Breaking down the 3-way deal between the Yankees, Tigers, and Diamondbacks
The Yankees have Not Jeter, the Tigers have Not Fister, and Not Towers pulled the deal off for the Diamondbacks.
And they said no one could replace Derek Jeter. Look, that’s Didi Gregorius, literally replacing Derek Jeter. That’s baseball for you, always full of surprises.
The Diamondbacks, Tigers, and Yankees completed a three-way trade on Friday, and it’s notable for each team for a couple reasons. Here are the first-blink reactions for all three teams in the trade.
1. The Yankees did really, really well with limited resources
No one can replace the Derek Jeter of 10 years ago. There were several people who could replace the Derek Jeter of last season. Gregorius ticks off a few categories that should excite the Yankees — young, cost-controllable, major league ready, and projectable. That’s everything the Yankees were hoping for from their new shortstop when they started the offseason, and even though they have a farm system in the lower half of baseball, they somehow made it happen. The Diamondbacks had to trade the #14 prospect in baseball to get Gregorius. The Yankees traded a 26-year-old rookie.
Clever. Other teams would have fidgeted around for a bit before finding themselves with an semi-pricey Jed Lowrie in the Opening Day lineup, but the Yankees somehow came away with the young shortstop they were looking for. I can’t tell if this is because of the indefatigable Brian Cashman, or if it’s because the baseball gods are obnoxious Yankees fans. Probably the former. But it’s worth keeping an eye on the latter.
Gregorius isn’t exactly great, of course. Not yet. Possibly not ever. Probably not ever. He has some very nice players come up in his similarity scores (Greg Gagne) and he also has players who had careers like Ronny Cedeno (Ronny Cedeno) in there, too. The margin of error is thin when you’re a defense-first shortstop, pun not intended but left in. If you’re going to keep the OBP under .300, that defense had better be absolutely sterling. Shortstops don’t always follow a nice, linear defensive progression and get better and better as they go through their 20s. Sometimes they fill out. Sometimes they lose a step prematurely.
That written, Gregorius is one of the legitimately fantastic under-25 defensive shortstops in baseball. The Yankees will need to sign a starter to replace Greene, who was penciled in their rotation, but it’s a lot easier to fill that gap this offseason than it is to find a shortstop worth a damn.
2. The Tigers are working on a hilarious, sad trade chain
Last offseason, when Dave Dombrowski looked at his roster and made an organizational plan, he saw too many good pitchers. Most GMs would have been thrilled, but it bothered Dombrowski. Was it too arrogant to have a rotation like that? Was he just showing off? Maybe he felt guilty. Whatever the case, he got rid of Doug Fister for a prospect, even though the entire raison d’être of the Tigers was to win, win now, win at all costs, hurry, the owner wants to see a winner, win now.
Later that year, the Tigers used their limited resources to trade for David Price, because they needed to replace Fister. It took their starting center fielder, a solid young starter, and a top prospect to do it.
Now they have Shane Greene, a 26-year-old who posted an excellent strikeout rate last season (good). He did this despite never doing this in any of his six minor league seasons (bad). To be fair to the Tigers, Fister wasn’t much of a prospect at Greene’s age, so maybe there’s some sort of cosmic connection between the two, and Greene will develop into something more than an acceptable back-o’-the-rotation starter. He has excellent stuff, as the kids say. Not all pitchers are fully formed at 25.
It’s also probably not right to evaluate this trade in the shadow of the Doug Fister trade. Does Greene help the Tigers more in 2015 than Robbie Ray? Yes, probably. So in that respect, the trade makes sense. Except that’s the kind of thing that MAKES ME TYPE IN ALL CAPS ABOUT THE DOUG FISTER TRADE. WHY ROBBIE RAY, THEN? WHY DID YOU SETTLE FOR HIM? WHAT WERE OTHER TEAMS OFFERING? WHY WERE YOU TRADING DOUG FISTER IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Also, the Tigers gave up one of their five best prospects to make the deal happen. Cool, cool.
3. The Diamondbacks just hung the “Under New Management sign
One of the theories about the Fister/Ray trade was that it was more about how much Dombrowski (or someone he trusts) loved Ray. That makes less sense now, considering he HAD TO REPLACE HIM THE VERY NEXT WINTER, but that was the working theory. The same thing applies to former Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers and Gregorius. The delicious irony and/or coincidence that you’ll hear and read about for the next week is that Towers once compared him to Derek Jeter. Over at FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan wrote an entire column about it.
In a young Derek Jeter, the Yankees saw a guy who could be their shortstop for the next decade. The Diamondbacks thought they might have that guy in Didi Gregorius. He’s done nothing yet to indicate otherwise.
Now it’s the Yankees who are looking at Gregorius for the next decade. The new crew came in, evaluated him against the less heralded, more productive Chris Owings, and realized this was their best chance to trade Gregorius. They came away with a still-young Ray and a teenaged middle infielder of some note. Considering the Diamondbacks could have dealt Bauer for so much more at one point, it has the makings of a sad trade chain. Except Bauer is still finding his way, and that trade was made by the old GM. Considering Gregorius didn’t exactly force his way into the Diamondbacks’ plans last year, they did well to get a nice chunk of value back for him.
The old regime loved Gregorius so much, they were willing to reshape their roster for him. That’s kind of why they’re the old regime. The new regime dealt him for a player who could help next year and a young prospect who could help in three years. Gregorius was supposed to be the chosen one. He was exchanged for useful parts, and it was probably a good exchange. Out with the old management and their favored youngsters, in with the new.
As a Giants fan, I’m really hoping there’s a lot of “Is this Paul Goldschmidt guy really that good?” talk going on right now. Probably not.
The Yankees made the deal they had to make. The Tigers made a deal that helps them next season, but only because they made an earlier trade that screwed them up for two seasons. The Diamondbacks traded from a position of depth because they could. Three teams, three reasons for the deal. Those reasons all make sense, even if they were set up by deals over the last two years that made far less sense.