D-backs Continue Outfield Makeover in Deal with Rays, Yankees

The Yankees entered the offseason determined to stay under the luxury-tax threshold. The Rays, meanwhile, have appeared intent recently on cutting payroll. As for the Diamondbacks, their moves this winter seem to indicate a club looking to quietly build on its first postseason appearance in six years.

On Tuesday night, the aforementioned organizations came together to accomplish their individual objectives in a three-team trade. Nick Piecoro reported on the most notable players involved in the deal.

Steven Souza Jr. should immediately assume Arizona’s starting right-field job, while Brandon Drury represents an option at second and third base for a club that lacks experience at both positions. With regard to Tampa Bay, they both shed Souza’s $3.6 million salary and land a small collection of prospects, including Nick Solak from the Yankees and Anthony Banda and two PTBNL from Arizona. Another prospect, Taylor Widener, goes from New York to Arizona. Our own Eric Longenhagen evaluates the merits of the prospects involved here. It’s not a franchise-altering return for Tampa.

So what to make of all this?

The Diamondbacks enjoyed one of the great trade-deadline acquisitions in recent memory this past season, adding J.D. Martinez in mid-July. In Souza, they have found a replacement who is coming off a nearly four-win campaign in Tampa. He has gradually translated his considerable athletic gifts into on-field production. Souza hit 30 home runs last season and slashed .239/.351/.459 with a 120 wRC+. Always the owner of an excellent batting eye, Souza recorded the 12th-highest walk rate among baseball’s 144 qualified hitters. His right-handed bat will help in a division that is loaded with left-handed pitching.

The Diamondbacks have revamped their outfield over the last 30 or so hours.

The Souza addition comes roughly 24 hours after the addition of Jarrod Dyson, who could help in center or left and could be one of the better value signings of the offseason. With Souza in right, David Peralta could move over to left. The club, meanwhile, seems determined to give Yasmany Tomas as little playing time as possible.

Arizona projects as just an 82-win team, but our Steamer forecasts for Souza (1.2 WAR) and Dyson (1.0 WAR) are perhaps conservative. Last month, the Diamondbacks also added catcher Alex Avila, a Statcast star, on a two-year, $8.25 million deal. It was another sneaky pick-up.

Souza is the third interesting value-play addition to a team that also features one of the better pitching staffs in the NL.

Discussing the trade, Nick Piecoro writes that the club could afford to part with Drury and appears to be one of the bubble teams making a financial effort to improve themselves in 2018.

The moves over the past two days push the Diamondbacks’ payroll into the $125 million-$130 million range, well above where the team was expected to be this season and easily a new franchise record.

The deal figures to create an opportunity for Drury. A natural third baseman, he was blocked at that position by Jake Lamb, and though Drury can also play second, the Diamondbacks have other options, including Ketel Marte and Chris Owings.

The NL West is a fascinating division, made more fascinating by Arizona’s move tonight.

The AL East is fascinating, as well — or, that is, the top of the AL East is fascinating. The division is expected to result in one of the few tightly contested races in the game.

For the Yankees, Drury represents another infielder capable of playing third or second at a salary near the league minimum. While he might just be a placeholder for Gleyber Torres and/or Miguel Andujar, he’s a cheap placeholder with a serviceable career 95 wRC+. When the kids arrive in New York, Drury can slide into a reserve role.

The Yankees could still, say, add Mike Moustakas if they wanted and still remain under the tax threshold. But Drury lessens the need for free-agent infield help. Cot’s Baseball Contracts has the Yankees’ payroll at $162 million at the moment.

Whatever transpires between now and the beginning of the season, it’s hard to imagine that the Yankees have not avoided status as a luxury payer for the first time in the luxury-tax era, their stated goal entering the offseason. The Yankees are well positioned for the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado sweepstakes next winter.

As for the Rays?

They now have $69 million in salary commitments for the coming season. If there were a salary floor in the sport, based on the NBA model, it would hover around $130 million for the coming season, or 90% of the league-average payroll.

Between the departures of Souza, Corey Dickerson, and Jake Odorizzi by various means, the Rays have now shed about $13 million in salary this week. While the organization might not be much worse after all these moves, the machinations are probably not exactly rallying Rays Nation. The cycle continues. The march toward complete payroll efficiency continues.

A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 years ago

So after this latest deal, Boxberger, Longoria, Dickerson, Souza, Odorizzi, Cishek, Hunter, Stanton, Ozuna, Yelich, and Gordon have all departed; and Cobb and Morrison are likely to leave the state via free agency as well. If the rest of a 25-man roster were filled out with replacement-level players, how many games would the “Florida Exiles” win?

6 years ago
Reply to  Roger21


6 years ago
Reply to  johansantana17

68 is a modest sum, but don’t worry: the Exiles’ GM will doubtless be making a play to add Colome, Bour, and Realmuto in short order.

6 years ago
Reply to  Craftcj

I’m surprised that FL teams don’t do more to highlight their large and growing tax advantage over CA and NY teams.

It’s something close to an additional 10% in take home pay (before even adjusting for cost of living).

Probably better to say that they do highlight it, but there are a lot of confounding factors in that discussion. Most notably that the Marlins and Rays seem to be intent on making baseball the lone profession where high-comp workers are being exported from low cost geographies to high-cost ones!

6 years ago
Reply to  Roger21

The Rays haven’t got substantially worse; with the addition of the few relevant Marlins, who play positions where they are weakest (C, 1b, SP), they are a 81-84 win team probably.

6 years ago
Reply to  mikejunt

185 games per season? That’s a lot!

6 years ago
Reply to  johansantana17

You math stinks more than your joke.