Although it’s now been more than a week since Trevor Bauer was traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of a three-team, nine-player blockbuster, I’m still shocked at the Arizona Diamondbacks willingness to trade their top prospect. In exchange for Bauer, the Diamondbacks finally landed a young shortstop in Didi Gregorius from the Cincinnati Reds.
From the moment the Diamondbacks targeted and selected Bauer with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, the right-hander was regarded as team’s future ace. He made it clear that he would not alter his unique mechanics or training regimen in accordance with an organization’s specific pitching philosophies. The Diamondbacks knew that when they drafted him, obviously. However, I question whether they ever took it seriously.
Beyond his clashes with the Diamondbacks front office and some of its coaches, there’s no logical reason for him to be traded for Gregorius. The trade wasn’t made out of necessity, nor was it to acquire an impact major-league player. Bauer was traded for another prospect—one of a significantly less long-term value.
Bauer projects as a No. 1 starter for a reason: masked by unorthodox mechanics and a deceptive delivery, the 21-year-old boasts a five-pitch mix of average-to-plus pitches. His fastball, curveball and changeup are each at least an above-average offering.
Having said that, the Trevor Bauer that was on display last season in his four big-league starts was an inaccurate portrayal of what he offers. Yes, he battled a groin problem for a majority of the season, but it certainly didn’t impede his ascent through the minors.
Bauer's struggles in the major leagues were mental. Rather than trusting his pure stuff, he seemingly tried to out-think opposing hitters and pick at the strike zone. While his lack of command is fairly criticized and was exploited upon reaching the major leagues, there’s nothing to suggest that he won’t be able to refine it.
Which traded prospect will have a better big-league career?
If Bauer reaches his ceiling, we’re talking about a frequent All-Star who possibly contends and maybe even wins a Cy Young or two over the course of his career.
Gregorius, on the other hand, is a high-floor prospect who offers plus defense at a premium position and projects to be at least an average major-league player. Clearly the Diamondbacks are expecting more. They have to be, right?
Given the overall high failure-rate of prospects, neither player is guaranteed to excel in the major leagues. And although I’m a firm believer that Gregorius’s athleticism, plus defense and left-handed bat will result in a better-than-expected big-league career, his upside will always pale in comparison to Bauer’s.