Problems with Summer Rentals?

Over the course of the past 8 months Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Josh Byrnes has shown a propensity for dealing away young unknown talent in exchange for veterans who have had Major League experience and are under contract beyond the current season. This philosophy was apparent in December when he dealt several prospects to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for staff co-ace Dan Haren. That trade has so far paid substantial dividends and I briefly considered calling Josh and asking him what I should do with my 401K since it seems like he is on a roll and everything he does turns to gold. With his recent success, it is hard to stand here and question any of the deals that he has made but still there are a couple that at least today are making me scratch my head and wonder.


Prior to the July 31st Non-Waiver Trade Deadline; Josh Byrnes initiated a trade with the Washington Nationals obtaining relief pitcher and potential basketball center Jon Rauch in exchange for second baseman of the future Emilio Bonifacio. I always cringe when we make a trade with Washington. I think it is a knee-jerk reaction given that their assistant General Manager Mike Rizzo was the former Director of Player Development for the Diamondbacks. He is probably the one guy outside of the organization that knows exactly what Arizona has in its farm system. To this day I regret seeing Rizzo leave. He had a knack for knowing which players would make an impact at the major league level.

While the trade for Jon Rauch was necessary due to the inconsistency of the Diamondbacks bullpen, it still came at a huge price. For over a year we had been hearing how Bonifacio was the heir apparent to second base. With Orlando Hudson being eligible for free agency at the end of 2008; it was Bonifacio who was always touted as one who could take over thereby saving Arizona from having to overpay for second base. Emilio was listed as the fastest player in the Diamondbacks farm system. He was described as the lead-off hitter that the Diamondbacks desperately need. But interestingly enough he was not given a lot of opportunity with Arizona to prove that out. Instead he was brought in as a pinch runner or given an occasional at bat when on the major league roster. I’m not exactly sure why he had fallen out of graces with the Diamondbacks player development office but clearly they no longer had the confidence in him that once made Bonifacio untouchable.

Since Rauch has arrived in Arizona he had looked lights out. He is an intimidating 6′ 11″ and with his arm slot the ball just seems to jump out of his hand and be on top of the hitter before they can react. Rauch had been used in late innings while with Washington and could end up becoming the Diamondbacks closer if Brandon Lyon falters or if Arizona is unable to resign Lyon after this season. He fits the mold of what Byrnes is looking for. He is relatively inexpensive when compared to other relievers and is under contract not just for this season by for the next couple of years. Rauch had really solidified the bullpen at least until today.

The most recent trade the Diamondbacks made was when they pulled the trigger on getting Adam Dunn from the Cincinnati Reds. Dunn was leading the National League in home runs but was also ranked fourth in strikeouts. He is the left-handed hitter with power that Arizona has been lacking all season. On the surface this trade seemed to make sense since the Diamondbacks have been unable to drive in runs and with Los Angeles going out and getting Manny Ramirez Arizona definitely needed to be able to score more. This trade was not typical for Josh Byrnes. Dunn is eligible to become a free-agent at the end of this season and will undoubtedly be looking for more money than the Diamondbacks are able to pay. At best you would have to classify this as a summer rental. Considering that Arizona already has Justin Upton to play right field there is also the matter of where exactly you play everyone to put your best hitters on the field.

At first the trade seemed relatively minor cost for Arizona. They would receive Adam Dunn and cash in exchange for minor league pitcher Dallas Buck and two players to be named later. Today it was revealed that one of the players to be named was starting pitcher Micah Owings. Granted Owings has been struggling as of late and had been sent to Tucson to work on his mechanics but still that is a lot of talent to give up for a rental. In Dunn’s first at-bat as a Diamondbacks he pushed the count to full then struck out. Probably not the kind of start or impression he wanted to make. He did subsequently get on base 3 times that game with a double and 2 walks. Still, I think everyone was expecting a little more which may not have been reasonable considering the circumstances. And after today’s game fans are starting to question the deal a little more.

Today was the second game of the series against the Colorado Rockies. After winning the opener expectations were high that Doug Davis would be able to overcome the problems he had his previous 2 starts and pitch a quality game. This of course didn’t happen as Davis gave up 4 runs in the first 5 innings putting the Diamondbacks in a hole. Arizona hitters did not give up though and in the seventh inning tied the game at 4-4 on a single by Chris Young. The Diamondbacks brought Jon Rauch in for the 8th inning and everyone expected to see him shut down the Rockies. Instead Colorado got to Rauch for 2 runs putting the Rockies ahead 6-4.

In the top of the ninth inning Arizona began a rally of their own with a single by Stephen Drew that drove in a run and left runners on second and third with one out. Conor Jackson was intentionally walked after Chris Young struck out loading the bases and bringing Adam Dunn to the plate. I am sure this was the exact scenario that Josh Byrnes had envisioned when he made that trade. The bases loaded in a critical game and your best left-handed power hitter strides to the plate. These hopes were heightened when Dunn worked the count full giving the runners a chance to get a head-start if the ball were hit. The next pitch Dunn hits a ground ball to the “great Troy Tulowitzki” and is thrown out at first. Just like that the game was over and the Diamondbacks saw their first place lead evaporate over the Los Angeles Dodgers who beat the Philadelphia Phillies. Granted it is too early to decide whether this trade was good but right now it looks as though Arizona might have problems with its summer rentals.


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