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December 11, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Mark Trumbo Gets the Nod

by R.J. Anderson and Bret Sayre

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired LHP Tyler Skaggs from the Diamondbacks and LHP Hector Santiago from the White Sox as part of a three-team trade. [12/10]

The most pressing matter facing Jerry Dipoto this offseason was rebuilding a broken rotation. Spending more money seemed like an obvious—and, for poorer teams with the same needs—envious solution. But Dipoto unveiled his grand plan on Tuesday, and it was surprisingly cost efficient. Rather than pouring more funds into the free-agent market, he acquired two pre-arbitration starters for his first baseman and a minor-league starter with back-end aspirations.

Skaggs is the bigger name of the two heading to Anaheim, but to date Santiago has enjoyed more success in the majors. The squat left-hander doesn't look like an effective starting pitcher; however, he profiles as a no. 4 starter due to a deep arsenal. In addition to a low-to-mid-90s fastball, Santiago throws a changeup, curveball, cutter, and oft-referenced screwball, which he learned during winter league a few years ago. Quirky and deceptive mechanics improve his pitches—he lands closed and his arm works quick—but impact batters and Santiago alike. Given his wildness, it's possible he might fall out of the rotation over the long term. If so, Santiago's experience in the bullpen, including the ninth inning, could come in handy.

Now onto the headliner. Skaggs joins a Dipoto-run team for the second time in a trade involving the Angels and Diamondbacks. (The first time being 2010's Dan Haren trade.) His present stock is lower than it was then, and even lower than it was entering the season, when he was billed as a potential no. 2 starter. Skaggs struggled throughout the year and earned a spot in our Prospects Who Disappointed Ten Pack. It was there the since-departed Jason Cole wrote:

Despite Skaggs’ 4.73 ERA between Reno and Arizona this season, none of the evaluators I’ve spoken with is worried about him over the long haul; most still peg him as a mid-rotation starter. Skaggs still flashed good stuff this season, including an upper-80s/low-90s fastball, swing-and-miss curveball, and average-or-better changeup. His fastball command was inconsistent, however, and multiple scouts noted that he wasn’t being aggressive enough with the pitch.

Skaggs relied more heavily (too heavily, according to the scouts) on his off-speed stuff and didn’t attack like he has in the past. While his fastball isn’t a knockout pitch, his usage and location of it early in counts is key to setting up his quality secondaries. It’s not a complex adjustment to make in the grand scheme, and given the fact that Skaggs still shows a clean delivery and strong command profile, there isn’t much reason worry about his overall future.

Dipoto doesn't seem too worried about Skaggs' overall future, and maybe he shouldn't be. After all, Skaggs is a tallish southpaw who turned 22 a few months ago; history is littered with examples of that kind developing at a slower pace. Cynics might remember the reported makeup issues surrounding another traded D'Backs pitcher but, if there are character issues here, then they've been well cloaked. Skaggs disappointed in 2013, yet he has the size, arsenal, and time to develop into a solid piece of the Angels rotation—just as we expected he would four years ago. R.J. Anderson

Fantasy

Tyler Skaggs

2013 was an improvement over 2012 at the major league level for Skaggs, but the improvement wasn’t enough to put him back on non-keeper/dynasty radars. This trade, however, does just that. A soft-tosser (at least as far as highly-rated pitching prospects go), he is far better equipped to pitch in a strong home run suppressing park rather than one that gives them away quicker than Derek Jeter gives out signed baseballs. If he can nail down a rotation spot out of Spring Training, he should be on medium-sized mixed league radars as a late upside play.

Hector Santiago

Another player moving to a place that is a perfect match for his skill set (this trade is just awesome). Santiago has a bit of an issue with the long ball—he’s given up 27 in 220 innings over the past two years—but the difference between U.S. Cellular and Angel Stadium is fierce. The WHIP is always going to be an issue since he’s walked 11.5 percent of the batters he’s faced in his career, but he can sustain that mid-3’s ERA even if his underlying skills face some regression.

Joe Blanton

I know. At best, Blanton becomes a placeholder for Skaggs. At worst, he’s a super expensive mop up guy.

Kole Calhoun

The fantasy sleeper may be one no longer, as this trade takes away the specter of him not being a full-time player in Anaheim. A power/speed threat (with more oomph than vroom), Kalhoun is capable of hitting 20 homers and stealing 10 bases with a reasonable average (think .260-.270)—and that might just make him a borderline top-50 outfielder in 2014. —Bret Sayre

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired OF-L Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks as part of a three-team trade. [12/10]

Chicago was a late addition to the trade, but Rick Hahn did well in gaining Eaton for Santiago and a player to be named later.

Eaton's stature and past with the Diamondbacks make it easy to dismiss him as scrappy—some pronounce that with a silent s—but he's more than an embraceable caricature. At the plate, he combines a compact swing with a mature approach, and should single and walk enough to post respectable on-base percentages. His plus speed hasn't translated to the stolen-base column yet, though he's proven competent when taking the extra base. Between the on-base skills and the wheels, Eaton has to be the favorite to bat leadoff for the White Sox.

Ultimately, Eaton's bat will determine whether he's an everyday player or a fourth outfielder. For the time being, his status as a high-quality fielder makes him the centerpiece of an improved defensive unit. The White Sox allowed the ninth-highest batting average on fly balls last season, and putting Eaton alongside Avisail Garcia and Alejandro De Aza should help the pitching staff. If nothing else, their memories of Dayan Viciedo's plodding play can remain repressed. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy

Adam Eaton

This is all about downside protection. If Eaton struggled in Arizona, there were a couple of different ways for him to lose playing time. If he struggles in Chicago, he’s not going anywhere. With a full season of at bats ahead of him, he’s looking at the same upside we talked about last year before he got hurt—double-digit homers, 25-30 steals and a ton of runs. He’s an even better upside play in on-base percentage leagues.

Alejando De Aza/Dayan Viciedo

Barring a trade, this is now your new left field platoon, reducing the values of both players. And in the case one of them gets traded, their value is likely to decrease from last year as well—though admittedly, that affects Viciedo more than De Aza. Viciedo just wouldn’t be all that interesting away from U.S. Cellular, as he’d likely be a low average, 20 homer, no steals kind of guy.

Erik Johnson

The recent addition of Felipe Paulino put Johnson’s rotation spot to start the year in question, but with Santiago pushed out of town, it looks like the fifth spot will be his to lose. He doesn’t offer a ton of fantasy upside, but in deep mixed and AL-only leagues, he should be capable of putting together decent enough ratios and strikeout numbers (think an ERA just above 4.00 and 140 strikeouts over a full season). —Bret Sayre

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired OF-R Mark Trumbo and RHP A.J. Schugel from the Angels and a player to be named later from the White Sox as part of a three-team trade. [12/10]

In a vacuum, this seems like a questionable trade and ... okay, let's just cut to the chase: You've read the same thing in every analysis concerning a major Diamondbacks trade from the past year. They seem to get $0.75 on the dollar, or pay an extra quarter each time. At some point, you figure, it'll bite them. For now, though, the Diamondbacks have the depth to cover for another seeming overpay: A.J. Pollock is roughly equal to Eaton, and Skaggs wasn't an obvious inclusion in their Opening Day rotation.

Trumbo is a polarizing player. He has undeniable raw power, having homered 95 times in the past three seasons despite playing in a pitcher-friendly park. But there are obvious blemishes to his game, including his plate discipline and inconsistent ability to put the bat on the ball. That Arizona will ask him to move to the corner outfield is another hurdle for a player who has cleared plenty of them during his journey from Non-Prospectville to the All-Star Game.

To Trumbo's credit, he has improved his plate discipline stats to a degree, as the table below shows. Just how much can a player be reasonably expected to improve on his walk rates is a pertinent question, and a tough one to answer. Dan Uggla might represent the best case of a high-strikeout, high-power player improving on his walk rate year after year. Yet Uggla started at a higher point than Trumbo did and played a tougher defensive position. It's reasonable to think Trumbo has made his biggest improvement.

Season

O-Swing%

SO/BB

2011

42.4%

4.80

2012

37.8%

4.25

2013

36.2%

3.41

Because this is Arizona it's hard to dig deeper without talking about Trumbo's character. The Diamondbacks obviously value makeup more than outsiders do. In Trumbo, they've acquired what amounts to a self-made man who exemplifies their cultural ideals. Consider this quote from Kevin Towers about Paul Goldschmidt:

“I wish we could mold 24 more of them. What he embodies and the way he plays, when it comes to preparation, attitude, selflessness. We had those coins built up a couple of years ago of what we stood for. Tenacity, team unity, selflessness, never quit. Coin’s really Paul Goldschmidt and the way he plays the game and prepares for the game. To me, this is nice that we’re able to do this for him and Amy. He can put all this behind himself and concentrate on going out and making the D-Backs better.”

Now read this quote from Sam Miller about Trumbo:

As the year went on, I routinely heard the Angels coaches rave about Trumbo. He took early batting practice just about every day I was at the park. During games he watches the action as closely as anybody, observing. If he were 5-foot-10, he’d be called scrappy. He’s not, so he’s just a guy who has more infield hits and stolen bases than a guy his size and speed really ought to. I once heard that Trumbo had been poor at taking instruction when he was in the low minors. This was hard to imagine. I found out later what the problem was, and it was sort of hysterically innocuous. When Angels coaches would tell him something, he would nod. Later, he realized that he should nod and say “yes” so they appreciated that he was listening. That’s the extent of the problems when you’re dealing with Mark Trumbo.

How much does this stuff matter—how much should it matter—and what is the endgame? Will Arizona continue to chase a 25-man roster full of high-character players, or will they settle for 20 or 21 while introducing a few wild cards for the galvanized unit to influence? Whatever the plan, Trumbo fits it well in that regard.

Schugel is a former collegiate third baseman who moved to the mound upon being drafted. Earlier in the year, Zach Mortimer wrote his low-to-mid-90s fastball has "excellent life," and he complements it with a solid-average changeup. Schugel projects as a back-end starter. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy

Mark Trumbo

If this trade seems like it’s tailor made for fantasy, that’s because it is. Trumbo does one thing well and he’s going to a place where it will be a lot easier to do that one thing. It’s easy to get carried away with the projections, but he finished tied for sixth in homers last season, while playing half his games in one of the most power-depressing parks in the majors. Bringing him to Arizona (in the easier league, no less) is likely to make him a top-25 outfielder for 2014, as the potential to near 40 homers is a reality if he can stay upright in left field.

Matt Davidson

Prior to this trade, Davidson had a real path to playing time with Martin Prado in the outfield rotation, but that is all in the rearview mirror by now. The best thing for his short term value would be a trade out of Arizona, but that would come at the expense of a great situation for his best fantasy tool (his power). If he starts the season in Arizona, he’s unlikely to be worth drafting outside of NL-only leagues.

Cody Ross

Ross is going to be on the shelf for at least the first month of the season, but this clouds his playing time upon his return. His main competition, barring a trade, might be Matt Davidson—who could take his lineup spot due to the aforementioned Prado’s versatility. If he comes back and hits, it won’t be an issue. If he struggles, on the other hand…

Randall Delgado

It was unlikely that Delgado was going to be overtaken for the final spot in the Diamondbacks’ rotation heading into 2014, but this appears to seal the deal. He was strong in the first two months following his call-up (2.85 ERA in eight starts and one relief appearance), but during August and September he fell off the map with a 5.46 ERA in 11 starts. He’ll make for an interesting deep mixed flier in March, but nothing more. —Bret Sayre

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

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