December 9th, 2015

A Certain Comfort Level

Chronologically advanced readers may remember the days when the Kansas City Athletics (now Oakland) and the New York Yankees had a working relationship that saw many of their players changing uniforms between the two clubs. There was a certain comfort level that had developed. That same type relationship now exists between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves. A trust exists between the two clubs. The connection is critical to the fortunes of both organizations.

Just to review a bit-Justin Upton went from Arizona to Atlanta along with others. Martin Prado (and Nick Ahmed) came to the Dbacks, along with others. That may have been the most dramatic of the deals. However, it is amazing to consider that three first round Diamondbacks draft selections have been part of transactions with the Braves. Not just any three–three highly regarded prospects. In order, Aaron Blair, Touki Toussaint and Dansby Swanson now adorn the Braves Top Prospects list.

Toussaint’s departure in a deal for Bronson Arroyo cleared the Dbacks financial books of money that could have held them back for years. They have used those resources to obtain Zack Greinke via free agency. But Toussaint may ultimately become a star in his own right. However, at this point he is still a prospect and therefore, unproven.

In obtaining Shelby Miller the DBacks gain yet another starting pitcher to help them put a winning team on the field NOW-not two or three years from now. With Greinke and Miller in the fold to compliment Patrick Corbin, the team has a legitimate one-two-three combination- you pick the order behind Greinke.

I have said in this space that prospects serve three purposes: strengthen your big league lineup, help fill out your organizational Minor League rosters or to use in trade to accomplish either of the other two purposes. Prospects are unproven.

The Diamondbacks package for Miller was a shock to me. Ender Inciarte is becoming a really viable everyday player with the ability to hit, hit for power, field his position and run well. What more can one ask? Yes, the DBacks have outfield numbers. I really like Pollock, Peralta, and Brito. But Inciarte was a catalyst.

Dansby Swanson was a No. 1 draft pick. 1-1. He had outstanding upside as a hitter and defender. He was seen by most scouts as scrappy and talented. Now he’ll take his numerous tools to the Braves. Nick Ahmed (who came to Arizona from Atlanta) is now firmly entrenched as the Arizona shortstop. I think. Swanson may become a star. Will Ahmed hit? And lets not forget the DBacks traded Didi -in my opinion a star on the horizon.

Blair was a first rounder. My rub in this deal revolves around Blair. I think Aaron Blair is going to be a bulldog on the mound. I think he’ll be a very solid No. 3 starter. But now he’ll take the ball in Atlanta. Maybe not this year, but soon enough.

I don’t know anything about Gabe Speier, the other pitcher coming to Arizona. When I haven’t seen a prospect I do not comment. Perhaps he’ll be really, really good. Perhaps not.

Shelby Miller is a mid-rotation starter. He’s a good pitcher. He was moved by the Cardinals because they had too many pitchers. He was fine for Atlanta. Mid-rotation in my opinion. So-here’s my rub. You traded for Shelby Miller, a proven pitcher for Aaron Blair, a potential mid-rotation starter who may be half a year to a year away. And it also cost you Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte. What’s wrong with that picture?

I think patience is a virtue with prospects. I live prospects. I know they don’t all come through. But I think Blair will.

I believe the Diamondbacks could have cobbled together a good enough pitching staff without Miller to contend this year. And they still would have Inciarte, Swanson and Blair. Three very good players for their future.

By the way, Greinke is the closest pitcher I have seen to Greg Maddux. It was a very good signing. However, as it turns out, it cost them Touki. I can live with that. It is now easier to accept than when he was traded to get Bronson Arroyo’s money off the books.

There is a certain comfort level between the Braves and the Diamondbacks. But we need to watch the Braves organization very carefully over the next few years. How will they develop with several of Arizona’s top prospects? Will they be patient with Toussaint, Blair, and Swanson? Will they flip any of them for more seasoned veterans? I don’t think so. Shelby Miller was not going to take them to a title anytime soon. The DBacks guys may–within a few years. The bigger question in this. Will Shelby Miller help take the Diamondbacks to the title they seek NOW? Will Shelby Miller join Zack Greinke in helping put a ring on the finger of Paul Goldschmidt? Man, I hope so.

I wish that little voice in my head that I always trust wasn’t screaming at me. In full disclosure—I really, really like Aaron Blair and Touky. Almost as much as I like Didi.
And believe me, my followers know how much I like Didi. I really, really like Inciarte.
And Shelby Miller you ask? Talk to me in nine months. I hope it works. I really do.
For Goldy’s sake. I really, really like Goldy.