New broom La Russa continues to sweep clean

J. Meric

The departure of J.J. Putz seems to suggest the Diamondbacks, under new CBO Tony La Russa, are building for the future more than this season. Who might be next to pack their bags?

It has been an extraordinarily busy couple of weeks for the Diamondbacks, with it seeming like there has been a transaction every other afternoon, or even more frequently than that. As a quick recap, here are the moves affecting the 25-man roster, over just the past 12 days:

  • June 9
    Placed 3B Eric Chavez on the 15-day disabled list. Sprained left knee
    Activated RHP J.J. Putz from the 15-day disabled list.
    Designated RHP Trevor Cahill for assignment.
    Recalled RHP Will Harris from Reno Aces.
  • June 12
    Designated 1B Nick Evans for assignment.
    Claimed C Jordan Pacheco off waivers from Colorado Rockies.
  • June 13
    Placed CF Ender Inciarte on the 7-day disabled list. Concussion
    Recalled CF Tony Campana from Reno Aces.
  • June 16
    Placed RHP Bronson Arroyo on the 15-day disabled list. Right elbow tendonitis
    Recalled Roger Kieschnick from Reno Aces.
  • June 17
    Optioned RHP Will Harris to Reno Aces.
    Recalled Mike Bolsinger from Reno Aces.
  • June 19
    Optioned Tony Campana to Reno Aces.
    Selected the contract of Matt Stites from Reno Aces.
  • June 20
    Designated RHP J.J. Putz for assignment
    Activated Ender Inciarte from the 7-day disabled list.

While some were necessitated by injury, the two big ones are the ones affecting two very well-paid pitcher, Trevor Cahill and J.J. Putz, both designated for assignment despite combining to earn $14.7 million this season. Cahill may still have a future with the team, apparently being treated as a reconstruction project - with a career ERA+ of 103, and team control through the end of 2017, one can see why. For Putz, however, it appears to be the end of his time in Arizona, with the reliever saying he won't accept a minor-league assignment. Whether there'll be a trade worked out, of if he simply walks, with Arizona picking up about $3m of his remaining salary, we'll have to see.

You have to wonder how much influence Tony La Russa is now having on these transactions. The announcement of his hiring was officially made on May 17, and he spent the first couple of weeks of his tenure on a whistlestop tour of the team and its minor-league franchises. But these changes appear to be the opening moves in what could end being a retooling of much of the team, going forward. With Cahill, the aim appears to be to see if he can be rebuilt, and aim for a return to the rotation in 2015: that's going to be interesting, with perhaps seven or eight possible candidates next spring (Anderson, Arroyo, Bradley, Cahill, Collmenter, Corbin, Delgado and Miley).

With Putz, however, it seems his time here is done: J.J. has said he'd refuse a minor-league assignment, and one would presume the team were fully aware of that when they made the move. It's more about opening up room for younger - and cheaper - players. Said manager Kirk Gibson, "We're going to start bringing them up and giving them an opportunity to see what they're capable of doing, introducing them to this environment." Matt Stites appears to be the first beneficiary of the policy, and it'll be interesting to see what happens to his workload the rest of the season: will he be introduced to higher-leverage situations?

The departure of Putz is more likely to be the first move than the last. What other names might also be on their way out of Arizona, one way or another?

Aaron Hill

The injury to Cliff Pennington has concentrated the mind in this direction, as it led to the return of Didi Gregorius from Reno, leaving him, Chris Owings and Hill competing for two spots. Hill has not been very good this year, fWAR currently having him worth -0.3 wins, the lowest figure of anyone currently on the roster. However, he is signed through 2016, and is owed $12 million for each of the next two seasons; unless Hill improves, this could end up being the worst of the veteran contracts entered into by Byrnes. Having Owings and Gregorius both playing part-time isn't ideal, so the team may want to make a commitment one way or another, and trade somebody.

Martin Prado

Even more than last year, Prado is recovering from a slow start, and his value has reached 0.8 fWAR, after being barely replacement level through the end of April. The pressure here is mostly from third-baseman Jake Lamb, currently hitting .319/.392/.590 with Mobile - if you're looking for a comparison, Mark Reynolds hit .306/.394/.537 for the same team in 2007, before getting called up to the big leagues. And further down in our system, Brandon Drury is two years younger at 21, but is tied for the lead in home-runs among our farm teams, having hit 13 with High-A Visalia. It appears we would have alternatives if we wanted to replace Prado.

Addison Reed

Reed has been... okay, I guess. An ERA above four is not what you'd want from your closer, but the bottom line is, the Diamondbacks are 24-1 in games where they have gone into the ninth with a lead, so I guess he has been getting it done. The problem is, this is the last time where Reed will be cheap. He hits arbitration next year and with 40 saves last year and on pace for 36 this, he's going to become expensive. Probably not all that far off Craig Kimbrel money, who earned $7 million in his first arb go-around. Is La Russa prepared to pay $5m+ for a closer? Or would he rather go with someone like Stites?

Cody Ross

We are on the hook for at least $15.5m to Ross at this point. About $5m for the rest of this year, $9.5m for next season, and $1m buyout for 2016, if we don't want to pay him the full $9.5m for his services. However, the injury woes that have beset our outfield, with the long-term losses of both A.J. Pollock and Mark Trumbo, have probably bought Ross some more time on the roster, even if it's mostly as a platoon bat against left-handed pitchers. David Peralta's offense seems to be regressing, so he may be first out, but we'll see what happens as first Trumbo, then Pollock, come back. It's possible Ross will not be left with enough playing time to justify his roster-spot.

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