Answers On The Fly: A Reader Mailbag
Answers On The Fly is our weekly feature where we answer questions from you, the dear reader. Topics range from the Atlanta Braves to college football to good beer to whatever the readers care to ask. Sometimes our answers on the fly are coherent and rationale; other times, we channel Dave Stewart.
Submit your questions the following ways:
I have a submission: What kind of brain-damaged is Dave Stewart? The got hit on the head and now calls everyone he knows Jimmy kind? Or the needs daily care kind?
– Brent B.
Chris: My reaction to the trade:
On a serious note, the Diamondbacks have clearly decided that they have a window to compete for a Wold Series, and they are taking steps to maximize that opportunity. Acquiring Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller gives them a very good top of the rotation to complement their solid offense. Greinke was signed for six years, but it’s hard to imagine he will be as dominant as he was last season for the duration of the contract. Still, he should be a very good pitcher for them for the next three years, which, coincidentally, is how long the team also controls Miller, Patrick Corbin, A.J. Pollock, and Paul Goldschmidt (although the team holds an option for Goldschmidt in 2019). There is a solid core in place through 2018, and owner Ken Kendrick has decided to make a run.
Still, it seems that the Diamondbacks have gone all “Frank Wren”, choosing to forego being competitive in the future for the sake of competing now. The Diamondbacks have sent the Braves each of their last three first round picks: Blair (2013), Touki Toussaint (2014), and Swanson (2015). That’s just transactions involving the Braves. There was a curious piece involved in the Martin Prado trade to the New York Yankees: catcher Peter O’Brien. O’Brien was generally not considered a major league catcher, but was the only player named in the Prado trade (there was also a PTBNL). He ultimately developed a problem returning the ball to the pitcher and was sent back to minor league camp to work through his issues.
This seems to show a shortcoming in the Diamondbacks’ ability to assess prospect values. Perhaps they see things that other teams have not regarding these prospects, and are moving to take advantage of that. Or perhaps it is because the head of their analytics department is a veterinarian. Whatever the reason, Dave Stewart has made some outside-the-box decisions that have his team in position to compete for a playoff spot for the next few years.
Micah: Based on Stewart’s most recent trades with the Braves, there appears to be a serious issue with how Arizona values its prospects, which is somewhere along the lines of how I imagine a casual fan would value them: “Wait? They’ll trade us a Major League Player for some minor league guys that I’ve never heard of?! We’ll, we’d be stupid to pass that deal up!” Looking at the Touki Toussaint trade – which was effectively a swap of a first round draft pick for a good bench player in Phil Gosselin – and this most recent trade, I wonder how long Stewart can hold on as GM, and perhaps more importantly, I wonder how many more trades we can get in with him before he’s dismissed. Maybe we can trade some French Fried Potaters from the Waffle House for Braden Shipley and Brandon Drury.
Thinking through the Shelby Miller trade, almost any one player Stewart traded had as much value as Miller. Aaron Blair is far less proven than Miller, but is practically MLB ready. He seems capable of being a solid rotation piece whose ability to pitch to weak contact makes me optimistic he can continue to outpitch his FIP. His floor at this point is as a good back of the rotation MLB starter. Plus, he comes with six years of control compared to Miller’s three. Ender Inciarte is an established MLB outfielder whose defense in center is only a step behind Andrelton Simmons, but whose bat has been what we’d hoped Simmons would become (basically league average). Inciarte and Miller put up the same fWAR last year (3.3 and 3.4 respectively), and Inciarte has one more year of team control than Miller. Finally, Dansby Swanson is young and unproven, but he was the first player taken in the draft last year. Top draft picks inherently have value, plus, they are far more likely to become impact players in the MLB than any other draft position.
What it boils down to is that I would not feel great about getting any one of those players back for Miller. I initially thought it was JUST for Blair, and rationalized, “Well, it’s a little less than I’d have hoped for, but Blair has good value.” When Inciarte was announced (and I looked him up because I honestly wasn’t that familiar with him), I thought, “Hey, a solid position player whose already in the MLB to go along with Blair, this was a good deal!” When I read Swanson was included, I passed out. I had to check again when I came to in case I imagined it. It just didn’t seem feasible that he would be a throw in on an already good deal.
Having said all that, to flip it around, it’s not quite as bad a deal when I look at it from Arizona’s perspective. They have a pretty solid core with A.J Pollack and Paul Goldshmidt surrounded by some nice role-players. However, the rotation was a huge weakness heading into the offseason. They had a couple of potentially useful pieces in an overperforming Robbie Ray and a hopefully healthy Patrick Corbin, but not much to really rely on even with those two. Stewart has massively improved that primary weakness by signing a legitimate (and hopefully not too old) ace in Zack Grienke and bringing in a very solid pitcher in Miller. They still don’t have a deep and dominate rotation, but it should at least now offer some hope of being enough to support a solid offense. I would call Arizona a playoff contender now when I wouldn’t have before these moves, and really, that’s Stewart’s focus: not rebuilding, but contending now. I don’t think these moves make them favorites for the World Series, but they at least make the Diamondbacks look competitive for a playoff spot with a lot of off-season to go.
Even considering that, it’s hard to believe they couldn’t have gotten more than Miller for the package they offered. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, but it reads like they got locked in on getting Miller without giving up Pollack, and ended up giving up more than they had to in order to get less than they could have with that package.
Where will Jace Peterson be in 2017?
– Robbie P.
Sandy Springs, GA
Chris: With the recent acquisition of Dansby Swanson and the development of Ozhaino Albies, I expect Peterson will start 2017 in the position best suited for him: super utility player coming off the bench. The Braves have long had an affection for guys who can play three or four positions competently (Jeff Blauser, Mark DeRosa, Wilson Betemit, Martin Prado, Omar Infante, Ramiro Pena). Having a player like that gives the manager a lot of flexibility in making matchup and substitution decisions.
Peterson isn’t a terrible hitter, but he’s a guy who is exposed easily the more he plays. With Peterson coming off the bench, manager Fredi Gonzalez can better pick the spots in which to use him, making his chances of success a little greater than if he was playing every day.
Micah: This is too hard of a question because there are too many possible answers. I will be much, much more brief here and say that I do not think he will be the starting second baseman of the Atlanta Braves in 2017. He will be traded as a secondary piece in a deal, or he will be a nice utility player off the bench. We saw last year that he just has too many weaknesses to be a good regular on a contending team, but he does enough that he can be an important asset off the bench for a contending team.
What does it mean for a player to be out of options? It didn’t seem like Christian Bethancourt had been sent down that many times.
Micah: A common misconception is that options are based on number of times a player is sent up and down from majors to minors. It is actually based on years. An option year means a player can be sent up and down as many times as needed without the player having to clear waivers, which at a minimum adds more procedural rules and delays to the process. Options can be confusing and hard to track (which is why I’m usually as surprised to find out someone is “out of options” as then next guy), but the basics are that option years start when a player is placed on the 40-man roster, and the team typically has three option years to move the player up and down as frequently as they like. (Note that some players have a fourth year if certain conditions are met. I don’t know what they are; I just blindly trust people when they say, “so and so has a fourth option year.”) Bethancourt was placed on the 40-man roster following the 2012 season, so from 2013-15, the Braves could move him up and down as much as they wanted. Bethancourt can still be sent down to the minors, but he has to go through the waiver process, which is a whole different set of confusing rules.
Will Suntrust Park have a strip club?
Chris: Welp…these are our readers.