There used to be a time when the Arizona Diamondbacks sloughed premium prospects of their shoulders like dandruff. They had way too many prospects and young players to know what to do with. They had Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, and Chad Tracy in the infield; Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin, Chris Young, and Justin Upton as potential outfielders. When the bellhop would bring their bags up to the room, they'd slip a young player into his palm as a tip.
This was the kind of depth that allowed them to trade six prospects to the Oakland Athletics for Dan Haren. It wasn't an ill-advised move -- Haren pitched wonderfully, even if he was turned into Joe Saunders and a couple of prospects -- but two of the prospects they gave up, Brett Anderson and Carlos Gonzalez, panned out. Even if you disregard Anderson because of his elbow injury, just Gonzalez alone can make Diamondbacks fans go through some serious what-ifs.
The two teams are back in heavy discussions for a young, cost-controlled pitcher again. From Buster Olney:
Talks between Arizona and Oakland have advanced, but aren't close to completion. Trevor Bauer a player of interest for Athletics.
Well, of course Trevor Bauer is a player of interest for the A's. Them and 28 other teams. Bauer is one of the most interesting pitchers in the world, a prospect who advanced through the amateur ranks with a healthy appreciation of Tim Lincecum's mechanics, and who is putting up similar strikeout rates in the minors.
And just like before, the Diamondbacks are awash in prospects -- pitching prospects, this time. John Sickels gives four different Diamondbacks pitching prospects an A- grade or better, which is especially impressive when you consider that Sickels is a little stingy with his A-grades. Bauer is at the top of Sickels' list, and he's followed by Jarrod Parker, Tyler Skaggs, and Archie Bradley, who I think released six seminal albums on Blue Note in the '50s.
Everyone wants to get their hands on a few of those pitchers. The A's certainly would. All the A's would have to give up is a young, cost-controlled pitcher who is dramatically underpaid. No biggie. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Diamondbacks would need to pay a higher price for Gio Gonzalez than for Trevor Cahill. Gonzalez is locked up for three years (all arbitration years), while Cahill signed a 4-year, $30 million extension that begins in 2012, with two options tacked on at the end.
Those descriptions are of pitchers who will not be cheap.
So here we are again, just a few years later. The Diamondbacks have a surplus. The A's have assets that don't pop up on the trade market that often, and that make perfect sense for a team like the Diamondbacks, who aren't huge spenders. I mean, they're not the Marlins, or anything. Does it make sense for the Diamondbacks to go nuts and shoot a liquid stream of pitching prospects over to the A's?
Yes. No. Maybe. For one thing, Haren was a more established, less risky pitcher than either Gonzalez or Cahill. Both of the young A's pitchers have the control of, well, a young pitcher. Haren was already a strike-throwing machine when the D-Backs traded six prospects for him. The price will be lower for either Cahill or Gonzalez. And it's worth noting that, especially factoring in the A's ballpark, Cahill wasn't especially good last season.
But considering where the Diamondbacks are in the success cycle -- they're a pretty good team without any major holes -- it's absolutely a great idea for them to trade a couple of the prospects in the hand for a pitcher in the bush. Or under the tarp. Whatever the Oakland equivalent would be. Going over the top with more than one of their top four? Maybe if either of these pitchers were another Haren, maybe. But they're not.
As far as trade rumors go, these two teams are an interesting fit. Again. Prospects for quality pitchers who aren't close to free agency -- it's sort of Billy Beane's thing. And with the Diamondbacks trying to repeat against a plethora of teams who are content going backwards in the offseason, it wouldn't be a bad time to give up a piece of the future for the present. A chunk of the future? It's always a bad time to do that, so if the A's think they're getting another Haren-type package again, nothing will get done.