Last offseason, the Diamondbacks had three outfielders. They had Gerardo Parra in left, Chris Young in center, and Justin Upton in right. It was a fantastic defensive outfield, and there was a chance that it would be a pretty good hitting outfield, too. Most teams would have treated that outfield like a two-car family budgeting a middle-class salary. No, no, looks like we don't need another car, here. Let's focus on … heck, whatever Apple's selling, we'll take ten.
Something like that. I think the correct analogy for Apple products in that situation is a proven closer but now we're off track.
Then the Diamondbacks signed Jason Kubel, which was odd. It was very odd, considering that Kubel didn't have the best defensive reputation. Parra was just 24, had an on-base percentage of .357, just won a Gold Glove, and that's the guy you replace?
For the first three or four months of the season, the joke was on us. Kubel raked, hitting .293/.367/.533 in the first half. It looked like the Diamondbacks knew what they were doing. But in the second half, Kubel went into a prolonged, nasty slump. He hit .159/.227/.364 in August, and his September was just modestly better. And throughout, his defense remained clompy, even by left-fielder standards.
Total tally: In 2011, Parra was worth 2.8 wins as a full-time left fielder, according to Baseball Reference. In 2012, Kubel was worth 0.8.
In the meantime, there were a couple of additional developments. For the seventh straight year, Chris Young failed to emerge from his chrysalis and blossom into a five-tool player. Toward the end of the season, he was replaced by Adam Eaton, who might be the most electric outfielder that most people have never heard off.
So the four-way logjam became a five-way logjam. Where it might have been okay for the Diamondbacks to carry Parra around as a super-fourth outfielder, it would have been weird to do the same with a very expensive Chris Young. The Diamondbacks had five viable starting outfielders, whereas most teams were lucky to have three. A trade was inevitable and, sure enough, the Diamondbacks swapped Young for a shortstop. They said they were going to get a shortstop, and by golly, they got one in Cliff Pennington.
Then they started shopping for another shortstop.
It made little sense. But they found one, trading one of their very best trade chips (Trevor Bauer) for a young shortstop (Didi Gregorius). I can understand a team not getting excited about Pennington in the first place, and I can also see how a team would think they're getting a great buy-low candidate. I can't understand one team being both teams.
But, whatever, they traded from an abundance of young starters to add to a growing collection of young shortstops. It happens. At least that logjam of outfielders was gone.
And then they signed Cody Ross for three years.
Now they're back to five outfielders. And they have two shortstops. And of course they're open for the 16th time to trading Upton after being closed to the idea before they were open to it after they were closed to it. Which leads me to two main points:
1. I have never been more befuddled by a team's offseason priorities than I have been with the Diamondbacks' for two straight offseasons. I can see how Ross and Kubel would form a Voltron platoon of complementary strengths, but the Diamondbacks will have paid them at least $42 million by the time their contracts are over. That's real money -- the kind that can really mess with attempts to lock up young talent or attract premium free agents.
2. The Diamondbacks still have an impressive collection of talent, so it's not time to point and laugh yet. They'll trade Kubel or Upton, most likely, and they'll get more talent in return. So it's not like they've made themselves into a bad team, or anything. It's just weird.
It's really, really weird. And odd. Befuddling. Idiosyncratic. Peculiar. Hold on, I'm going to check an online thesaurus … curious, erratic, and unconventional. In 2012, the right answer was Parra in left, Young in center, and Upton in right. It wasn't complicated. In 2013, the right answer is probably something like Parra in left (or Kubel, if you're smitten with his 30-homer potential), Eaton in center, and Upton in right. It's curious, erratic, and unconventional to think otherwise.
And really, really weird. So we'll see where you're going with all this, Diamondbacks. Because from here, nothing about this outfielder hoarding makes a ton of sense. Surprise us with the prestige of this magic trick. We're all very, very interested. From here, it looks like you're making it up as you go along, even though that can't be what you're really doing. Right?
(Also, I don't think we talk enough about Chris Young being replaced by Adam Eaton in the outfield, even though both of them are pitchers who were traded for each other. Thank you for your time.)