If the Arizona Diamondbacks select you in the first round of the MLB Draft, here is a tip: Rent, don’t buy. Also, ask for a tear-away jersey to reveal the team you will be traded to shortly after signing. Once again, the Diamondbacks have traded a first-round pick in the form of Dansby Swanson, the Vanderbilt shortstop whose skills are solid, but as scouts point out “he has makeup that is off the charts.”
Swanson, along with Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair were shipped to the Atlanta Braves in return for hard-luck starter Shelby Miller and minor league pitcher Gabe Speier. Miller had an ugly 6-win, 17-loss season in 2015, but ended with a 3.02 ERA and a somewhat average WHIP of 1.25. Miller, 25, was a first-round pick for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2009 draft. After the 2014 season, they shipped him to the Braves in exchange for Jason Heyward. Neither player will play for their 2015 teams come next year.
Some are going to the extreme of calling the Miller-to-Arizona deal one of the worst trades in history. Swanson, the top selection in the 2015 draft, played in 22 games for Hillsboro in the Northwest League and batted .289, but he had an on-base percentage of close to .400 and an equal number of walks to strikeouts. Inciarte, a 25-year-old Venezuelan, was picked up in the 2008 amateur draft and had a .292 batting average in his two years with the D-backs. An outfield fixture for Arizona in 2015, Inciarte had 21 steals with 10 assists across all three outfield positions.
Blair, yet another first-round pick (2013), was drafted out of Marshall University and pegged for a No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the future. In AA Mobile and AAA Reno, Blair, the owner of a “bowling ball sinker,” was a combined 13-5 with a 2.92 ERA and a WHIP of 1.16. Swanson and Blair are in some great company when it comes to Diamondback first-rounders whose careers were short and (in some cases) not so sweet with the Snakes. Here are five more.
While we’re talking Braves, in what some consider one of the more lopsided trades of this past season, the Diamondbacks shipped 2014 first-round pick, Dany Gilbert Kiti (Touki) Toussaint, to Atlanta in exchange for the then-injured infielder, Phil Gosselin. The thought process at the time was that the Braves were willing to eat the $9.5 million contract of Bronson Arroyo, so the deal made sense. In all fairness, the drafting of Toussaint took place before the Tony La Russa-Dave Stewart regime, so it was clear that neither saw the young Florida hurler as part of their future.
This one hurts the most. The former University of Missouri star was selected with the 11th pick in the 2006 draft, but after two so-so seasons, the D-backs sent him to Detroit along with Daniel Schlereth (yet another first-round pick) in a three-team trade that netted Edwin I-got-lost-on-my-way-to-the-ballpark Jackson and Ian Kennedy.
One of the Diamondbacks’ concerns was Max Scherzer’s durability. In his years with the Tigers and Nationals, he has pitched more than 190 innings per season and four out of six years with over 200 innings for each of his last three seasons. Lest we forget, Scherzer, who has the distinction of having heterochromia (two different-colored eyes) was the 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner and threw two no-hitters for the Nats in 2015.
One of the most heralded high schoolers in the past decade, Justin Upton, the younger brother of Melvin (aka Bossman Junior/BJ), was the No. 1 selection by Arizona in the 2005 draft. With more pressure than your average 19-year-old can handle, the team called up J-Up in 2007 for a taste of the show. In his six years with the Diamondbacks, Upton collected 108 home runs (31 in 2011) and an OPS of .832. An all-or-nothing hitter, Upton had 694 whiffs to 304 walks in his Arizona tenure. He did finish fourth in the MVP voting in 2011, clearly his best year in the desert.
In January 2013, Upton was dealt to the Braves along with Chris Johnson for a handful of players, the most notable being Martin Prado (later traded to the Yankees for slugging catcher Peter O’Brien). Pitcher Randall Delgado also made his way from Atlanta to Phoenix, where he shows promise as a back-of-the-rotation starter or long reliever. If O’Brien can replicate his minor league numbers in the bigs, this deal will look a tad less horrific. After going from Atlanta to San Diego last offseason, Upton is rumored to be on the move again, with the Angels looking like a good fit.
If only the D-backs took the hint. After selecting Stephen Drew in the first round of the 2004 draft, the former Florida State player refused to sign and took a year to prove his point, playing indie league ball for (the now-defunct) Camden Riversharks. In a “wish they could take it all back” move, the team signed Drew in 2005, and he played seven less-than-memorable seasons — at least for a player touted as the second-coming of Jeter or other great superstar shortstop.
Like his brother J.D. Drew, Stephen was injury prone, with multiple times on the DL for ankle issues. As his salary escalated, the team perhaps realized Stephen would never be part of their long-term future, so they traded him in 2012 (actually dumped) to the Oakland A’s for Sean Jamieson. This past season, Jamieson batted a lusty .272 for Mobile in the Southern League. As for Stephen, he barely inched his way over the Mendoza Line in 2015 with a .201 average in 383 at bats for the Yankees.
A former UCLA star whose training methods were considered unorthodox, the egotistical Trevor Bauer was the third pick in the 2011 draft thanks to the D-backs. Let’s not even mention that the Astros took George Springer with the 11th selection and the Marlins took Jose Fernandez with the No. 14 pick. Clearly, the Snakes did not do much of a background check on Bauer’s style of play and attitude. He quickly became a clubhouse piranha, falling out of favor with manager Kirk Gibson, catcher Miguel Montero, and pitching coach Charles Nagy.
A bad attitude and know it all? Wow, that’s uncommon among young, up-and-coming stars. After 16 innings in 2012, Bauer was traded to Cleveland in a multi-team deal in which Arizona got Didi Gregorius (since traded to the Yankees), Tony Sipp (most recently on the Astros) and Lars Anderson (most recently with the Dodgers). The total net for the Diamondbacks was middle-of-the-rotation pitcher Robbie Ray, who came to the desert in yet another three-team trade, which sent Gregorius to the Pinstripes.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.