The Royals and Diamondbacks recently – and quietly – pulled off a rare prospect-for-prospect trade. The American League club sent reliever Carlos Rosa to Arizona for infielder Reynaldo Navarro. Rosa is the bigger name of the two based on his previous big league experience but Navarro is a former third round draft pick (2007) out of Puerto Rico.
The Diamondbacks club is desperate for relief pitching… any pitching, really. The club currently has the second worst ERA in the Majors (although its xFIP sits 18th, suggesting the club needs to address some other needs, as well). The right-hander was never able to crack the big league rotation with Kansas City and appeared in just nine MLB games over the past two seasons.
Rosa, 25, has shown good minor league numbers, including solid control (although it slipped in ’09 at triple-A); he was permanently moved to the bullpen in ’09. He has good stuff and his fastball sits around 94 mph. Unfortunately, he’s never been able to consistently command his secondary pitches (slider, change-up). He’s always done a nice job of keeping the ball in the park and has a career ground-ball rate around 50%. In ’09 at triple-A, Rosa posted a 3.44 FIP and a strikeout rate of 10.14 K/9 in 71.0 innings. So far in 2010, the right-hander has struggled with his control in just 12.1 innings.
In return, Arizona surrenders a talented – but very raw – middle infield prospect. Navarro, 20, was ranked by FanGraphs.com as the D-Backs’ seventh-best prospect entering 2010. Last year in low-A, Navarro hit .262/.308/.339 in 493 at-bats. He has some speed (12 steals in 16 tries) but his aggressive approach (5.5 BB%) makes him a poor top-of-the-order hitter. Currently in high-A ball, the shortstop is hitting .241/.307/.329 in 79 at-bats. Navarro made some defensive strides at shortstop in ’09 and has good range, so there is hope he’ll be able to remain at the position despite fringe arm strength.
Arizona certainly wins the trade if we grade it today; the club addresses a clear need and gets a solid arm for a raw player. However, Kansas City receives an interesting prospect to dream on. The club did a nice job of turning an excess arm into a potential steal. If the Royals’ player development staff can get Navarro to adjust his game plan to take advantage of his true strengths, the organization could end up as the winner of this deal. But it’s a big if.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.