For the second time this month, the Yankees and Diamondbacks hooked up for a trade on Thursday. New York acquired the versatile sometimes infielder, sometimes outfielder Martin Prado from Arizona in exchange for minor leaguer Peter O’Brien, the club announced. The two teams got together for the Brandon McCarthy/Vidal Nuno swap a few weeks ago.
Prado, 30, is hitting .270/.317/.370 (89 wRC+) with 17 doubles and five homers in 436 plate appearances this year. He put up a .282/.333/.417 (104 wRC+) batting line with the D’Backs last season after being acquiring from the Braves as the centerpiece of the Justin Upton trade. Prado rarely walks (5.3% this year, 6.3% career) but he is a high-contact hitter (13.1% strikeout rate this year, 10.7% career) who has mashed lefties both this year (140 wRC+) and throughout his career (119 wRC+). The Yankees are in desperate need of righty production and he’ll help fix that.
Brian Cashman told reporters Prado will see most of this time in right field, which makes sense. Stephen Drew was acquired to play second base and every other position on the field is accounted for. Prado has only played two career innings in right but he has a ton of experience in left, so the outfield will not be completely foreign to him. With Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury running down everything in a two-mile radius (give or take), not to mention a ground ball pitching staff, they can hide a below-average defender in Yankee Stadium’s small right field in exchange for more offense.
Prado has played primarily third base over the last two seasons, though he has spent considerable time at second as well. He can fake shortstop and even first base if needed. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Here’s a snippet of what I wrote about Prado in our Scouting The Market post a few weeks ago:
Arizona gave Prado a four-year extension worth $40M last spring. He is owed about $5M through the end of the season plus $11M in both 2015 and 2016, so he and (Aaron) Hill have basically identical contract situations. If he was producing like regular old Martin Prado, it would be more than a fair wage. Since he is having a down year and it’s unclear if there is something more to it than just the general ups and downs of baseball, it’s a bit more scary.
There are no significant red flags in Prado’s batted ball or plate discipline data, which is a good thing. You want him to be the same player he was for most of his career. That makes me more hopeful the poor start to his season — he has hit .282/.326/.411 (103 wRC+) over the last two months, for what it’s worth — is just one of those things and not the first step off the cliff. As they did with the McCarthy and Chase Headley pick ups, the Yankees traded for Prado when his value was down, except he’s under contract for another two years (age 30-32 seasons).
O’Brien, 24, was the Yankees’ second round pick in the 2012 draft out of Miami. He is hitting .267/.312/.593 (147 wRC+) with 33 homers in 413 plate appearances split between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this year. Only two players in the minors have hit more homeruns this season. O’Brien was the team’s top power prospect but there are also significant concerns about whether the holes in his swing and plate discipline issues will allow him to tap into that power at the next level — his 106/20 K/BB tells the story. He also doesn’t have a position, bouncing from catcher to third base to right field to first base since being drafted. With Paul Goldschmidt entrenched at first in Arizona, O’Brien will have to make it work elsewhere. That’s not the Bombers’ problem, obviously.
Acquiring Prado helps the Yankees both in the short and long-term, potentially. He steps into right field this year and going forward they could play him at second or third base, depending on the rest of the roster. Prado won’t block a youngster like Rob Refsnyder if they force their way onto the roster and he gives the team some protection at third given the uncertainty of the whole Alex Rodriguez situation. If Prado hits the way he did just last year, not even during his best years with the Braves, this is solid move to bolster the roster at a more than reasonable cost. Prospects like O’Brien are as tradeable as it gets.