The Yankees thought so much of Peter O’Brien that they selected him in the second round of the June 2012 amateur draft from the University of Miami. Over the course of the next three seasons in the minors, he hit 26,39, and 31 home runs while driving in over 100 twice. At the trade deadline in 2014, the Yankees gave him up in a deal that could come back to haunt them.
The Yankees can be very practical when they feel the need to be. Midway through the 2014 season, the Yankees were attempting to add depth to their aging and injury prone team to remain competitive in the playoffs race.
If looked at in that light, the deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks for Martin Prado as a reserve third baseman made sense at the time. And no one I could find is on record for objecting to the trade sent Peter O’Brien out of New York.
O’Brien continued his power hitting in 2016 with the D’Backs AAA team, smashing 25 home runs with 75 RBI before being called up. But in 67 plate appearances he struck out more than once for every three at-bats with a meager .141 batting average, only three walks, and five home runs.
Following the cue from the Yankees, the Diamondbacks traded O’Brien to the Kansas City Royals for Sam Lewis, a pitcher who has compiled a record of 13-6 in the lower minors.
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For Yankees fans, the trade did not go unnoticed because at one time Peter O’Brien was a name that was talked about in the same way that Clint Frazier is now. To a degree, the sting was eased when Prado was subsequently traded by the Yankees for Nathan Eovaldi, who came to New York with a lot of hope and promise. Eventually he wore everyone’s patience thin, proceeded to flame out, and was released in November of 2016.
So, let’s summarize. The Diamondbacks wind up with a pitcher, who unless he makes huge strides upward, will never pitch for them in a major league uniform. The Yankees get the services of Martin Prado for 37 games, and although he hit .316 for them, it cost the team the bulk of his $11 million salary for the year, a qualifier the D’Backs insisted on before letting him leave.
Eovaldi suffers a burnout and picks up $9 million dollars before being released. And Peter O’Brien gets a fresh start with the Royals, where he is expected to see ample playing time as the Royals attempt to cope with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that will take effect as soon as the players ratify the contract.
To explain, in the new agreement, a team will no longer lose a first round draft pick if they sign a player who has refused a qualifying offer from his team. Jose Bautista is being hurt by the clause as he seeks a new contract on the open market, and finding that teams are reluctant to lose that pick in return for a 36 year old outfielder who had a down season in 2016.
The Royals are at risk to lose the entire core of their team (Kendrys Morales is already gone) as the players reach the stage where they will receive qualifying offers and subsequent free agency in 2017.
Meanwhile. Yankees fans will be watching with interest to see if O’Brien turns out to be the one that got away if he tears it up with the Royals in 2017. After all, he is given credit by Statcast for the hardest baseball ever hit. He set the record in a spring training game Tuesday with a homer that had a blistering exit velocity of 119.5 mph. The blast was projected to go 461.6 feet, had it not struck the left-field concourse.
Round and round they go, where they stop, no one knows. But for Peter O’Brien, this could be the final stop for his baseball career.