and home runs (44) than any other staff in all of baseball.
All of this is troubling, but the truly disturbing fact is that the starting pitchers the Diamondbacks traded away have combined for 3.4 wins above replacement this season alone, while the players received in those deals have combined for nearly a full win below replacement level so far.
Arizona’s record is 18-31, good enough for worst in the National League and the third worst in all of baseball. It’s nice of you to share the wealth Arizona, but maybe it’s time to save some starters for yourself.