How the Diamondbacks went from Trevor Bauer to Didi Gregorius

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The Diamondbacks and GM Kevin Towers knew all about Trevor Bauer’s odd delivery and unusual throwing program when they made him the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. If they had questions about him then, they overlooked them in order to get one of the top talents on the board.

Now, a year and a half later, he’s gone, essentially traded for a middle infielder who has hit .271/.323/.376 in five minor league seasons. Didi Gregorius is the Diamondbacks’ new hope at shortstop, replacing the old hope of Bauer at the top of the rotation.

Gregorius, for what it’s worth, signed with the Reds for $50,000 out of Curacao in 2007. Bauer got a $3.45 million bonus and a four-year, $4.45 million contract upon joining the Diamondbacks last year.

Not only is that money gone, but the Diamondbacks passed on such talents as the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy, the Nationals’ Anthony Rendon and the Indians’ Francisco Lindor to draft Bauer. It’s safe to say that Gregorius wouldn’t have been of much interest if they had taken Lindor, now one of the game’s best shortstop prospects.

That the Diamondbacks’ relationship with Bauer had soured was obvious. The two parties disagreed about his throwing program. Whispers about attitude problems had become pervasive. Some of Bauer’s tweets also rubbed people the wrong way.

It’s all stuff that likely would have been overlooked had Bauer seemed well on his way to becoming an ace. However, fluctuating velocity and spotty fastball command had damaged his stock to some disagree.

Regardless, I still think trading Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw in exchange for Gregorius, Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson was a lousy idea for the Diamondbacks. But nor do I imagine Towers picked it over a bunch of superior offers; the fact is that everyone knew that Bauer was out there and no team seemed all that eager to take the plunge.

The big concern I have is the way the Diamondbacks are bleeding talent. I’ve liked their two biggest free agent additions to date (Brandon McCarthy and Eric Chavez), but trading Chris Young for a now obsolete Cliff Pennington and an overpriced reliever in Heath Bell was a net loss, as is this latest deal. Towers also traded a semi-intriguing corner infielder in Ryan Wheeler for  a generic left-handed reliever in Matt Reynolds. In an effort to fill gaps now, Towers has increased the likelihood that there will be bigger holes in the future.

Eric Hosmer’s eight-year, $144 million contract isn’t that bad

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Late Saturday night, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres and first baseman Eric Hosmer agreed to an eight-year, $144 million contract, the new largest contract in club history. According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports, the contract includes an opt-out after the fifth year. Further, Hosmer will average $21 million per year for those first five years and $13 million for the final three years, so it’s severely front-loaded.

Hosmer, 28, had a career year last season, playing in all 162 games while batting .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs, 94 RBI, and 98 runs scored in 671 plate appearances. Per Baseball Reference, Hosmer accrued 4.0 Wins Above Replacement, only one of six first basemen to do so. At No. 6, he was 0.4 WAR behind Anthony Rizzo and 0.4 WAR ahead of Logan Morrison.

Wil Myers had previously told the Padres he would accept a position change if the club were to sign Hosmer. He will be moving to the outfield as a result. The Padres now have a logjam in the outfield, so Jose Pirela could move moved to the infield. How the Padres plan to handle that situation remains to be seen.

The general consensus about the Hosmer signing once news broke was that it is laughably bad. Back in November, Dave Cameron — ironically now in the Padres’ front office — called Hosmer a “free agent landmine.” That thought hasn’t really changed among many writers. For example, using restraint, Dennis Lin of The Athletic calls the deal “a big gamble.” MLB Network’s Brian Kenny said Hosmer has at least three “red flags.”

FanGraphs projects the Padres to finish 71-91, so adding Hosmer isn’t likely to transform the club into a contender on his own. That being said, the Padres’ payroll was only at $70 million prior to the Hosmer signing, so the contract won’t hamstring them going forward. If the young nucleus of players — including Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe — perform as expected, the Padres could be a threat in the NL West relatively soon with plenty of cheap, cost-controlled players and having some experienced veterans like Hosmer and Myers could be useful for their intangibles — pennant race/playoff experience, clubhouse presence, leadership, etc.

Hosmer has had three seasons of 3.5 WAR or more, according to Baseball Reference. He’s had four between -0.5 and 1.0. Now entering his age-28 season, it’s hardly a guarantee he’ll be an All-Star-caliber player in 2018, let alone in 2022 when he is 32 years old. From a strict dollars-to-WAR standpoint in a complete vacuum, one could’ve done better than Hosmer at eight years, $144 million.

The Padres, however, aren’t a small market team; they just operate like one. Forbes valued the club at $1.125 billion last April. The Padres don’t have the financial muscle of the Dodgers or Yankees, but paying Eric Hosmer $18 million on average for the first five years of his contract won’t come close to hurting the organization in any way, shape, or form. More importantly, signing Hosmer shows the rest of the team and the fans a commitment to being legitimate, bumping the payroll up towards $90 million. That now dwarfs teams like the large-market Phillies, who opened up spring training with just over $60 million in player obligations.

In the grand scheme of things, the Hosmer signing is also a good sign given the standstill in the free agent market. Many veteran players — even reliever Fernando Abad, who posted a 3.30 ERA last season — had to settle for minor league contracts instead of guaranteed major league deals. Many others, including the likes of Jake Arrieta and J.D. Martinez, remain unsigned. The rumor that Hosmer wanted more than seven years and close to $150 million was laughed at last month. Agent Scott Boras was still able to get his client the deal he wanted, which could bode well for those still teamless. Martinez’s patience may yet be rewarded like Hosmer’s was; money may once again start flowing in the free agent economy.

In summation, the Eric Hosmer contract is good if: you are Eric Hosmer, related to or a friend of Eric Hosmer, a teammate of Hosmer’s, Scott Boras, a current or soon-to-be free agent, a Padres fan, and a baseball fan in general. The Hosmer contract is bad if: you are a penny-pinching owner of a Major League Baseball team, or someone who cares more about $/WAR than an actual good product being put on the field.