MLB

What Could Have Been: Diamondbacks Edition

Alex Kielar | July 15th, 2019

While they are certainly overachieving this year, only being 1.5 games behind the Phillies for the second wild card, even after losing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock to free agency, among others, and trading away Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks could have been great. They could have been serious World Series contenders for years. Yes, I will go that far. Even if they sneak into the playoffs this year, they probably won’t go very far.

So let’s look back at some of the major players the D-Backs traded away over the last ten years. The team could’ve been built for greatness if they held onto these pieces.

Max Scherzer -Traded to the Tigers in Dec. 2009

This is most certainly the trade the Diamondbacks would most like to take back, with Max Scherzer being arguably the top pitcher in the game right now. The trade was a three-team deal between the Yankees and Tigers, with Arizona receiving Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson. Jackson struggled in 2010 with a 5.16 ERA and was flipped to the White Sox for Daniel Hudson. Kennedy turned into the team’s ace in 2011, with a 21-4 record and 137 ERA+, while Hudson won 16 games that year. This helped the D-backs take the NL West, but they would ultimately fall in the Division Series. Kennedy struggled in his starts in the series, surrendering six earned runs, 13 hits, walking three and hitting three batters over 12.2 innings. Hudson started one game in the series and allowed five earned runs and nine hits in 5.1 innings. 2011 ended up being Kennedy’s best season, as the next two seasons with the D-backs he went 22-22 with a 3.82 ERA. While he wasn’t terrible, Scherzer became an elite pitcher in 2013 after still very solid seasons from 2010-12 and helping the Tigers to the ALCS in 2011 and all the way to the World Series in 2012, where they would lose to the Giants. In 2013, he won the Cy Young Award, going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, 240 SO, and 0.97 WHIP, and the Tigers went back to the ALCS.

Meanwhile, the D-backs had missed the postseason both seasons. With Scherzer, even the not-yet-elite version, in 2011, Arizona could’ve made it farther into the postseason. He’s a winner and I could see him to have carried them. Well, that’s why they say “hindsight is 20-20” because after the fact you see everything clearly. They would’ve been more likely as well to make the Postseason in 2012-14, as 2014 was another solid year for him. Lots of things would’ve been different without this trade, maybe the Giants wouldn’t have won in 2012 and/or 2014, maybe the Red Sox wouldn’t have won in 2013, the Tigers could’ve missed the playoffs entirely in those years. But who knows, this is just for fun and I know you don’t know what would’ve happened. I just believe the Diamondbacks would’ve been a potentially elite team had they kept Scherzer, even if he wasn’t still with them now. He probably still would’ve signed elsewhere after the 2014 season, but maybe not with the Nationals.

Trevor Bauer – Traded to the Indians in Dec. 2012

In another three-team trade, this one involving the Reds and Indians, the D-backs sent Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, and most notably Trevor Bauer to the Indians, while they got Didi Gregorious from the Reds, and Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp from the Indians. Bauer’s one season with the D-backs in 2012, he started four games and gave up 11 earned runs, 14 hits, 13 walks and had a FIP of 5.18. It was a small sample size, and they seemed to have given up on him way too quickly. While they did get promising young shortstop Gregorious in the deal, he never panned out with them before he was traded to the Yankees in 2014, but more on that trade later. Bauer didn’t really break out fully with the Indians until 2016 when the Indians made it to the World Series. His first two full seasons in the league, 2014 and 2015, Bauer struggled, going 5-8 with a 4.18 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 2.38 SO/BB rate in 2014, and 11-12 with a 4.55 ERA, 4.33 FIP, 2.15 SO/BB, and a league-high 79 walks in 2015. In 2016, he went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA, 106 ERA+, 3.99 FIP, and 2.40 SO/BB rate. While he did strike out 17 total batters throughout the postseason, he surrendered eight total runs including five in 8.1 innings in the World Series. In the 2017 Postseason, Bauer was very effective, surrendering no earned runs and just six hits while striking out 11 in 8.1 innings. Between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Bauer had a combined record of 20-13 with an ERA of 3.20, a FIP of 3.16 (including league-low 2.44 in 2018) and an average of 3.6 SO/BB ratio, also a league-low 0.5 HR/9.

During Gregorious’ two years with Arizona, he only had an average slash line of .239/.311/.368 with 13 total home runs and 55 total RBI, while he struck out 119 times and walked just 59 times. Anderson was only with Cleveland for one season, and never made it to the majors, while Sipp only pitched for them for one season, and even though he struck out 10 per nine, he held a 4.78 ERA and 4.88 FIP in 37.2 innings and gave up 8.4 H/9. This original trade definitely didn’t work out too well, but Gregorious did end up getting flipped in a three-team trade, for Robbie Ray, who has been a pretty solid pitcher for the D-backs. There have been rumblings of Ray being traded at this year’s deadline, as they look to try and rebuild. Ray hasn’t been as top a pitcher as Bauer, however, and they might’ve been better off with him and Scherzer as their one and two.

Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson– Traded to the Braves in Dec. 2015

During the offseason following the 2015 season, the D-backs traded Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair, and Dansby Swanson to the Braves for Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier, in what turned out to be one of the most lopsided trades in recent history, in the Braves favor. Miller was with the D-backs for three seasons, but rarely stayed on the field and struggled when he was on the field. Following a DL stint in his first year there in 2016, he struggled with a 2-9 record and a 7.14 ERA and thus got sent down to the PCL. He got called up again on August 31 but finished the season with a 3-12 record and 6.15 ERA through 20 starts. The following season in 2017, after making only four starts, he suffered a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. Then last year, after being activated from the DL in June, he made four starts, then suffered right elbow inflammation, and he would be non-tenured by the D-backs following the season and entered free agency. What made this so lopsided was not only Miller’s inability to stay on the field but the solid play of Inciarte and Swanson. Inciarte ended up winning three straight gold gloves from 2016-18 while also being selected to the All-Star game in 2017. In 2017, he slashed .304/.350/.409 with 11 home runs, 57 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. Swanson made his debut with the Braves in 2016, and played in 38 games, slashing .302/.361/.442 with 17 RBI in 145 plate appearances. The next two seasons, he didn’t have as eye-popping offensive numbers but was a solid defensive shortstop for the Braves, and this season he is having a great all-around season, with a .273/.336/.442 slash line with 57 RBI and 17 HR. Nick Ahmed has been a pretty solid shortstop for the D-backs, but that’s really the only positive thing to get from the trade. If they had gotten the production Inciarte and Swanson have given the Braves, they would probably be in a better position right now, and not on the brink of selling off even more players this deadline.

These trades I mentioned were a lot to give up for the D-backs and to not get a lot in return makes them very questionable. Trading Paul Goldschmidt this past offseason to the Cardinals told everyone the D-backs just wanted to start over, while they also lost outfielder A.J. Pollock and pitcher Patrick Corbin to free agency. While they did give up Goldy, they got former top prospects pitcher Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly in return. Kelly has had a solid season at the plate, batting .268 with 28 RBI and 10 HR, while Weaver has been pretty dominant in 62.1 innings, striking out 68 while only walking 14 and holding a 1.11 WHIP. This may be a deal that will work out for both sides, but only time will tell. Going back onto the trades they have made in the past, just imagine, they could have had a potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Trevor Bauer, Zack Greinke (if he was still signed in 2016), Robbie Ray, and Luke Weaver, an infield of Paul Goldscmidt, Eduardo Escobar/Ketel Marte (also CF, having a breakout season), Dansby Swanson, and an outfield with Ender Inciarte in center. Obviously, this is all hypothetical, and I pretty much-disregarded salaries, but if they were able to retain all those guys and that was their team, that would’ve been a filthy team and one that could’ve contended for the playoffs and farther for years. Now they have to pretty much blow up the team and start fresh. Since they aren’t in a big market, they can’t field teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc. do.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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