Heath Bell: Happy to Be in Arizona - Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Kevin Towers was made available on a conference call to the media to make a statement and answer questions regarding this morning's trades of Chris Young, Cliff Pennington, and Heath Bell. Pennington was also on the line and spoke briefly; Bell was not reachable at this time.
Towers started off saying that today was somewhat sombre as they said good-bye to Chris Young, who has been with the Diamondbacks for nearly seven years. Young was a major part of two NL West championship seasons here in Arizona. He was a professional and a good guy and he will be missed.
However, it is no surprise that the team needed to clear up space in the outfield and create opportunities for playing time for those who remain. Cliff Pennington is a shortstop and second baseman who received great feedback from Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin in Oakland regarding the type of player that he is.
Pennington is excited to be on the Diamondbacks, and he well remembered when Arizona swept the Oakland A's in June! He sees the Diamondbacks as a fun team with a lot of potential. He was surprised to be traded, but he has already spoken with fellow former A's teammate Trevor Cahill, as well as Stephen Drew and Craig Breslow, and they have told him how great it is to play in Arizona, and that makes him even more excited.
Regarding Pennington's low average this season and potentially platooning him, Towers stated that he leaves the lineup construction to Gibby. Towers believes that this was just a down year for Pennington, and he feels he will fit in well here as an everyday player. He's a switch-hitter, and that makes him a good option both in the lineup and coming off the bench. Shortstop will be Cliff's primary position, but he can easily shift over to second base when Aaron Hill needs a day off. The free-agent market for middle infielders this year is very thin, and it's difficult to trade for a shortstop, so they felt that this trade for Pennington was a natural fit. He is arbitration eligible this year, and the team will have him under control for the next three years.
With the amount of money changing hands with both Oakland and the Miami Marlins, Towers didn't really see the acquisition of Heath Bell as taking on a lot of money, but as merely swapping Chris Young's salary for Bell's. With an estimated quarter of the team's payroll going to the bullpen, that shows how important it is to KT that a team have a solid bullpen. Having a good bullpen is paramount to a team's success, and he believes it's one of the main reasons the team struggled in the years before KT arrived.
It's also very important to the development and confidence of a young pitching staff, which is what we have here in Arizona. Adding Bell to the bullpen gives the Diamondbacks a solid 7th inning piece. Yes, Heath Bell knows that he'll be mainly working in the 7th inning, sometimes the 8th inning. When Kevin Towers spoke to him, Bell was excited to come here and be a part of something special and he just wants to help the team in any role. He has a lot of respect for closer J.J. Putz and he's happy to be working alongside him.
Towers strongly believes that this past season in Miami was just a down year for Heath Bell. His command was erratic, but he still had a good SO/9 ratio and his 92-96mph power breaking ball. Towers doesn't put too much stock in the ERA of relievers, and he knows Bell ended the year much better than he began it. He won't be in as many high-leverage situations next year. Coming to Arizona will be a change of scenery, getting away from the problems he had in Florida and getting him back to a comfort zone. They hope to get Bell back to where he was a few years ago.
So where does the team stand now? Well, first of all, Kevin Towers and his staff aren't done yet, but they are happy with a middle infield of Pennington, John McDonald, Willie Bloomquist, and Aaron Hill. Prospect Chris Owings is still a few years away. In the outfield, Jason Kubel and Justin Upton will remain at the corners, but Adam Eaton, Gerardo Parra, and A.J. Pollock can all play center field. They would like to add a lefty specialist to the 'pen, and they're keeping an eye out for another starting pitcher as well. The strongest competition for roster spots come Spring Training will be the outfield and the starting rotation. They would like to give Chris Johnson a full spring with the team, but an upgrade at third base is a possibility. Keep in mind, this is Kevin Towers - an upgrade anywhere is always a possibility!