The Angels, Diamondbacks and White Sox deal: Who wins?

As you have probably heard, the Angels, Diamondbacks and White Sox executed a three-team trade yesterday. Three-team trades are always interesting. There is often some component that seems bizarre, unusual, or otherwise unnecessary. At this point, this is what we think the finalized details of the trade will look like:
{exp:list_maker}Angels receive Hector Santiago from the White Sox and Tyler Skaggs from the Diamondbacks
Diamondbacks receive Mark Trumbo from the Angels and two players to be named later (thought to be Angels right-handed pitching prospect A.J. Schugel and White Sox outfield prospect Brandon Jacobs)
White Sox receive Adam Eaton {/exp:list_maker}

The White Sox’ haul

The White Sox have a penchant for getting themselves involved in three-team trades and they seemed to have the best value in this one. In this writer’s opinion, Eaton was the best player involved in the trade. While his defensive numbers in center field were suspect during his injury-shortened 2013, his scouting reports suggest that he should be able to provide average defense in center. If not, he’ll probably provide above-average defense at a corner outfield position.

While Eaton doesn’t hit for much power, he still hits enough to be valuable in a corner outfield position. The 25-year-old’s best skill is plate discipline, but he may benefit from more aggression. His overall profile is similar to Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. Because Eaton rarely whiffs (4.7 percent swinging strike rate), he has the potential to put a lot of balls in play.

Eaton doesn’t comes with a proven track record, which is probably why he was available. It’s still possible that he isn’t anything more than a fourth outfielder, but he has the potential to be a borderline All-Star center fielder. Steamer and Oliver, two projection systems currently available on FanGraphs, project 1.7 and 3.6 WAR respectively for Eaton in 2014. He comes with five seasons of club control.

The White Sox give up Santiago and Jacobs in the trade. Santiago was expendable since the club had starting pitching to spare. Counting the recently signed Felipe Paulino, the White Sox can turn to six starters with major league experience. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are substantially more reliable than Andre Rienzo, John Danks, Erik Johnson, and Paulino, but Santiago isn’t much different than those latter four names. Jacobs is no great loss either (more on him later).

The Angels’ haul

The Angels return also appears valuable. Santiago and Skaggs are interesting young players with the potential to provide league average innings at a low cost. Santiago is seen as inconsistent, mostly due to a fairly high walk rate. He is known to occasionally labor through innings, which hurts his ability to last deep into ballgames.

At this point, he appears to be a fifth starter type who would ideally be used as a swing man. His ERAs have been substantially lower than his peripherals suggest. Without going too far into the specifics, there isn’t any reason to believe that will continue, especially to the degree that we’ve witnessed thus far. His ERA should be closer to 4.50 than 3.50 in future seasons. A 4.50 ERA starter in the American League is nearly a league average pitcher. Santiago has four seasons of club control remaining and is entering his age 26 season.

Skaggs has more upside but also comes with greater risk. 2014 will be the lefty’s age-22 season and he’s already had two cups of coffee at the big league level. His results have left something to be desired, mostly due to a huge problem with home runs. His stuff isn’t dominant by any means, with his fastball averaging below 90 mph. However, he generates an above-average whiff rate and can limit walks. If he gets the home run problem under control, he could be a useful mid-rotation pitcher with six seasons of club control remaining.

The trade solves a big problem for the Angels. Only Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson were locked into rotation spots next season, with Garrett Richards and Joe Blanton as the other experienced candidates. The addition of both Santiago and Skaggs could potentially bump Blanton from the roster if the club isn’t willing to let him work through his own home run problems (a 3.84 xFIP suggests that Blanton’s 6.04 ERA was just a tad unfortunate, but that’s a story for another day).

The Angels also gain some additional payroll flexibility since both pitchers will earn league minimum salaries. That could help the club bring in another starting pitcher or reliever, or sign a potent designated hitter-type bat that falls through the cracks.

The Diamondbacks’ … haul

Why does Trumbo and a couple of decent prospects look like such a light return for Eaton and Skaggs? The Diamondbacks clearly view Trumbo as the best player in the trade, which based on major league track record is true. He’s swatted 95 home runs and driven in 284 runs over the last three seasons, which looks great on a fantasy roster.

The problem is that he projects to hit only about 10-20 percent above league average due to a low batting average and on-base percentage. If you combine that with outfield defense that will probably be below average and possibly painful to watch, he may have trouble exceeding two WAR in future seasons.

Trumbo has three seasons of club control, but the Diamondbacks may opt to non-tender him before the third season. Arbitration notoriously overpays home runs and RBI. He’s projected by MLB Trade Rumors’ Matt Swartz to earn $4.7 million this season. If he continues to play as he has the past three seasons, then his third time through arbitration will cost around $12-16 million.

The Diamondbacks also received a couple of prospects, but they aren’t anything to salivate over. Jacobs has a strikeout problem that he’ll need to resolve before he can contribute at the major league level. He doesn’t seem to have enough home run pop to power his way through the strikeout problem like Trumbo does. Schugel looks like a reliever or swing man if he reaches the majors at all and dealt with injuries in 2013.

The trade seemingly doesn’t do anything very positive for the club. Eaton is a better defender and has a higher upside than Trumbo, although there is also much more uncertainty with him. Eaton for Trumbo seems pretty zero sum from a talent perspective, yet Eaton is club controlled longer and cheaper in every way. Moving Skaggs in the trade takes away some of the Diamondbacks’ rotation depth, but they’re still well set in that regard.

Closing thoughts

Bravo to the Angels for solving their rotation issue and to the White Sox for being opportunistic as always. Somebody did a good job of selling the Diamondbacks on the virtues of Trumbo, but the trade is a bit of a head-scratcher for Arizona. It’s possible that the trade works out favorably, but there are a lot of ways for the Diamondbacks to come out as losers on this one, and only a few scenarios where they are winners.

A Hardball Times Update
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10 years ago

Eaton is a guy who is going to have to prove he can make pitchers pay for challenging him.

Skaggs is a guy you have to hope can regain his velocity.

Santiago is a 4’th starter on a good pitching staff.

Scoff at the dingers, but Trumbo’s track record of power is pretty well established and is rapidly becoming the most difficult commodity to find in MLB, if it isn’t already. 

If I’m a D’Back’s fan, I would rather have an OF of Trumbo/Campana/Marte/Ross than Eaton/Campana/Marte/Ross.

I believe a lot of analysts are overthinking this one and the D’Backs got the best of the deal.

Brad Johnson
10 years ago

I’m not sure it’s overthinking so much as analysts do not believe Trumbo’s skill set is valuable. Entertaining, sure, but I have trouble seeing him as even a league average player in the outfield. And as I pointed out in the article, if he performs as the DBacks hope he will, they’ll have to consider non-tendering him prior to the 2016 season.

I’m certainly not scoffing at Trumbo’s home runs, they’re the only reason he’s a major league player. If he were to hit 10 fewer home runs per season, he’d be Mike Jacobs.

You’re correct that Eaton will have trouble leveraging his best skill if he can’t punish pitchers for challenging him. However, if Eaton provides league average defense in CF and a league average bat, then he’s more valuable than Trumbo all by himself. And that coincides with Eaton’s median/mean projections. He looks like he’ll be slightly below average defensively and about 10% above average offensively.

We’ll see how it turns out. I just don’t see why the Dbacks were involved in this. The White Sox and Angels at least accomplished goals. The DBacks added payroll, diminished depth, and added a little certainty at the expense of upside.

I understand that a lineup with Trumbo hitting 5th or 6th looks sexier than one with Eaton at the top or bottom, but I find the defensive ramifications to be appalling. I know Towers is saying he thinks Trumbo will be an average corner OFer, but having watched him play the OF, the first comp who comes to mind is Mike Morse.

James M.
10 years ago

Giantsfan:  Campana?  Where did you get the idea he was even in the picture?  The D’backs 3rd OF is Gerardo Parra. He had a 4.6 WAR last year.  Campana’s only value is as a pinch runner.

The main question I have with the trade is:  What do they do with Ross?  He’s essentially an older version of Trumbo with less power.  I can’t see them both in the lineup together.

James M.
10 years ago

I forget to mention that AZ’s 2nd OF is A.J. Pollock who turned in a solid 3.6 WAR in 137 games.  He’s a terrific CF, unlike Eaton, and a better hitter as well.  Eaton’s WAR: -0.5.  In short, Eaton was very expendable.

10 years ago

A.J. Pollock is nothing more than a replacement level player. His WAR is due to Fangraph’s overstatement of the true value a centerfielder has on a team’s defense, and their dubious UZR, a stat which is grotesquely inflated due to Chase Field’s unique dimensions.

10 years ago

Sorry, I just took a quick look at the D’Backs roster last night and didn’t recall seeing Parra.  I thought something was missing.  All the more reason why Eaton is expendable making the trade even better from the D’Backs perspective, IMO.

Brad Johnson
10 years ago

I agree that Eaton was expendable. But I don’t see how acquiring Trumbo logically follows that.

10 years ago

I am not impressed with Towers’ “game plan”, whatever that may be. He had a young, athletic, toolsey outfield and traded it for “gritty” spare parts and spent millions on one-dimensional, injury prone mediocrity. His acquistion of Heath Bell was a complete joke and more wasted money, and all of his young talented pitching (save Corbin) seems to go up in smoke. (Hopefully Miley stays healthy.)

Virgil Dahl
10 years ago

RoundHeadedKid’s thoughts mirror mine exactly. Well said