For some reason, the Arizona Diamondbacks have agreed to a trade with the Oakland Athletics, in which right-handed pitcher Trevor Cahill will head for Arizona, while the A's will receive a package headlined by pitching prospect Jarrod Parker. For reasons I will now demonstrate, this is pure madness.
In addition to Cahill, the Diamondbacks get relief pitcher Craig Breslow, a delightful non-liability who will nonetheless have no real impact on the team's fortunes; whereas Oakland also gets prospects Collin Cowgill and Ryan Cook.
Clearly, Arizona has a window over the next two or three seasons during which they could easily build a mini-dynasty in the NL West. That's the rationale driving this deal from those who do not observe daylight savings time. In order to win now, the Diamondbacks seek more starting rotation depth.
They're not wrong about their competitive position.
The San Diego Padres are loaded with pitching and prospects, but they're six solid position players short of a lineup.
The San Francisco Giants continue on a tenuous middle course, trying to lock up their twin ace starters but failing to surround them with the offensive thump to consistently contend.
The Colorado Rockies are an enigma, though they have certainly stockpiled talent in a certain vein over the past few years. They are the Diamondbacks' main competition for the NL West crown in 2012, assuming good progress from some key prospects.
Now, Arizona moves a step ahead of the field by adding Cahill, who joins Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy at the front of a rotation nearly as good as the one in San Francisco.
What's in a name?
Yes, with Cahill, the Diamondbacks will be better in 2012 than they were in 2011. Here's the problem: With Jarrod Parker, the Diamondbacks also would have been better in 2012 than they were in 2011. Parker posted a 3.70 fielding independent pitching (FIP) at Double-A in 2011, despite missing the entire 2010 season and part of this past season due to Tommy John surgery.
Parker is a high-ceiling pitcher and could have been a mid-rotation asset for Arizona for years. He's a year younger than Cahill, and under team control for two more years than is Cahill. There's a very good chance, adjusting for league and park effects, that Jarrod Parker will even be as good over the next two years as Cahill.
For the upgrade, though (and an upgrade it is, if only for next season, and if only in name), the Diamondbacks were willing to give up those two extra years of Parker, plus outfield prospect Colin Cowgill. With good contact and plate-discipline skills, a modicum of power and solid-average speed, Cowgill is an asset himself. The A's probably got a full time starting pitcher and an everyday outfielder for 2012 out of this deal.
Impatience is imprudence
The primary motivation for this deal seems to have been the Diamondbacks' feeling of an urgent need to win in 2012—and to win big. It's clear they did not want to wait on the progress of Parker and Trevor Bauer as key rotation pieces, and that they were willing to forsake player development in the pursuit of a title.
It might come. Arizona has some thump in the lineup, one highlighted by Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, Miguel Montero and Chris Young. They now have three bona fide starting pitchers atop their rotation, with Bauer poised to become a solid contributor at least by midseason. They might even see quick progression from two solid college arms they grabbed on Day 2 of last June's draft, Anthony Meo and Andrew Chafin.
If this gambit works, and it could in this current vacuum of power in the National League, more power to GM Kevin Towers and the Arizona front office. It seems, though, like they have taken an undue risk by trading long-term value and outfield depth for the chance to win the franchise's first pennant since 2001.