D’backs Land Dunn

The Deal
Seeking a power source, preferably a lefthanded one, the National League West-leading Diamondbacks placed a waiver claim on Reds left fielder Adam Dunn on Thursday, Aug. 7. With two business days to work with, the two sides reached an accord on the morning of Monday, Aug. 11. Arizona sent high Class A righthander Dallas Buck and two players to be named to Cincinnati to acquire Dunn, who can opt for free agency after the season.

UPDATE: Triple-A catcher Wilkin Castillo was identified as one of the players to be named (Aug. 15).

UPDATE: Righthander Micah Owings was confirmed as the second player to be named (Sept. 12). The Diamondbacks were prohibited from placing him on waivers (and completing the post-deadline deal) until Owings was deemed injury-free. He had been dealing with a muscle pull in the back of his right shoulder.

The Arizona Star reported that both players to be named are members of the Diamondbacks’ 40-man roster, but not its active 25-man roster. That player pool was highlighted by: righthanders Max Scherzer, Micah Owings, Esmerling Vasquez, Emiliano Fruto, Juan Gutierrez and Jailen Peguero; catcher Wilkin Castillo and first basemen Javier Brito and Josh Whitesell.

After the July 31 trade deadline, all big league players, i.e. members of the 40-man roster, must clear waivers before they can be traded. If neither of the Reds’ two desired targets clears waivers this month or next, then Cincinnati would have to wait until the end of the season to receive its two players to be named.

The Big Leaguers
Few big leaguers possess more power than Dunn, 28, whom NL managers cited as having the third-most thump in the league in our annual Best Tools survey. He trailed only Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols. The Reds’ second-round pick in 1998 out of New Caney (Texas) High, Dunn leaves Cincinnati after eight seasons ranked fourth in franchise history in home runs (270), behind only Johnny Bench, Frank Robinson and Tony Perez. Dunn also ranks fourth in Reds history in on-base percentage (.380) and second in both slugging (.520) and OPS (.900). Of course, his 1,212 strikeouts place him third, as despite averaging 41.5 home runs per season from 2004 to 2007, the only category Dunn has led the league in is strikeouts, which he’s done three times. He briefly held the single-season standard for whiffs, with 195 in ’04, before Howard upped the ante in ’07 with 199.

Dunn, who is listed at a monstrous 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, is in the midst of one of his best seasons. He batted .247/.380/.520 in 373 at-bats for the Reds and was leading the NL with 32 home runs and ranked second with 80 walks. Moving to Arizona’s Chase Field won’t hurt Dunn’s chances of winning his first home-run crown—in fact, playing in meaningful August and September games may even enhance his chances. Though he came to the big league as a legitimate power-speed threat and a solid defender on an outfield corner, Dunn has devolved into a liability in the outfield, though he throws well, and he no longer steals bases with any regularity.

Owings, 25, breezed through his first four starts of 2008, giving up seven runs in total, but a sprained ankle sustained in an April 26 start derailed his season. The righthander’s ERA shot to 4.74 in May and 8.22 in June, and Arizona optioned him to Triple-A Tucson after he gave up 16 runs in 12 2/3 July innings. The shoulder injury was detected after Owings made two starts for the Sidewinders. He went 6-9, 5.93 in 18 starts for Arizona, with 87 strikeouts, 41 walks and 14 home runs allowed in 104 2/3 innings. When right, Owings throws strikes with an 88-92 mph fastball and a mid-80s slider. He also throws a changeup.

The Diamondbacks’ third-round pick 2005 out of Tulane, Owings advanced to Triple-A in 2006 and to the big leagues in 2007, providing Arizona with an exceptionally quick return on its investment. A two-way standout with the Green Wave, Owings has retained his batting stroke as a pro and offers tangible value to an offense. A career .313/.350/.545 hitter in 112 big league at-bats, the righthanded batter has connected for five home runs, nine doubles and a triple.

The Prospects
Buck, 23, entered his junior year at Oregon State as one of the nation’s top amateur pitching prospects, but his stock dropped considerably when his velocity dropped during that 2006 season. Even so, he gutted through the college season and redeemed himself in the College World Series, starting the first game of the best-of-three finals against North Carolina and then pitching an inning and a third of scoreless relief in the deciding third game. The Diamondbacks landed Buck in the third round of 2006 draft and paid him a discounted $250,000 after doctors found a partial ligament tear in his elbow. He had Tommy John surgery in August 2007 after spending much of his pro debut trying to rehab the injury. Buck returned to the field this season on June 15 and went 1-4, 3.94 in 45 2/3 innings for low Class A South Bend. He struck out 24, walked 10 and gave up five home runs as he worked his way back into shape. Encouragingly, Buck posted a 1.95 ground/fly out ratio. And that’s the key to his success—getting ahead with his 89-91 mph sinker that touches 94, while mixing in a quality slider and changeup. Buck made one start for high Class A Visalia before the trade.

Castillo, 24, was batting .254/.305/.358 for Triple-A Tucson with six home runs and 18 doubles in 386 at-bats. While the switch-hitter’s offensive production was not especially noteworthy, his defensive versatility was a different matter. Castillo threw out 18-of-37 basestealers (49 percent) from behind the plate, but also had appeared in 41 games at third base, seven games in left field, six at shortstop and another four at second. It’s no gimmick: Castillo has the tools to be an average defender at all five positions. His arm is strong, though his receiving has room for improvement. A free swinger who will expand his zone, Castillo lacks power but he makes up for with plus hand-eye coordination and above-average speed.

We’ll analyze the third player to be named once his name is announced.

Quick Take
Dunn provides an instant jolt for the Diamondbacks’ sputtering offense. They ranked 10th in the NL in runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging at the time of the trade, placing them behind every other league playoff contender—except the Dodgers, their chief rivals in the West. And the Dodgers already have made two deals for improve their offense, picking up Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake at the deadline. Of course, Arizona’s offense also becomes much streakier with the addition of Dunn, as they now sport three of the NL’s most prolific whiffers in Mark Reynolds (147, second in league), Chirs Young (122, third) and Dunn (120, fifth).

Rather than let Dunn walk as a free agent, the Reds traded him and the remainder of his $13 million salary for three young players, two of whom (Buck, Owings) could factor into future Cincinnati rotations.

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