D-Backs and the Tao of Trading Haren: ~ What Could’ve Been ~

There’s a minor unspoken rule that interim GMs shouldn’t make trades because they’re only in power for such a little time and it’s easier for an incoming GM to take over the team as is.  Also, sometimes the interim GM makes a terrible trade.

For reference, this is what the Diamondbacks traded for to get Dan Haren and then got back when they traded him away. C/O a D-Backs fan:

We originally obtained Dan Haren [before the 2008 season] by trading Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Aaron Cunningham, Greg Smith, Dana Eveland, and Chris Carter. Which means now, in essence, we traded all those names for.. Joe Saunders, Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez, and what might be Tyler Skaggs if we’re lucky.

Not necessarily, because the D-Backs did get two and a half years of Haren out of that deal.

D-Backs Interim GM Jerry DiPoto, however, cited wins and winning percentage as one of the main reasons he chose to acquire Joe Saunders. No stupid deed goes unpunished.

So a legit centerfielder, a legit starter (and maybe No. 1), two decent back-end starters, and a high-end OF prospect for two and a half years of Haren. Oakland got quite a bit out of that trade and with good reason: Haren was legit.

Let’s give some historical context, though. The D-Backs just wrapped up a 90-win season and a trip to the NLCS. Their rotation was their biggest issue and Haren plugged that hole pretty well. A rotation of Brandon Webb and Haren back-to-back was awesomely reminiscent of the Schilling-Johnson years, when the D-Backs won the World Series.

However, that 2007 team was a 79-win team by pythag win-loss, so maybe that was just an error in judgment.

Anyway, yesterday Haren was flipped for Joe Saunders, a AAAA reliever, a skinny 20-year-old starter in A ball who may have the goods to be a starter and a 19-year-old decent 1st rounder who could be a starter.

This was a salary dump, no doubt about it. There were better offers on the table (Yankees had a decent offer with Ivan Nova and Joba Chamberlain, supposedly) and while Saunders is a MLB starter, he’s not a good one.

You wonder, though, what would’ve happened if the D-Backs stayed the course and didn’t trade for Haren–just focused on what they had coming up and played for a continuously ripening farm system.

They’d have a rotation with Brett Anderson in it, supposing he didn’t get injured. They’d have Carlos Gonzalez in the majors, probably, and filling out a very good defensive outfield with Chris B. Young.  Or maybe they could’ve held onto Carlos Quentin. If they traded Quentin away anyway because of CarGo, they’d have Chris Carter getting ready to come up next year.  Or better yet, they could’ve dumped Chad Tracy and tried Quentin at 1B.

Or, they could’ve traded one of their many outfielders for a different starter.  Maybe even traded Quentin for John Danks or Gavin Floyd.

Supposing they didn’t get involved in the Austin Jackson/Curtis Granderson trade, they’d have Max Scherzer right now and Daniel Schlereth around to make spot starts. Even if they did get involved, they’d still have Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson filling out the rotation. Neither has as much potential as Scherzer, but both are valuable back-end starters.

The rotation would have some holes, assuming they didn’t trade an OF for pitching help, but the team has made some minor signings the past few years that, likewise, filled plugs with 1-year deals. Former D-Backs GM Josh Byrnes signed Felipe Lopez for a 1-year deal for the 2009 season, which was decent for both the team and the player. Before the 2010 season, Byrnes got two decent 1-year deals in Kelly Johnson, a 2B, and Adam LaRoche, a 1B. Imagine if that money was used on Carl Pavano or bringing back Jon Garland or on an incentive-laden deal with Ben Sheets. The market this year was ripe for the D-Backs.

They also could’ve used a little money to bring in some bullpen help.

Now note that the D-Backs had a lot of financial problems in 2007 because of deferred money from the 2001 championship team. Trading for Haren made sense because he was young and could become part of a very powerful team that was beginning to hit its stride, or so one might’ve thought after the 90-win season in 2007. Haren was acquired just as that money was coming off the books. But at the same time, knowing that he had already had due service and was about to hit arbitration, it would’ve made more sense to have held onto all of those prospects and seen what developed out of them.

There’s also some historical context needed to why Josh Byrnes traded away Quentin. Eric Byrnes (not related) was a fan favorite for the D-Backs and had a very good 2007 season. Word at the time was ownership wanted to lock him up and Eric Byrnes received a 3-year/$33 mil deal. It made no sense unless ownership really wanted it.  Quentin, who was ready for the majors immediately, became expendable and it would’ve been unfair to keep him in the minors for three years. It was a reasonable decision by Byrnes (Josh), but it’s more of a reason why ownership should butt out of front office moves. (btw, RIP George Steinbrenner, you were the greatest baseball troll has ever known).

After that signing, Quentin was traded for Carter and Carter was packaged with Anderson and CarGo and Eveland and Smith to Oakland.

SP Edwin Jackson
SP Ian Kennedy
SP Joe Saunders
SP Rodrigo Lopez
SP ???

C Chris Snyder
1B Adam LaRoche
2B Kelly Johnson
SS Stephen Drew
3B Mark Reynolds
LF Gerardo Parra
CF Chris Young
RF Justin Upton

So here’s what an ideal 2010 D-Backs roster would look like without the Haren trade (and without the Eric Byrnes extension):

SP Brett Anderson
SP Max Scherzer
SP Jon Garland
SP Rodrigo Lopez? (Brandon Webb, ideally)
SP Daniel Schlereth?

C: Miguel Montero/Chris Snyder
1B: Carlos Quentin?
2B: Kelly Johnson
SS: Stephen Drew
3B: Mark Reynolds
LF: Carlos Gonzalez
CF: Chris Young
RF: Justin Upton

And then with a Carlos Quentin trade that lands him in CWS for pitching:

SP Brett Anderson
SP Max Scherzer
SP John Danks
SP Jon Garland? Carl Pavano?
SP Rodrigo Lopez? Clayton Richard? (Brandon Webb, ideally)

C: Miguel Montero/Chris Snyder
1B: Adam LaRoche?
2B: Kelly Johnson
SS: Stephen Drew
3B: Mark Reynolds
LF: Carlos Gonzalez
CF: Chris Young
RF: Justin Upton

Man, what a difference that trade makes.  Whatever money was used on Haren, or maybe whatever talent in the minors could be traded, could go to bullpen help.

It’s kinda funny to think that that one signing, that one 3-year deal to Eric Byrnes, started the snowball that might have done the organization (and Josh Byrnes) in.

Come 2010, though, money was still an issue and now that they’re in last place, Dan Haren was the expendable one. Why they settled for such a bad deal when other offers were better, no one knows. It was a salary dump and that’s about it.

So now the D-Backs are the tramps from Tristram Shandy. Money problems abound, a decent team with lots of places to improve and no way to improve in those places and now they’ve just dumped their best pitcher for a fourth starter, one kid with potential and a bag of balls.

Ah. What could’ve been.

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Filed under Hot stove, MLB, MLB history, prospects

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