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Diamondbacks strike first, aim badly

Oct 20, 2012, 6:15 PM EDT

Cliff Pennington, Jhonny Peralta Getty Images

Arizona GM Kevin Towers wanted to upgrade at shortstop and in the bullpen. And apparently he wanted to make sure he did so 5 1/2 months prior to Opening Day. So, he ended up with these two trades:

– acquires SS Cliff Pennington and INF Yordy Cabrera from the A’s for OF Chris Young and cash
– acquires RHP Heath Bell and cash from the Marlins for INF Yordy Cabrera

I understand the first deal. Pennington is a fine defensive shortstop, and at 28, he’s young enough to bounce back from a horrible offensive season that saw him bat .215/.278/.311. Eligible for arbitration for the first time, he shouldn’t make more than $2 million or so next year.

The problem with the trade is that it’s highly unlikely the Diamondbacks needed to give up Young to get him. I understand that Young doesn’t have a lot of trade value, particularly with center field being the one deep position in free agency this winter, but he’s a quality regular, even with his low batting averages. He’s a very good center fielder, and he has the secondary offensive skills to make up for the strikeouts.

It says a lot for Young that the A’s traded for him even with a Yoenis CespedesCoco CrispJosh Reddick outfield already under control for 2013. They didn’t need him, and they almost certainly would have given up Pennington for a modest prospect instead, but they simply couldn’t say no to this.

Oh yeah, and the Diamondbacks were nice enough to throw in $500,000 against Young’s $8.5 million salary for 2013 and $11 million option for 2014 (with $1.5 million buyout).

For an Arizona team with Gerardo Parra and Adam Eaton to cover center, it still makes some sense. It may even make the team a little better. I just don’t think it was a proper use of assets.

It’s the Bell trade that’s flat-out foolish. For some reason, Arizona volunteered to pick up $13 million of the $21 million he’s owed the next two years.

Sure, it’s possible Bell will actually be worth that kind of money. But it’s hard to imagine anyone else would have taken on that much of his salary, which is why the Marlins were so quick to make the move. They felt they absolutely had to move him, and they’re jumping for joy that they had to eat a “mere” $8 million to make it happen.

Much of Towers’ strong rep as a general manager comes from the bullpens he built on the cheap in San Diego. Bell was a part of that, coming over from the Mets for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson before the 2007 season.

The Diamondbacks pen will likely be pretty good once again, too. But it will hardly be cheap. With both J.J. Putz and Bell earning $6.5 million, the Diamondbacks are set to commit at least $20 million to relievers next year, which is an awfully big chunk of a likely $80 million-$90 million payroll.

Maybe it will work out. Bell could bounce back and form a terrific setup tandem with David Hernandez in front of Putz. But it again seems like a poor use of assets. The Diamondbacks ranked sixth in the NL in bullpen ERA this year and were three runs allowed out of third place. The Bell gamble is a luxury acquisition for a team that might come up short on the necessities.

  1. dondada10 - Oct 20, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    I doubt Young gets a single at-bat for the A’s. Billy Beane will deal him for two-players, who in turn will ultimately be dealt for 6 players in 3 years.

    • butchhuskey - Oct 20, 2012 at 7:13 PM

      Could be true because the A’s have an abundance of good outfielders. However, it might be possible that Beane likes Young over Johnny Gomes or Coco Crisp.

      • Old Gator - Oct 20, 2012 at 11:09 PM

        I could actually see the Feesh talking to Gomes, since their current replacement outfielders (with the exception of Greg Dobbs) really leave a lot to be desired and Emilio Bonifacio has proven himself so frangible the past two seasons. It’ll all come down to price, of course – but the Feesh have cleared a lot of cap space, as it were, by getting rid of Bell, the Hanster and Omar Infante. If they can find a way to dump Black Hole Buck – good luck with that! – Gomes might be an attractive candidate for the capacious outfield at Macondo Banana Massacre Field.

    • dcfan4life - Oct 21, 2012 at 4:42 AM

      Trades like this is y its a strong argument that Billy Beane is the best GM in baseball.

      • Old Gator - Oct 21, 2012 at 11:00 AM

        It would be even stronger if there weren’t a dozen or more GMs not named Billy Beane who have won it all during the period that Billy has been a GM himself.

  2. maryfan123 - Oct 20, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    Maybe the front office should consider “trading” Kevin Towers

  3. aarondommin - Oct 20, 2012 at 8:24 PM

    Im failing to see how Chris Young is an “asset” at $10 million dollars next year (8.5 mil in salary and 1.5 in buyout)?? Career .318 ob% with absolutely zero arm in CF. Sure he has averaged 21 homers over his 6 years in the big leagues and plays a good defensive CF but to call Chris Young as “asset” at that price is a leap.

    • jlovenotjlo - Oct 20, 2012 at 11:14 PM

      Just nitpicking, The A’s are “only” on the hook for 9.5 million, as the Diamondbacks are throwing in 500k against his salary

    • rmcd13 - Oct 21, 2012 at 2:20 PM

      According to fangraphs he was worth 2.8 wins in only 100 games in 2012. As a 3 win player (with a defensive heavy value) he would make between 10 and 15 million on the free agent market. Seems like a good asset to me.

  4. tr5079 - Oct 20, 2012 at 8:41 PM

    Beamed is not going to have $10M tied up with a guy like Young. There will definitely be more trades to come.

  5. tr5079 - Oct 20, 2012 at 8:42 PM


    • dondada10 - Oct 20, 2012 at 10:29 PM

      For a second there I thought the man had a nickname that I wasn’t aware of.

      • Old Gator - Oct 21, 2012 at 11:00 AM

        Beane me up Scotty….

  6. legacybroken - Oct 20, 2012 at 8:50 PM

    Im just surprised the Feesh were able to rid themselves of Bell without having to include him in a deal with Reyes or the Iron Giant ala getting rid of Dontrelle by forcing him on the Tigers in order to get Miggy.

    • Old Gator - Oct 20, 2012 at 10:57 PM

      That makes two of us. I’m just relieved that he’s gone. It takes a special kinda guy to inherit the ecological niche vacated by Kevin Gregg, but he managed it. Let’s hope that clad is fully extinguished now.

  7. needtoplay - Oct 20, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    As someone else stated….. Billy B will be making more trades, and most likely involving the just-acquired Young.

    And something tells me that Towers will be moving Bell before the season starts, too…. he has proven himself to be a solid baseball man. I wonder what other bad-contract… with tons of cash included…. he could trade for this one ?!?

    • js20011041 - Oct 20, 2012 at 10:18 PM

      Why risk being stuck with Bell if your aim is to dump his salary on someone else?

  8. illcomm - Oct 20, 2012 at 10:27 PM

    young to the A’s mean Cespecedis is out. he has the bigger trade value and surely the Phils or yankees will make the push to get him.

  9. stairwayto7 - Oct 20, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    Young will be traded before the season begins, Pennington will bat below .240 and Heath Bell will cause tension with Putz!

  10. dyhrdpatsfan - Oct 20, 2012 at 11:16 PM

    Making room to bring in the other Upton (FA) Brother. Maybe the will push each other…just a thought

  11. sportsjoker - Oct 21, 2012 at 1:21 AM

    Yoenis stays. Period. It’s not even a question. His upside and potential at that price is still a bargain (look at the salaries of other MLB players at this price). Add in the fact he’s not from this country, he’s a boneified SuperStar for the San Jose A’s. Young is gone in 2013.

  12. dan1111 - Oct 21, 2012 at 3:52 AM

    I don’t get why Young for Pennington is so bad. Pennington plays a more valuable position than Young, and he is also under control cheaply for three years, compared to Young’s two expensive years. That surely is enough to balance Young’s somewhat better bat.

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