Early Monday afternoon, the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired reliever Addison Reed from the White Sox for prospect third baseman Matt Davidson in what I think qualifies as our first major post-Winter Meetings move of the offseason. For the White Sox, the move is simple — Davidson is not Jeff Keppinger and can play third base.
But for Arizona, this trade goes down as yet another odd move in Kevin Towers’s quest for not just winning, but winning the Right Way. As such, I can do little but wonder what infractions against the Kevin Towers-Ken Kendrick-Krik Gibson Arizona Way the 22-year-old corner man committed in his time with the organization.
The interesting thing about the trades Towers has made — most notably the Justin Upton trade, but going back throughout his tenure as Diamondbacks GM — is he has been more or less proven right about the players he has dealt away. Upton was mediocre in Atlanta (although throw-in Chris Johnson was excellent). Trevor Bauer was awful with Cleveland. Ian Kennedy was mediocre at best with San Diego. Chris Young hit under .200 for Oakland. Ryan Roberts was a bust with Tampa Bay. Kelly Johnson was bad for Toronto. Brandon Allen never caught on with a major league team after Towers traded him for a reliever. Mark Reynolds was below replacement with the Orioles.
Towers’s record of trading away highly valued players isn’t perfect — Jarrod Parker has been a strong pickup for Oakland, and better than Trevor Cahill has been for Arizona. Still, Towers’s ability to evaluate the talent on his own team, at least juding by these trades, seems to be more or less on the mark.
But that doesn’t explain why the returns he gets for these assets he clearly doesn’t like are still so underwhelming. So Towers doesn’t like the way Justin Upton plays, or he thinks Chris Young or Ian Kennedy is going to struggle to return from his injuries, or he thinks Matt Davidson and Kelly Johnson strike out too much, or he thinks Trevor Bauer isn’t receptive enough to coaching. All reasonable, and all have been borne out since the trades.
Towers seems to approach the market as if the other 29 teams have the same bear valuation on these players as Towers does. Maybe he’s bad at hiding his disdain for players who aren’t grit incarnate. And so he ends up trading players like Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton for the underwhelming package of Mark Trumbo. Or Martin Prado ends up as the best player he gets back for Justin Upton, one of the most exciting outfielders in the league at the time of the trade. Or he grabs a closer who has failed to live up to his potential for one of the best prospects in the system in Davidson, even if his defense is flawed and may prevent him from playing third base in the future.
It’s just odd. Towers targets interesting players — Mark Trumbo, Addison Reed, Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Didi Gregorius, Trevor Cahill and other players Towers have brought in are all interesting players and all good players in their own right. But he just seems all too eager to trade other talented players away for what appears to be little else than rubbing him the wrong way.
It worked in 2011, as Kirk Gibson‘s squad (mostly, it should be noted, with Josh Byrnes’s players) gritted and gutted their way to a 94-win season and an NL West title. But the results since have been a heaping helping of mediocrity — two straight 81 win seasons. And if Towers continues to insist on selling low on these assets he just doesn’t like, it’s hard to imagine the trend of mediocrity dissipating any time soon.