Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Just a year ago, everyone in Arizona was agog over Trevor Bauer. What happened?
Man, imagine what trades were like back in the '80s. You just had to stew in your own juices until you could find another baseball fan to chat with. You would have to bottle up just how excited you were about Steve Karsay, and how Rickey Henderson was an arrogant loafer, and how that trade was going to take the A's to the promised land. Maybe you would go to a bar and hope there was another person willing to talk about it.
Now there is the Internet*, and you can get on the Internet within minutes, registering your disgust. And that's just what happened with the three-way deal between the Indians, Reds, and Diamondbacks. The overwhelming consensus is the Indians made out like corporate raiders, the Reds improved in the short term, and that the Diamondbacks are sitting in the corner, chewing on their cell phone. The D-backs gave up a former first-rounder, a shining light of the organization, for a young shortstop who may or may not hit better than the Brandon Crawfords of the world.
In more than one place, I read that Dayton Moore must be thrilled because the bad-trade spotlight isn't on him anymore. This is a universally panned trade for the Diamondbacks. On the Internet, at least.
It's a tricky spot for a baseball writer, because I want to pile on. But I can't. I have to resort to a half-assed copout. I have to play the we-probably-don't-have-all-the-information card because it's the only way it makes sense. But even though it's the only way it makes sense, that doesn't mean it can't make sense. And I have the occasional SOURCE or HOT TIP, and the word that I heard about Bauer was "uncoachable." You've probably heard the whispers, too. So I'll wait until Bauer actually does something before I excoriate the Diamondbacks.
There's a point where a team has a feeling, where they can look at something and say "Ruh-roh." It's not something they can quantify, and there isn't any way to prove their feeling, but it's a learned reaction. It's like when you're with another couple and you can smell the breakup in every passive-aggressive comment, or when you walk by a mostly empty restaurant on a Friday night and immediately check it off your list, or when you see "From Michael Bay" in the opening of a movie trailer. You can feel the impending doom, even if you can't quantify it.
After a year-and-a-half of projecting Bauer to be the ace of the future, the Diamondbacks likely had a feeling that can come only with experience. It wasn't something they could quantify, but it was enough to make them act. And they probably wanted to get value while the gettin' was still good.
Does that mean it's a bad idea for the Indians to trade for him? Oh, heck no. Think of the best pitchers in history. Some of them were certainly the Archduke of Ass in their day. Imagine being stuck in an elevator with Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens, for example. All of those analogies are cute to a point, but baseball isn't a binary world of good players/people and bad players/people.
But if I had to make an educated guess, I'd wager that Bauer rubbed enough coaches, front-office types, instructors, and personnel the wrong way to make Kevin Towers think something like, "He might succeed. But the odds are pretty low that he'll succeed here." With one more unsuccessful go-round in the majors, Bauer's trade value might have dropped from something worth a major-league-ready shortstop prospect to something worth a deadline rental or, worse, a reliever.
If you read between the lines here, you can get a pretty good idea of the organization's frustration:
"He's got the weapons, he's got the repertoire of pitches and I think hopefully after coming to the big leagues, facing some adversity once he comes into Spring Training next year, I think he'll come in with a little bit different outlook and what he needs to be successful and people he needs to lean on, people he needs to listen to," Towers said.
I was fascinated by the myth of Bauer. He had everything: pre-inning warmup pitches to the backstop, pre-game warmup pitches to the moon; a delivery modeled after Tim Lincecum; he was a serious, serious mechanics wonk who would post slow-motion videos of his mechanics for the world to see. But the Diamondbacks had a sense that there was calamity and disappointment ahead with Bauer and his efforts to get to the majors. They might be totally wrong. But it's at least a defensible reason to trade a young phenom.
Now, you can't just assume that every organization has secret reasons for making trades that look awful at the time. There's no fun in that, and it's a blind appeal to authority.
But every once in a while you get a sense that there's more going on than the Baseball Reference page, like when Brad Pitt traded Jeremy Giambi. I think the Indians made a great trade and the Reds made a good trade, but I'm not ready to say the Diamondbacks made an awful trade.
|A+ (3 seasons)||A+||284||5||8||8||13||40||.285||.318||.401||.719|
|AA (2 seasons)||AA||464||3||6||6||38||74||.276||.334||.379||.713|
|Rk (2 seasons)||Rk||301||1||10||7||22||37||.262||.323||.312||.636|
|A (1 season)||A||501||5||16||7||33||62||.273||.327||.379||.706|
|AAA (1 season)||AAA||185||6||0||2||12||31||.243||.288||.427||.715|
Okay, maybe the trade is pretty awful considering Didi Gregorius's chances to be an impact player, but the idea of trading Bauer isn't as nutty as it was just a few months ago. We can only guess why. But it's a pretty good guess.
* a global system of interconnected computer networks