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When news of a trade is unleashed upon social media, there’s usually a general consensus as to the immediate “winner” and “loser” of the deal; but there’s also usually some dissent—however minor it may be. Even the most seemingly lopsided deal will have its defenders from Jon Q. Twitter handle, and by the next morning those who bashed the transaction have calmed down and can offer at least some sort of justification for the offending party. That’s always been my experience, anyway.

Not this time. The Diamondbacks decision to trade 2014 first-round pick Touki Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo’s contract to the Braves for Phil Gosselin was met with universal disdain, even when Tony LaRussa issued some clarifying comments that tried to justify why Arizona made the move. In all of my years on this planet, I have never seen a move as universally panned from writers and fans as this one was, and that’s saying something.

And so the negative reaction to the deal got me thinking: The fans hate it, the “experts” hate it, what about the industry? In general, I have found front-office members and scouts to be more than generous with their time and willing to provide a quote on players, but out of respect—and in some instances, fear—they generally don’t like to comment on a winner or loser of transaction. In fact, I’ve gotten so many no comments that I generally stopped asking—on the record, anyway.

This time though, I had to try. I was too fascinated by how unpopular the move was to not at least attempt to get some feedback from those in the industry. Unsurprisingly, most were unwilling to comment, but I was able to get a few folks I contacted to offer their views. Their responses were not surprising, but a few were able to offer more justification than imagined.

AL West front-office member: “I don’t think there’s any question that [Atlanta] came out ahead in the deal, I think Toussaint has a chance to be a no. 2 starter if everything goes well, and I think you should probably get more than that if you’re going to give up a talent like that. Understanding that though, I do think you can justify it. As talented as he is, Toussaint is still a project, one that likely can’t help you until 2019, and the reports I’ve read on him vary from not just start to start, but inning to inning. I would have wanted more than salary relief and a utility player, but let’s not act like this was Adam Jones and Chris Tillman for Erik Bedard.”

NL East front-office member: “People forget this is a business, and in order to get something you want, you have to give up something you like. In this case, Arizona wanted the flexibility to make the team better, and in return they gave up a lottery ticket in Toussaint. The Diamondbacks have one of the best hitters on the planet in Paul Goldschmidt, an above-average supporting cast around him, and the pitching staff isn’t terrible. If you think you’re a $10-to-12 million guy away from competing for a playoff spot, why not move the guy who can’t help you for several years in order to create the room to get that guy? You can’t do it too much, but a move like this every once in a while isn’t going to destroy your farm system.”

Unfortunately for fans of Arizona, those were the lone two supportive voices of the dozens of texts, emails, and phone calls I made over the weekend. To save you from monotony and me from carpel tunnel, I won’t share all of them with you, but I thought this email I got back from a long-time scout with an NL Central club said everything that needs to be said.

“Don’t blame Dave Stewart for this deal. Don’t blame Tony LaRussa. Cost-cutting moves come from up-above, and if the Diamondback ownership group is so cheap that they feel like it’s necessary to move a top 100 prospect to clear enough cash to sign a no. 3 starter or a no. 6 hitter, then maybe they should be looking for someone else to purchase the club, because clearly this isn’t the right business for them. On paper, this is as bad a trade as I can ever remember, and I can’t help but feel sorry for the fans in Phoenix right now.”

The other social media hubbub this move created was a discussion—if you want to call it that—on what exactly Toussaint would be worth on the open market. Assuming the Diamondbacks would have declined Arroyo’s option, the trade saves Arizona right around $10 million dollars. While it’s not a perfect comparison, I thought I’d ask three front-office members if Toussaint would be worth more than that on the open market.

Front-office member no. 1: “Easy; he’s shown two 70 pitches and performed relatively well in the showcase events. If we saw this kid showing that kind of stuff in the Dominican Republic or Cuba, he’d be as highly touted as any international pitching prospect we’ve seen. That’d easily make him worth more than that figure, maybe double it.”

Front-office member no. 2: “I would say that if you make [Toussaint] a free agent right now, he’d get considerably more than the amount of money they saved. They just signed Yoan Lopez for something close to that figure, and with all due respect to Lopez, Toussaint has much better stuff with a much higher ceiling than he does. The fact he did it in front of area scouts and cross checkers makes the risk much smaller too, so there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t get a massive signing bonus.”

Front-office member no. 3: “I think it’s impossible to say until we actually have a prospect like this on the market. We can all assume that he’d get a massive payday, and maybe he would. I would hesitate to pay someone who can’t help me in the short-term that kind of money, though, and I imagine those who say they would are more bluster than reality. I’m not saying that makes it a good move, but the argument that Toussaint is worth more than $10 million doesn’t really fly to me.”

Two hard yes’s, one not-so-sure. Not quite the collective agreement we saw in the hatred of the trade, but pretty conclusive in what Toussaint would be worth if he wasn’t subject to the rules of the draft.

Like any transaction that involves prospects, we won’t be able to judge the results of this deal for several years, even if Arizona uses the saved funds to acquire a player that helps them win in 2016. We can critique the process though, and it’s easy to understand why fans would be critical of selling a prospect like Toussaint. For the most part, the industry doesn’t disagree with you.

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roarke
6/24
While I would usually agree with your last paragraph - you generally can't judge a trade for prospects until several years later - I don't think that rationale works in this situation. That rationale works when you are trading talent for talent and it takes time to see who was a better evaluator of talent. But in this case, the D-Backs were trading talent for payroll flexibility and I think it is much easier to judge a trade like that immediately. Toussaint is an asset that has a current value and most agree that the D-Backs didn't get an adequate return on that current value. There is no other talent coming back that has a subjective value that requires us to wait and see and just because three years from now Toussaint's value may be drastically different than it is today doesn't mean that today the D-Backs lost an asset that was much more valuable than what they received in return.
jmoultz
6/24
This. If ARZ was a small market club that didn't just sign a massive TV deal, I think its leadership could justify the need for payroll flexibility...even if they weren't immediately a player or two away from a playoff run this season. With so many holes, making a run this season or next, isn't realistic. The failure to understand how rare it is to control the rights to a pitcher with the ceiling of a #2 demonstrates the lack of commitment and vision ownership shares with the front office. Either ownership isn't committed to doing what takes to keep a competitive team on the field, year after year, or the front office is giving them advice geared toward proving their worth in the short term over demonstrating the confidence required to execute a successful long term plan. I feel bad for ARZ fans. This franchise is rudderless right now and its tough to watch Goldschmidt's prime wasted with little hope on the horizon.
Theman3983
6/24
Very valid points, and in truth, I might have been too diplomatic in that last paragraph.
markpadden
6/25
What you say doesn't make much sense to me. You're saying that a raw talent for raw talent deal cannot be evaluated in real time, but a raw talent for cash deal can? In both cases, we have no way of knowing how the talent will translate to future performance. Having one side of the deal be a fixed asset doesn't make valuation of the other side any more predictable.
oldbopper
6/24
The claim that this was "as bad a trade as I can ever remember" seems more than a little over the top. The Mariners have, long since, retired the trophy for worst trade(s) ever. As bad as Jones and Tillman for Bedard was, it still comes in second to Lowe and Varitek for Slocumb. It is a strange deal in baseball, with no salary cap, but common in other pro sports. Assuming that Arroyo is toast, a solid major league utility man, and more than a few bucks, for a prospect from a galaxy far away only to be seen in the distant future, if at all, is nowhere near those Mariner deals.
huztlers
6/24
Most trades involve a degree of uncertainty. This "trade" is just giving away talent. Regardless of what becomes of Tiki, this is just a lack of commitment to building the franchise, or as it is otherwise known "pulling a Loria".
bigdaddyleroy
6/24
Let's assume greedy motives on ownership's part, and that this was just to line their pockets. I think we can also assume that, if those are their motives, they'd rationally try to line those pockets as much as possible. So, we can assume that they offered salary dumps to other teams, and this was the best deal they got. If the industry valued Toussaint more than the Braves did, then the Diamondbacks could have gotten back more than Gosselin, or they could have also dumped Cliff Pennington or some other salary. They didn't, so this was the market for Toussaint. The market for minor leaguers is obviously different from the market for Carribean players. First, in most cases, Caribbean players are signing contracts that include their salary -- Toussaint has to be paid on top of the $10 million that was effectively transferred to the Dbacks. So, this is more like a Japanese posting fee which, for a 19 year old, would also be lower than a Caribbean player would be paid. Second, even if you assume that he'd be worth something more than a $10 million "posting fee" in an open market, this isn't one. The Braves wouldn't be allowed just to stroke a check to the Dbacks for an extra $10 million, and the Dbacks may not think they have an extra $10 million in deadweight contracts sitting around. (Plus, as already addressed, one can assume that the market wouldn't have required them to include extra deadweight contracts, since they didn't do that in fact.)
jsdspud
6/24
The site needs more articles like this. I miss the compilation articles with view points from various unnamed scouts and front office types.
ndparks
6/24
What is the value of getting Arroyo OFF the roster? The guy has had drug rumors associated with his name, and perhaps he was a bad influence in the clubhouse. This notion of evaluating this deal in terms of Touki's open market worth doesn't make sense either. Will the Phillies be pilloried when they eat a not insignificant portion of Hamel's salary to facilitate a trade, even though Hamels would certainly cost more on the open market today than he did when he signed his current contract? Its a simple fact that when you are trading present contracts with lots of money on them, you have to either eat salary or give lots of talent. I personally believe Arizona won this trade. They gave a likely middle reliever 4 years away to get rid of $10MM in cash today. There is a chance the deal could blow up in their face, but its not likely. One other thing - and its against my argument - the Diamondbacks already had significant sunk cost in Touki in the form of a signing bonus, so the total economics for Arizona aren't as good as saving the $10MM. Nevertheless, even $8 or $8.5MM is a lot of money for a maybe. This is a big gamble for Atlanta IMO.
BillJohnson
6/24
There is a very interesting dog-that-didn't-bark component to these comments. Ever since I heard about this trade, my opinion has been that the only way it makes sense is if the D-backs know something (bad) about Toussaint that the rest of us don't. This seems entirely possible; he's in their organization, after all, and they are presumably monitoring him closely. Yet, obvious as it seems, it wasn't mentioned as a possibility in any of these remarks. Why not?
therealn0d
6/24
I can supply the why not from the perspective of the AZ fanbase (such that it is these days). Because this isn't the first time, not even after the first time that this organization has done something like this. It is the way they do business. I'm not trying to represent how the entire fan base feels (such that it is these days), just what gets expressed on a daily basis among the more "dedicated."
BillJohnson
6/25
I mean the comments by the MLB people. The fans' positions are easy enough to understand and I would not expect them to cut TLR and Stewart a break. But for the other front-office types quoted in the article not to voice the dog-that-didn't-bark position -- well, that surprises me.
therealn0d
6/25
All I can say to that is that it's pretty obvious whoever is pulling the strings doesn't know what they're doing. A joke that got posted yesterday: "I heard today the Dodgers tried to hack into the DBacks computers but found nothing there."
Pernellius
6/25
This is what I can't get away from when evaluating this. It will be interesting to see if perhaps there's an injury or development issue that hasn't come to light yet. The other thing I can't help but call to mind is the previous trades the DBacks have made--Bauer, Upton/Chris Johnson, and Martin Prado come to mind. These are talented, hardworking players that didn't fit the organization for some reason, and the total return was largely players that never sniffed the majors. It seems the DBacks are placing more value on personality and clubhouse cohesion than actual talent.