The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Cody Ross to a three-year deal Saturday, adding him to a roster that now features some six or seven viable big-league outfielders. Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said that when the deal became public, his cell phone “blew up” with inquiries from other executives throughout the league.
Arizona is in a peculiar, somewhat enviable position, if they do decide to deal from their sudden surplus. Even though they traded incumbent starting center fielder Chris Young in November, they now have two guys–Gerardo Parra and rookie Adam Eaton–with good on-base skills and the defensive chops to handle center capably. Parra won a well-earned Gold Glove in left field in 2011, but seems blocked from playing there now that both Ross and Jason Kubel are in the fold.
Kubel is the most natural trade candidate, a limited defender whose offensive value is tied up in home runs and who doesn’t hit lefty hurlers well. Moreover, Eric Hinske is around, and while he’s no great shakes in the outfield anymore, he does a lot of the same things Kubel does. For those reasons, though, Kubel would also net the least return in a deal, among the reasonable candidates. Ross was a strange signing, but we can more or less ignore his trade value since he’s presumably not going anywhere.
That leaves Justin Upton. Ross’s value is more or less the same regardless of which corner spot he plays, but certainly marginally more in right, and his arrival may reopen the possibility (for the hundredth time, or so it seems) of trading Upton for some monstrous prospect package.
All of these things are possible. I would say the most likely scenarios involve Parra going to the Braves or Mets; Kubel going to the Rays, Yankees or White Sox; or any of them going to the Athletics, because come on, it’s the Diamondbacks, the A’s are always the top trade partner on the list.
Here’s a radical thought, though, more normative than positive: Why not keep everyone?
The Diamondbacks’ starting first baseman is Paul Goldschmidt, a right-handed hitter with a .769 career OPS against right-handed pitchers. He thumps lefties, though. Meanwhile, Kubel is out in left field, hurting the team when he plays against lefties, because he’s a poor defender and has a career .691 OPS against southpaws. Hinske is long past his prime and might not fit on the current roster, so maybe the addition of Ross allows Arizona to let Hinske go and make their flexibility in platoon terms much greater.
Kubel has never played first base as a professional baseball player. In the famous (fictional) words of Billy Beane/Brad Pitt, though, “It’s not that hard, [Jason].” Kubel’s lacking mobility would be less exposed there, and he would be such a huge offensive upgrade over Goldschmidt against many righties that it’s hard to argue he could negate that value added with poor defense.
Meanwhile, Ross would platoon, in this scenario, with Parra in left field, with Kubel stepping out occasionally, too. Parra would nicely insure Arizona against Eaton struggling in his first extended stint as a big-leaguer, and Ross could even moonlight in center against tough lefties if both would-be center fielders prove inept against them. There are some redundant players on this roster, but that redundancy goes by another name in this case: depth.
Individual flaws in many of these players make one case for keeping them all. Inertia makes another. I don’t see a reason to trade any of these players unless doing so allows the Diamondbacks to fill another immediate need, and honestly, I’m not sure what other immediate need the Diamondbacks have.
They aren’t strong at third base, where they seem to be looking at a platoon of Eric Chavez and Chris Johnson, but they aren’t weak, either. Moreover, their closest-to-ready positional prospect is Matt Davidson, and guess which position he plays?
Towers already traded Young for relief depth (Heath Bell) and a shortstop (Cliff Pennington); then third-base candidate Ryan Wheeler for more relief depth (Matt Reynolds); then top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer for another shortstop (Didi Gregorius) and more relief depth (lefty Tony Sipp). They have an All-Star catcher, and their second baseman hit for the cycle twice last season.
The rotation runs six deep, if you buy into even one of the two rookie southpaws the team boasts. Then there’s Josh Collmenter, slated for a bullpen assignment but with a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 180:46 and starting experience. Then there’s Daniel Hudson, who underwent Tommy John surgery last summer but should be back before season’s end.
It’s not that this team is the best in baseball; it may or may not even be the best in the NL West. Absent any glaring weakness, though, this team lacks much incentive, for me, to throw away what is a glut of outfield talent that complements itself well. If, in mid-July, they need to plug a hole, this group will be the well from which to draw. In the meantime, the Diamondbacks should stand pat.Next post: The Cleveland Indians Should Sign Kyle Lohse
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