The Bauery Ballroom

I’m sure I won’t be the only person writing this piece, and I may not be the only TPAer writing this piece, and I may not even be the only TPAer writing this piece for TPA, but here I go anyway: can we view the three-sided Shin-Soo Choo/Trevor Bauer trade in a way that makes it look not-ridiculous for Arizona?

Let’s start with the facts:

Thanks, Jeff!

To be clear on who all of those players are:

Trevor Bauer is a very top pitching prospect who was taken third overall in the 2011 draft, then signed a major-league contract and made a brief but shitty debut this year, with 16 1/3 innings of six-plus ERA ball. Still, his strikeout rates in the minors have been off the chain and his walks, while certainly the weak point in his game, aren’t “good lord he has no idea where the ball is going” bad.

Drew Stubbs is a 28-year-old center fielder who just suffered through a miserable, well-below-replacement-level season for the Reds. He had a very good year in 2010, fell off to below average in 2011, and then did what he did in 2012. He’s now arbitration-eligible, though obviously his platform season being what it was means he can’t demand very much.

Bryan Shaw is a 25-year-old reliever who was solid in 2011 but saw a rise in his walks and a fall in whiffs in 2012, dropping him to “not really rosterable” levels. He’s still in the minimum-salary stage of things.

Matt Albers is a 30-year-old reliever whose sterling ERA masked enormous amounts of ball-in-play luck in 2012. He’s a groundballer, arbitration-eligible, swings lefty for some reason (he throws right), and has accumulated 0.1 WARP in 442 1/3 big-league innings. HEY HEY HEY.

Didi Gregorius is a 23-year-old Dutch shortstop whose real name is apparently “Mariekson.” He’s actually from the Netherlands. “Dutch shortstop” isn’t a type of thing I just made up for you right now. To the extent that numbers matter for a European minor-leaguer, his do not pop. Kevin Goldstein had him as a three-star prospect before 2012, though.

Tony Sipp is a 29-year-old lefty reliever with extreme flyball tendencies and remarkable BABIP-suppression. It’s too early (220 1/3 innings in four years) to say that such suppression is a skill, but that’s always the case with relievers. It should also be noted that he gives up quite a few homers, which suppresses BABIP artificially — they’re hard-hit balls that are not counted in either the numerator or denominator of BABIP. This is why Colin Wyers prefers BACON (batting average on contact). Sipp is arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Lars Anderson is a minor-league first baseman without enough power who is, at 25, already in his third organization. He knocked the shit out of the ball in a quarter-season at Portland in 2008 (.316/.438/.526, 163 PA) but has since pretty much only walked, keeping his OBP respectable and not impressing any other way.

Shin-Soo Choo is a right-fielder who will be playing center in Cincinnati in his age-30 season, his third arbitration year. He peaked in 2008 through 2010 (with his total value metrics in 2008 not being as impressive because he missed almost half the season with an elbow injury), had a bad and injury-ridden 2011, and came back with a very nice 2012 that didn’t come particularly close to replicating the aforementioned peak. He can probably be an above-average hitter for center and a bad defender, assuming the position doesn’t wear him down or flat-out injure him.

Jason Donald is 28, plays 2/3 of the positions (no right field, catcher, or first in 2012) and only has 603 career PA in three years to judge his hitting. If the .254 total TAv he’s put up in that season-equivalent is representative of his true talent, then he’d be an average player as a starter and an above-average one as a reserve. He still makes the minimum salary.

Ok? So Arizona gave up an excellent pitching prospect and two fungible relievers to get a decent shortstop prospect, a reliever who might give up three homers per nine in the Arizona air, and a washout first baseman who certainly will not get past Paul Goldschmidt. Which means that what the deal really comes down to is Bauer for Gregorius, because the rest of the guys are just needle-nudgers, not needle-movers.

Which kinda makes things hard. I didn’t realize earlier that the Diamondbacks really just got Gregorius back for Bauer. But let’s do this anyway.

Trevor Bauer is less than one year younger than Gregorius, so this isn’t a case where Gregorius is some ancient “prospect” who’s like 26 and still not made it. He is young and has development and upside left, just as much as Bauer does.

As to the country of origin, which one might imagine could be an issue, yes, Bauer came up playing high school and travel ball in the baseball hotbed of southern California, dominated at UCLA, and was on the collegiate national team. He pitched in the College World Series. But Gregorius has been playing in the United States for five years now. He’s got 1909 minor-league plate appearances, 428 games at shortstop. He’s been working and holding his own against high-level competition, in other words.

This brings us to the only place where I think we can find a rationale for doing a deal like this. There have been whispers (or more?) that the Arizonans were unhappy with Bauer’s intransigence on his warmup and workout routines. He’s fanatical about his mechanics and pitching and somewhat legendary for his long-toss. And he does this on his last warmup pitch of an inning. I can’t go so far as to say that Bauer might increase his likelihood of injury by doing things that the MLB mainstream frowns on, but we can ask whether his marriage to his own routine signals something about his inability or lack of desire to make adjustments. The very best 20-year-olds in the world get knocked around by the hitters at the top of the chain if they don’t learn how to adjust to the gameplans and skills of major-league hitters. If the Diamondbacks asked Bauer to do X and Y and he balked, esp. if X and Y are not just warmup techniques but in fact approaches to pitching itself, well, you can see how a front office with probably 1000 years of baseball experience might think that Bauer’s bust potential is righteously high such that they’d be willing to trade him for six years of a hopefully (maybe even probably?) league average shortstop even though everyone had visions of a sugarplum ace dancing in their heads during the 2011 draft.

So that’s the argument. Is this a thing you buy?

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