Diamondbacks Take It To The Bank, Not The Field
On Saturday night the Atlanta Braves traded injured utility infielder Phil Gosselin to the Arizona Diamondbacks for injured starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo and recent 16th overall draft pick Touki Toussaint. Reactions flooded in and none of it was very supportive of the D-Backs to be generous in the description.
It doesn’t get better looking over time. Sometimes when a deal goes down in MLB that has a kneejerk reaction ranging from “how odd” to “WTF?” you can step back for a bit and see the upside for the club that appears to have done some truly looney tunes.
The Diamondbacks, however, appear to have made a swap here that truly puts a stain on the franchise and the direction they’re pursuing. There really isn’t a justification on the baseball side of the operation. This is a pure old-fashioned salary dump and not much else. Which isn’t the end of the world in some respects. There are times when it makes all the sense in the world to dump dead cash and open yourself up to new opportunities. The Boston Red Sox hit a re-set button beautifully a few years ago by moving scads of cash off their payroll over to the newly flush Los Angeles Dodgers. The move helped the BoSox wipe the slate mostly clean from the “Fried Chicken & Beer” era and the Bobby Valentine Experience. Another World Series title followed in short order.
The situation in Arizona isn’t the same however. The Diamondbacks are a middle of the road club hovering around .500 in 2015 and they’re in the middle of what most believe to be a rebuild. Dumping #1 draft picks before they’re even given a chance to develop for nothing more than some salary relief is no way to build your organization’s depth for the future. Dumping the veteran Arroyo and his $9.5M makes sense if you can find a taker. But the only way to get a club to do that was to add in the sweetener of a young live arm like Toussaint. It’s just not a move that makes any sense for a rebuilding club. Even if they feel they saw enough of the 19-year old pitcher to make a determination that he wasn’t going to be very special. It’s too early to know that. The D-backs must know that too. That’s why this reeks of nothing more complex than a salary dump…and it’s a weird priority to assume right now in Arizona.
Why? Mostly because they just inked a new TV deal recently that’s worth approximately $1.5B over the life of the deal. The cash being saved by moving Arroyo (minus the minimum salary owed Gosselin) is practically a rounding error compared to the cable fortune ticketed for the team’s coffers. It’s a stunningly cheap move given the financial shape of MLB.
They can’t even take the “saved” money and spend it on other amateur players given the restrictions in place. When the Diamondbacks signed Yoan Lopez from Cuba this winter it put them over the spending caps for international signees. They can’t spend more than $300K on any player for the next two years.
If the move is to create space to add talent this year to the big league club, it’s Quixotic notion that this bunch is ready for primetime and only needs a trade deadline boost to make a run at a Wildcard and then make serious noise in the post-season. Good luck with that.
Team President Tony LaRussa and his hand-picked GM Dave Stewart were perhaps ordered by ownership to lop Arroyo’s deal off the books. If so, then orders are orders and the short-sighted flash of dollar signs in the eye’s of a meddlesome owner can be blamed. But if this deal was a brainchild of the management team, it’s truly hard to come up with a baseball justification.
Toussaint may never pan out. But if he does they’ll regret the giveaway this past Saturday night. It’s not even what the pitcher does on the field in MLB eventually. If he had taken any strides over the next year in his development, he becomes a hot trade commodity if the Diamondbacks are actually in position to seriously contend over the next couple of seasons. Certainly a hard throwing youngster like Toussaint who is showing a pulse over the coming seasons will garner a bigger score on the trade front than salary relief and a banged up utility infielder.
We shouldn’t forget to complement the Braves. New GM John Hart picked the pockets of the Snakes. It’s nearly a no-lose move for them. It’s not a huge cash investment in the grand scheme of MLB in paying off Arroyo. It’s a huge win if Toussaint advances through their system as a legit contributor or a valued trade chip. Hart has been busy building up his farm system and acquiring young talent at multiple levels including his big league club.
He inherited a system in decay and has acted quickly to add depth and start turning around the ship in Atlanta. They still have a way to go, but moves like the Arroyo/Toussaint acquisition show they’re on course and that Hart is willing to find creative ways to get it done. He’s obviously also knows a trade-patsy when he sees one.
At the end of the day
No matter what it’s an ugly moment in Arizona. It’s a financial bottom line move for a club with a newly minted TV pile of money when it appears that talent acquisition should be at the forefront of their minds. They’ll tangle themselves up in pretzel knots trying to explain how this was a winning move on the field, but it seems obvious their motivations were elsewhere.
Yes, if Toussaint flames out fast and Arroyo never tosses a pitch as a Brave, the D-backs could actually “win” this deal in time by pocketing the cash. It’s possible….and given the bust rate of pitchers, maybe its even likely. But it’s a lousy way to build a baseball team from this view. It’s an organization that, despite Stewart’s twitter pronouncements, needs young talent in droves to build it’s depth for they days they find deals that put them in position to win on the field…not at the bank.