Talks between the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels during last week's winter meetings resulted in a three-team trade involving six players, including Adam Eaton and Mark Trumbo. It's a safe bet, however, to say that several other players who weren't in that deal were at least discussed by the three general managers involved.
Two of those names, in all likelihood, were Diamondbacks third base prospect Matt Davidson and White Sox closer Addison Reed. While that pair stayed put in the multi-player deal for whatever reason, there was obviously still a match to be made because Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers and White Sox general manager Rick Hahn didn't waste much time before executing a one-for-one deal, per Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, involving those two players earlier today.
The Diamondbacks, who are on the hook for an estimated $16 million in salary next season for four of Reed's bullpen-mates, according to Baseball Prospectus—David Hernandez ($2.125M) and J.J. Putz ($7M) have guaranteed salaries; Joe Thatcher is due a raise on his $1.35M salary and Brad Ziegler is due a raise on his $3.15M salary—pick up a potential bargain in 2014 and will have plenty of salary relief for the 2015 season when Reed is first eligible for salary arbitration.
With Reed's salary expected to skyrocket next offseason after what would likely be his third consecutive season of racking up saves—he has 69 saves in 81 chances since 2012—the D'backs will also be clearing an estimated $12 million from the payroll with Putz and Ziegler eligible for free agency.
Acquiring Reed, who will turn 25 years of age later this month, not only strengthens the team's bullpen in 2014, it gives it a head start in rebuilding the bullpen for 2015 and beyond.
The trade of Davidson, who came into the 2013 season as the Diamondbacks' No. 4 ranked prospect, according to Baseball Prospectus, comes as no surprise as last week's acquisition of left fielder Mark Trumbo ensures that the versatile Martin Prado will be manning the hot corner for at least the next couple of seasons.
With the 22-year-old Davidson coming off of a strong Triple-A season (.831 OPS, 17 HR, 32 2B in 115 games) that ended with a late-season call-up to the majors, it had become clear that this offseason was an ideal time to move him. Towers, who has earned a reputation in his 18 years as a big league general manager for building strong bullpens, took the opportunity to acquire a closer who is under team control for the next four seasons.
Bullpen depth is never a bad thing and the D'backs now have plenty of it. With Hernandez, Putz and Ziegler bridging the gap to Reed in the ninth inning, the team should be in a very good position to hold onto leads that it couldn't hold in 2013—it was 29th in baseball with a 57 percent save percentage.
If Davidson turns into a productive hitter capable of playing adequate defense at third base, the trade could definitely come back to haunt the D'backs a few years down the road. But the ability to keep Reed for the next four seasons should keep the trade from ever appearing too lopsided.
The addition of Davidson comes as no surprise after a season in which White Sox third basemen combined on a .635 OPS. Free-agent signee Jeff Keppinger was a bust in his first season with the club and Conor Gillaspie, acquired from the San Francisco Giants in a February 2013 trade, unexpectedly took on the lion's share of playing time.
While he wasn't terrible, Gillaspie's overall .695 OPS with 13 homers in 134 games didn't exactly give the organization enough confidence to call off the search for the next "third baseman of the future."
A platoon of Gillaspie and Keppinger, who is still due $8.5 million through 2015, should at least be capable of holding down the job for a month or two should Davidson struggle in spring training and/or prove that he's in need of some more Triple-A seasoning.
With Reed and lefty Hector Santiago, who was traded to the Angels last week, out of the mix—Santiago saved four games in 2012 and was in line for a late-inning role next season had he not won a spot in the starting rotation—the Sox could find themselves a bit thin in the back of the bullpen.
There are no shortage of options on the free-agent market, however, and even a trade for a Jonathan Papelbon shouldn't cost them much in return as long as they're willing to take on the remaining $26 million he's due through 2015—there would be another $13 million due in 2016 if his option vests with 55 games finished in 2015 or 100 games finished in 2014-2015 combined.
The roster makeover that has taken place in Chicago since last July when the team traded away Jake Peavy and Alex Rios continues to focus on building a core of talented, young position players.
Avisail Garcia, acquired in the Peavy deal, is expected to be the team's starting right fielder for the next several years. The 22-year-old posted a .775 OPS in 42 games with the Sox last season.
Leury Garcia, acquired from the Texas Rangers for Rios, has the speed and defensive ability to fill a super-utility role in Chicago if he's unable to hit enough to lock down a starting role as a middle infielder.
The Sox also filled another need with the signing of Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu, a 26-year-old first baseman who has big-time power potential, and feel that they've acquired the perfect center fielder and leadoff man in 25-year-old Adam Eaton.
Davidson now becomes the fifth young position player to be added to the mix in a span of less than five months. All five players are under team control through at least the 2019 season.
While there's no guarantee that any of these new Sox hitters will have productive careers, Hahn has done a nice job of making such a quick adjustment to try and improve the future of a flawed roster that didn't appear to have much help on the way from the minors.
The trade appears to fill needs for both sides and has the potential to become a "win-win" move, not only in 2014, but for the next several years.
Fast forward to 2016: Who won this deal?
Even if Davidson doesn't pan out for the White Sox, the trade won't look terrible on their end as long as they can find a solid replacement for Reed in the ninth inning. Even if it does end up looking like a bust on their end, trading a relief pitcher for a potential everyday third baseman with power potential is a risk that many general managers would take.
The D'backs, on the other hand, already have a very solid third baseman, Prado, signed for the next three seasons and now pick up an established closer for four years of his prime. It would take a significant decline from that duo, combined with a productive major league career from Davidson, for the D'backs to turn out as the obvious losers in this deal.