The Diamondbacks continue to be the game's most aggressive traders this offseason, dealing another one of their top prospects, third baseman Matt Davidson, for White Sox closer Addison Reed. While the Arizona front office will certainly earn an A for their effort this winter, GM Kevin Towers willingness to part with young talent for role players has many experts shaking their heads.
Steven Goldman of SBnation.com is blunt with his assessment of this deal and the Diamondbacks off-season in general. He thinks Towers has gotten hosed again-
"The Diamondbacks have had a strange offseason. Thanks to the presence of Martin Prado and Didi Gregorius in the big leagues at the same time Davidson and shortstop Chris Owings completed their minor league studies, Kevin Towers had two commodities that should have netted his team a good return. Instead, having traded one of his pitching prospects and better young outfielders for unidimensional Angels slugger Mark Trumbo, he then used that as an excuse to force the versatile Prado from left field or third base to third base-only. That meant Davidson was now hors de combat, all dressed up with no place to go. Towers turned him into a right-handed reliever, a good one, but as every child making out his Christmas list knows, if that's all you ask for, that's all you'll get."
Writing in the same space, Cee Angi praises White Sox GM Rick Hahn for the deal-
"On Monday, Hahn took advantage of another chance to pick the Diamondbacks' pockets and traded closer Addison Reed for Matt Davidson, a 22-year-old who has the potential to be a power hitter and third baseman, or failing that a left fielder if his glove doesn't hold up."
After watching him deal two top prospects for the limited skill set of Mark Trumbo, it isn't too surprising that people are jumping all over Kevin Towers for trading a potential above-average third baseman for a mere reliever, even if Reed is a young, cost-controlled one. However, not everybody is sold on Davidson. As Angi alludes to above, there are questions about Davidson's ability to stick at third. More importantly though, a number of experts question Davidson's bat and the evaluation of the young power hitter is central to the reactions this trade.
At Minor League Ball, John Sickels gives a breakdown of the strengths and weakness in the newest White Sox's game in a fairly balanced take on the 22-year-old-
"Davidson is a 6-2, 225 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born March 26, 1991. As his track record shows, he's a solid source of power and knocks 20 homers a year. He strikes out a lot and his batting averages are less impressive; the .280 at Reno isn't robust by PCL standards and his career minor league average stands at .268. In the majors he'll likely hit .240-.250, though perhaps more could be possible at his peak. On the positive side, he's improved his strike zone judgment with experience and even with a mediocre batting average, he should post a decent OBP.
His glove isn't outstanding but it isn't terrible and has improved quite a bit over the last three seasons. He has a strong arm and decent enough range; he can hold the position if he hits enough."
Despite the power potential, not everyone is sold-
I'm not a big Davidson fan, which is to say I never really loved the profile or the stick. Not a 1st division player. I'd rather have Reed.— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) December 16, 2013
At Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan likes the deal more for Rick Hahn and the White Sox than for Towers, but he sees the risk in Davidson as a key factor for Arizona-
"Towers critics and cynics should be able to have a field day with this. After all, the general manager went after a label. With Trumbo, Towers wanted proven right-handed power. Reed, meanwhile, is a proven closer, with 69 saves the last two seasons. He looks the part an awful lot more than Brad Ziegler does. Davidson's a talented prospect, blocked at the moment, and this might reek of Arizona focusing more on what he can't do than on what he can. And just because a guy is blocked doesn't mean a situation can't change, and it doesn't mean the guy has to be sold quickly for a better immediate fit. This'll be a fairly easy trade to pick apart.
I don't think it's that simple, and I do think there's a case for Arizona. The case relies on Reed's talent and remaining team control, and on an honest evaluation of Davidson's most likely future. Arizona might not come away regretting this at all."
Later he lays out the biggest issue about Davidson with great clarity-
"He isn't a player who adds value on the bases, and he isn't a player who's going to add a lot of value in the field...[snip]... his career is going to come down to his bat, and he'll either need to make more contact or do a more consistent job of turning the contact he does make into well-hit fly balls. Given that he walks some, he's capable of perfectly fine OBPs, but it could end up a question of whether the power offsets the whiffs."
After dealing another Baseball America top-100 prospect, the same criticisms Diamondbacks' GM Kevin Towers got blasted with during the Trumbo deal all apply here. Once again, it appears he sold another potential impact player from his farm system for another marginal upgrade as he tries to build a contender that rival the big-money Dodgers in the NL West. In this case, however, the evaluation of Davidson is really the key element. If he appeared to overvalue power in paying a high price for Trumbo, here Towers has shown skepticism about the power potential of Davidson and tried to turn him into a young arm that can fill an immediate need and remain in that role for several years. He has the largest body of information on Davidson, so he has an advantage in the evaluation process, but the price he has extracted in return for yet another top prospect is underwhelming once again.
The general idea of trading a young, power-hitting third baseman for a closer- almost any closer- might be a terrible misappropriation of resources, but in this case, the more specifics of Matt Davidson's skills are of greater importance than a general rule. Anyone who believes in Davidson is going to see this as the baseball equivalent of highway robbery, but you don't have to look hard to find people who don't believe in Davidson.