Reed, 24, has been Chicago’s closer since he was a rookie in 2012, racking up 29 saves that season and 40 in 2013. While he has excellent peripherals, striking out a batter per inning and walking just under three per nine over the last two years, his career ERA of 4.17 leaves a lot to be desired. In accordance with the respectable peripherals, sabemetrics likes him a bit more than the conventional measurements, and his career Fielding Independent Pitching is 3.30, nearly a full run below his ERA.
Davidson, 22, has made Baseball America’s top 100 list each of the last three years (although admittedly at the back end), and was ranked by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo as the 64th best prospect in baseball after the 2013 season. He’s known primarily for above average power and plate discipline, having averaged twenty home runs over the last three seasons in the minors, and eclipsing a .350 OBP in each of the last two. Like with many young hitters, strikeouts are a problem and should prevent much more than .280 average going forward. In the field, he should stick at third, but Mayo described him as “an average defender at best.”
As evidenced by last year’s trade of Chris Young and Cliff Pennington for Heath Bell, Arizona GM Kevin Towers clearly puts an unusual premium on relief pitching, and the Mark Trumbo deal clearly shows he’s in a win-now mode, but this move is still puzzling. Reed may be young and controllable, but he just hasn’t produced. A 3.79 ERA, as he had last year, is not elite, or even average for a closer. Worse, while Towers is clearly expecting improvement, his stuff is quite possibly detiorating, as his fastball is a full two miles per hour slower than it was when he first entered the majors.
Reed would be solid acquisition, however, if the cost wasn’t a prospect like Matt Davidson. Current third baseman Martin Prado is best used in a super utility role, meaning Davidson would have been the the future at the hot corner starting as early as this summer. The third base depth in baseball is thin right now, and a 20 homer, .350 on base guy like the Arizona prospect would be far more valuable than any reliever.
For Chicago, this is a step in the right direction. A closer is not a luxury third-tier team can afford and Davidson immediately becomes the best prospect in their organization. Make no mistake, he won’t be a star, but he could certainly thrive in a bandbox like Cellular field, ridding Sox fan of the anemic site of Conor Gillaspie at the hot corner. They still have a lot of work to do in re-seeding their barren farm system, but this is a start.