Feeling they have an even better one on the way, the Diamondbacks traded their starting first baseman to the A’s for a setup man on Sunday. The three-player deal sent Brad Ziegler to Arizona in return for Brandon Allen and left-hander Jordan Norberto.
Allen had three homers and seven RBI in 29 at-bats since his callup earlier this month, but he was hitting just .172, leaving him with a .213/.325/.404 line in 178 at-bats with the Diamondbacks over the last three years. He’s not a surprising A’s target, in that his game is much more about power and walks than batting average. Unfortunately, he does strike out a lot and he may fall short of being a quality regular as a result.
The move opens up first base in Arizona for Paul Goldschmidt. The Diamondbacks debated long and hard whether to try Allen or Goldschmidt at first base when they decided to give up on Juan Miranda. Allen was having a fine season in Triple-A, but Goldschmidt was simply dominant in Double-A, hitting .306/.435/.626 with 30 homers and 94 RBI in 366 at-bats. A right-handed hitter, he’ll probably take over as an everyday player for the Diamondbacks. They had been platooning the right-handed-hitting Xavier Nady with the lefty-swinging Allen.
The Diamondbacks also sent Norberto to Oakland. The 24-year-old reliever made 33 appearances for Arizona last year, amassing a 5.85 ERA in 20 innings, but he had spent all of this season in Triple-A and had a 4.25 ERA and a 54/26 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings.
In return, GM Kevin Towers gets Arizona the setup man he believed the team needed to help David Hernandez in front of J.J. Putz. Ziegler is very vulnerable to left-handed hitters with his sidearm delivery, but he shuts down right-handers about as well as anyone and he’s yet to allow a homer in 37 2/3 innings this season. He has a career 2.49 ERA in four seasons since debuting in 2008, and he’s under control through 2014.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.