Discussing the possibility of a Paul Goldschmidt trade earlier this offseason, a rival evaluator mused about what the situation would say about the state of the Diamondbacks under General Manager Mike Hazen.
“I guess it’ll tell us,” he said, “just how much juice Mike Hazen has.”
Hazen appears to have plenty. The easy move for the Diamondbacks would have been to give it one more go with Goldschmidt before letting him walk after next year as a free agent. They could have made a solid offer to him before he signed elsewhere and leaked it to reporters as proof that they tried, that they did all they could.
Instead, Hazen pulled off the most controversial deal in franchise history, trading the organization’s best homegrown player to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, doing so at a time when Goldschmidt is still performing at an MVP-caliber level. In exchange, the club received a solid if unspectacular package, a deal that earned strong reviews from others in the industry.
In right-hander Luke Weaver, the Diamondbacks are getting a starter whom they believe has a home in the middle of a big league rotation. In catcher Carson Kelly, they’re getting a potential impact defender who they’re confident will become an everyday guy. They think infielder Andy Young can surprise, and the compensatory pick that rounds out the deal gives them what could be seven selections in the Top 80 or so picks of next year’s draft.
It makes their roster younger and cheaper, and it further positions them to see their farm system take a huge leap forward in both perception and reality a year from now.
Goldschmidt had one year left on his deal
While it’s possible they did not receive a high-ceiling type player in exchange for one of the best hitters in baseball, the first thing to keep in mind when evaluating the return is the importance of years of control in modern trades.
A player with just one year to go before free agency is severely limited in what he can bring back — even a player as good as Goldschmidt. There are exceptions — like, say, when a team can acquire the best closer in baseball in hopes of ending a 108-year World Series drought — but by and large if a player doesn’t have a chance to impact multiple pennant races an organization’s best prospects are rarely made available.
The Diamondbacks also were operating in a market in which only a handful of contenders were in need of first base help.
In reality, Hazen traded Goldschmidt at the one moment during his time as GM when it was both logical to do so and in which he was able to extract maximum value. It seems likely he will do the same with the rest of his roster.
Perhaps that means he moves a starter like Robbie Ray or Zack Greinke, both of whom figure to be appealing alternatives in a pitching market that was turned on its head following Patrick Corbin’s six-year, $140 million agreement with the Washington Nationals. Or perhaps outfielder David Peralta or shortstop Nick Ahmed attracts serious interest.
Or maybe Hazen takes most of his current roster into next season, tries to field a contending team and, short of that, looks to sell high leading up to the trade deadline.
Either way, don’t expect him to sit idly in the middle. If the Diamondbacks are not contenders in-season — or if they see a chance to maximize value once again, regardless of the calendar — Hazen likely will act.
In a perfect world, the Diamondbacks would like their rebuild to be swift. They would like to field competitive, if not contending, teams at the big-league level while building their farm system into one of the best in the game.
As far as the latter goes, they’re well on their way. Their system has intriguing talent in the lower levels, and the spending power they will wield in next year’s draft gives them a chance to add multiple high-ceiling players to the organization.
Whether they can surprise next season remains iffy at best. Even with a mostly healthy roster this past season, the club won only 82 games. Now, Goldschmidt and Corbin are gone. Center fielder A.J. Pollock likely is next. They have a handful of bounceback candidates, but they will need a lot to go their way.
But at this point, after dealing a player of Goldschmidt’s cache, there’s no reason to worry about perception. Even if a path exists for the Diamondbacks to rebuild without taking a blowtorch to the roster, they shouldn’t worry what fans think. From their perspective, the club already has burned it to the ground by trading Goldschmidt.
What the Diamondbacks did in this deal was divorce themselves from the emotion of the transaction, focusing instead on the best decision for the organization in the long term. The rest of their offseason — and the rest of their rebuild, however long it takes — should follow that same blueprint.
- Trade reaction: Cardinals get a gem in Paul Goldschmidt
- Is Paul Goldschmidt the next Albert Pujols for the Cardinals?
- Why the Diamondbacks felt they had to trade Paul Goldschmidt
- Diamondbacks make stunning move, trade Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals
- Trading Goldschmidt was just business, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it
- D-Backs trade of ‘America’s First Baseman’ Goldschmidt will sting long past winter
Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.