High Noon or Maybe 1:00 PMPosted by Jeff Summers on Jul 31, 2013 in 2013 Regular Season | 0 comments
Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, there are no words that can describe the excitement and the anxiety of this day. In Spring Training we eagerly look at our favorite teams trying to discern if this is going to be the magical year that gets us to the post season. We look at each young prospect and rave about how great they look. Never do we consider that perhaps they are looking that great because these games don’t mean anything. Despite this oversight, many of the fans that flock to Florida and Arizona each February and March get attached to the young kids eager to make a name for themselves.
I’m as guilty as the next fan. I will carefully assess each hitter’s swing and each pitcher’s motion making up my mind whether we will see this rookie on the big league club this season or if there are a few more years before the make their Major League debut. Along the way you kind of get attached to these minor league players and root for them to be successful.
Once the regular season begins I’m focused on the 25-man roster cheering for each of them to help make the team successful. Because baseball is such an inexact science, things never go quite like you thought they would when Spring Training started. Sometimes there are unforeseen injuries that sideline our favorite players and sometimes players don’t reach the lofty expectations that either the fans or the team has set for them.
When the season reaches its mythical halfway point at the All-Star break teams and fans begin assessing the season and wonder aloud if there are other players who might make a difference and be that one impact player that will catapult the team into the post season.
With every rumored deal there are additions and subtractions. Each new piece brought into the clubhouse or placed on the roster means that there is someone who will no longer be part of the hometown family. For the most part the players and the front office use the same tired cliché when describing these circumstances, “baseball is a business”.
I cannot tell you how much that phrase grates on me. I get the fact that Major League Baseball is an economic juggernaut with revenues counted in the billions. I understand that players are paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a game that most fans would gladly play for free. The business side raises its ugly head every time billionaire owners negotiate with millionaire players for salaries that most fans would never reach in their lifetimes. Still, I struggle with the “baseball is a business” line.
At no time is that more evident than at the non-waiver trade deadline. With the Diamondbacks having been at or near the top of the National League Western Division standings for most of the year and still well within striking distance of first place it was inevitable that they would be active in the trade market.
Over the previous month it has been evident that all is not well within the Diamondbacks. Inconsistency abounds around this team. There are days when the starting pitching shines only to see the offense go silent. The next night the bats wake up only to see the bullpen squander a late lead. Or the starting pitching gives up early runs digging a hole that neither the bullpen nor the offense can overcome. It’s this inconsistency that is most worrisome. If you could point to just one area you could try to fix it but when you have this many moving parts you never know what might be the cause and what might be the solution.
Unlike the big market teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, or New York Yankees; the Arizona Diamondbacks do not have the financial latitude to throw money at the problems and hope it works. What you thought might be a cause of the inconsistency could very well be the piece that was holding things together and trading the piece could unravel the team.
To their credit, the Arizona Diamondbacks always seem to be involved in deals at the trade deadline. Sometimes those deals work out but other times they have failed miserably. Whenever I find myself getting too excited about deadline deals I remind myself of the Diamondbacks inaugural season when the traded catcher Jorge Fabregas and pitcher Willie Blair to the New York Mets for outfielder Bernard Gilkey and pitcher Nelson Figueroa.
Gilkey was a complete bust playing sparsely that season before going in for in-season Lasik surgery. He never amounted for much and soon was gone from the active roster. That would have been bad enough but his contract was structured with deferred money that continues to be owed to him to this day 15 years later. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.
This year’s deadline deal featured a new and somewhat surprising twist. The Arizona Diamondbacks sent struggling right-handed pitcher and Opening Day starter Ian Kennedy to the San Diego Padres in exchange for left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher, minor league pitcher Matt Stites, and the Padres’ Competitive Balance Draft Pick B.
It’s surprising because this is the first time in the history of the franchise the Diamondbacks have traded their Opening Day starter at the trade deadline. They also traded Kennedy to a divisional opponent, which most times hesitate to do since the teams face each other so often. But perhaps the most surprising part is that it the Dbacks traded with the Padres at all.
These two teams have been involved in the baseball equivalent of the cold war for the past few seasons ever since former Diamondbacks CEO Jeff Moorad left Phoenix and went to San Diego to attempt to purchase the team. That was just the beginning of the awkwardness. Arizona fired then General Manager Josh Byrnes who ended up becoming GM for the Padres. San Diego fired GM Kevin Towers who was hired by the Diamondbacks to fill their vacant GM slot.
Despite all of this, the teams put away any supposed differences to make a deal. Arizona needed bullpen help while Kennedy needed a fresh start at a larger ballpark that is more pitcher friendly. This is one of those deals that appear to help both sides fill their team’s needs.
I have to admit, I am going to miss Kennedy. I’ve had an opportunity to talk with him a few times while he was with the Diamondbacks and he was always very friendly and willing to talk even when things were not going as well as he would like. He was always a professional and did his job the best he could. From talking to others he was a good teammate and one who will be missed. Hopefully the trade benefits him as well as Thatcher and Stites and they each find success. That’s all you can really ask for.