I have an unorthodox way of assessing things in baseball. I try to be a bit slow to judge, but I try to revisit the question, rather regularly. For instance, when a team makes a trade, I want information early on expectations on particulars going both ways. However, instead of waiting until a player’s tenure is over, regular assessment seems the best way to look at it. If an acquired player was supposed to be a solid hitter, is that assessment still holding true? When Jed Hoyer took Theo Epstein’s job, I wasn’t initially sold on the decision. I didn’t see him as being proven effective at what was needed for the organization. How has he done so far?
When an acquisition is made, a question I enjoy tossing about it “Why does this make sense?”. For instance, in the recently completed James Norwood trade, the Cubs sent away an already-designated for assignment reliever. With the DFA having happened, it was very possible that “cash only” would be a possibility. From the Cubs’ perspective, getting a reliever in Dauris Valdez, who regularly sits in the high-90s and low-100s, is a pretty good return. Whether Valdez pitches once in Wrigley or not, the trade made sense.
Locating the logic in an acquisition doesn’t have to completely coalesce with yours. The logic needs to exist. Then, once the reasoning is formed, it can be further assessed as more information comes in. A person expected to be capable, might not be. A person expected to be the butt of a joke, might surprise positively.
Here comes another look at the largely unpopular Yu Darvish trade. To the extent there was logic, Hoyer added a major league starting pitcher in Zach Davies and four long-range prospects, for three years of Yu Darvish, and backup catcher Victor Caratini. The logic to me seemed that 2021 wasn’t a high priority. If that rubs you wrong, I’m sure letting Aramis Ramirez walk away did, as well. Hoyer realized that, with the financial limits from above in a time with questionable attendance numbers, 2021 success was a bit of a pipedream. The unpopularity of some of Theo Epstein’s early decisions was being mimicked.
Looking at the trade in a way-too-early fashion, Davies showed up for camp, got ready, and hasn’t embarrassed himself. Which leads to the rest of the rotation. Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams, Shelby Miller, and Kohl Stewart were very reasonably priced additions. Stewart and Williams will be available for retention in 2022 or 2023, if desired. Hoyer seems to be equally focused on reasonable acquisition-price and long-term retention, which loops in well with the players added from the Padres for Darvish.
Now, I swing back to look at the Norwood trade from a Hoyer perspective. Fans, understandably, want names they’re familiar with. Norwood has some upside, and Padres fans might be positive about Norwood. However, this is about the return, and assessing Hoyer on said return. Hoyer had to work relatively hard to get this return. Not only did he have to work the phones to increase the interest in Norwood, he also had to make sure that teams (in this case, the Padres, specifically) weren’t going to be able to get him on waivers.
I imagine a phone call with a team, other than San Diego.
“Hey, it’s Jed.”
“Are you calling about Norwood? Again? Just put him on waivers.”
“Kick rocks. You know I’m not putting him on waivers. I have a few offers from across the league, and I know you’ve called a couple teams and know it.”
“As if I care about Norwood.”
“You might not, but he’s better than the last guy on your 40, and you know it. I’ve talked to five or six teams today. If you really don’t want Norwood, cool. But you’d be really bad at your job if you refuse to upgrade your roster. I’ll be trading him on Monday, sometime. If you don’t submit an offer, you’re being negligent.”
Or something like that.
For Duane Underwood Jr., he received Shendrik Apostel, whose brother played in the major leagues last year. For Norwood, he added a power arm who has never repeated a minor-league level. I’m still not sold on Jed Hoyer, but if you’re trying to assess a work in progress, you can only assess what you’ve already witnessed. I wish an extension or two (Ian Happ would be my preference) had been signed in the off-season. Hoyer’s tenure so far hasn’t been ideal, by any means. If the pipeline does well starting in early May, he will have done fairly well, particularly if his rotation of soft-tossers continues to get outs.