July 7, 2014
Good Old New York
Thatcher, acquired by Kevin Towers at least year's deadline, endured a rough spring, during which reports surfaced that the D'backs were disenchanted with him. (Said reports were seemingly validated by the Oliver Perez signing.) If Thatcher was bothered by that talk, he didn't show any signs on the mound. He posted an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio, and even showed an uncharacteristic ability to retire right-handed batters. Given Thatcher's arm slot and two-pitch repertoire, it's unlikely that he's turned into a legitimate two-way threat. Regardless, he'll serve as Mike Scioscia's left-handed specialist until the end of the season, when he'll qualify for free agency.
Campana's inclusion is easy to mock—after all, he heads to the minors with a seasonal OPS+ of 1—but he could become more than a footnote once rosters expand. A skilled bunter and basestealer, Campana is the exact type of player whose situational value outweighs his raw value in the postseason, as you can imagine the scenario where he's asked to run for Albert Pujols or C.J. Cron late in a close game. Of course the Angels have to get to the playoffs before Campana can do his thing in a pivotal spot, but they seem to be on their way, and this is a savvy, forward-thinking move by Dipoto.
Brian Cashman's first deal of the month nets him an upgrade in the rotation.
McCarthy has struggled this season, as suggested by his ERA (among other statistics), yet his peripherals and stuff indicate better times are ahead. If you buy into the idea that McCarthy's home run and hit rates will regress in whole, then this is a brilliant get. For those a little more cautious—particularly in light of the similar rates he posted last season—adding McCarthy is a worthwhile gamble, albeit without a guaranteed payoff.
As noted in the trade deadline preview, McCarthy has changed his approach. Offseason conditioning work, aimed at strengthening his shoulder, resulted in added velocity. McCarthy has embraced the heat and all but ditched his cutter, leaving him as a sinker-curveball pitcher most of the time. The latter is key, as McCarthy uses it to set up a new wrinkle in his arsenal: a high four-seam fastball in two-strike counts. His pitches have been more effective than ever at coercing groundballs, and at 56 percent, he's currently sporting a career-best rate.
And yet there are plenty of ways this move can end in disappointment. Beyond McCarthy's ugly mainstream statistics and past durability woes, the player-team match is less than ideal. McCarthy's worm-killing ways aren't a great fit in New York, where the Yankees' defense boasts the league's eighth-highest batting average against on groundballs. (The D'backs were only slightly better, at 11th.) Likewise, Yankee Stadium isn't the cozy cavern that home-run-prone pitchers dream about. The saving grace here is the cost; no matter what McCarthy does (or doesn't do), it's tough to envision Cashman ruing the day he traded Nuno.
Soriano, by the way, hasn't performed well this season. There's a fair chance he latches on with a team who wants some cheap power, such as, say, Seattle.
Acquired LHP Vidal Nuno from the Yankees in exchange for RHP Brandon McCarthy and cash. [7/6]
Even with McCarthy's ugly mainstream statistics and injury-prone history, this classifies as an underwhelming return. A finesse southpaw with a varied arsenal, Nuno is four years younger than McCarthy, yet he has none of the past big-league success and little of the potential upside. The D'backs figure to plug Nuno into their rotation, though his long-term home is likely in the bullpen. Perhaps he becomes more than a long reliever, but his potential seems capped at second lefty status. —R.J. Anderson
The Diamondbacks didn’t receive a top talent from the thin Angels farm system, but outfielder Zach Borenstein and right-handed pitcher Joey Krehbiel both have a chance to eventually contribute at the big-league level.
The Angels popped Borenstein in the 23rd round of the 2011 draft, but he is exceeding expectations. From a tools perspective, Borenstein is lacking, earning below-average marks in the arm, speed, and defense departments. He possesses a lot of muscle in his maxed-out 6-foot frame, with definition from his upper body to his calves, but is a below-average athlete with stiffness.
Despite all that, the 23-year-old has a shot to be an up-and-down outfielder, because of his potential with the bat. He has above-average bat speed with some leverage for power potential (not to mention at least plus bat-flip ability). He is comfortable against velocity and shows an ability to hit the ball where it came from. However, he lacks plate coverage and pitch recognition, as pitchers can exploit him with soft away, perhaps because of how far he is away from the plate.
Krehbiel changed organizations, but only had to switch dugouts after the trade became official, as his former and new teams in the California League had been the middle of a series. Picked in the 12th round of the 2011 draft, the 21-year-old also has a chance to get to the major leagues as an extra arm in a bullpen. He pitches with a bulldog mentality, attacking hitters with his fastball-slider combination. The fastball is a plus offering with effectiveness, and he can blow it by his competition in High-A, but he lacks the upper-end velocity that others possess. While he is a reliever all the way, Krehbiel had been working on a changeup to add to his arsenal. —Ron Shah
Re-signed OF-L Seth Smith to a two-year extension worth $13 million with a club option worth an additional $7 million. [7/2]
Smith, thanks to his hot first half and impending free agency, appeared to be one of the Padres' most movable players. San Diego's GM tandem opted against trading him, however, and instead handed him the David Murphy contract as an extension. Smith is worth it; he's a quality platoon outfielder with a fine-tuned approach at the plate and more than enough strength to make pitchers pay. That Smith is able to produce quality power numbers without striking out a ton is a plus, and a testament to his intelligence at bat; he knows when to temper his swing and when to unleash.
Still, whenever a non-competitive team extends an older, non-elite player, there is some question as to whether it was the correct move. The preferred alternative is trading the player for the best prospect haul you can get, but that argument is at odds with itself; the reasons for trading Smith—he's older, he's almost certainly playing over his head, etc.—are the same reasons other teams won't trade a top prospect for a few months of his services. Barring some team falling in love with Smith and overplaying its hand—a possibility, though not a probability—the realistic return would've been what ... a prospect on the bottom half of a good team's top-10 prospect list? Perhaps worse? That likelihood, combined with San Diego's already-decent farm system, makes the decision to keep Smith more defensible than it might have appeared at first blush.
If nothing else, the extension itself is inoffensive to the point where the Padres' new GM, whoever that may be, can probably move Smith in a few months without receiving much less in return.
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson