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SnakePit Round Table: The Diamondbacks At The Winter Meetings

Were you surprised by the volume of changes made in Orlando?

snakecharmer: Not at all. I wish there had been more, actually, since there are definitely still holes we need to fill. But I guess more moves will come in time.

Wailord: The volume? No. The winter meetings are the part of the year where you just have a massive flurry of transactions, and I didn’t think the amount that we saw was anything unusual.

Azreous: Not really. Maybe that they pretty much all happened on the first day, which made the flurry feel even more exaggerated. But Towers has never come across as the sit-and-wait type, and this is certainly no exception.

Jim: Monday surprised me. It felt like the entire direction of the team shifted in about six hours. As noted previously, the majority of last year’s Opening Day roster has gone, but it was that first day which rammed home the transition.

Sprankton: As a Dbacks fan, I was surprised. Arizona, like any other team, has their fair share of activity every winter, but this time it felt like someone cranked the volume knob all the way to 11. The Justin Upton rumormill was amusing and the Reynolds and Miranda trades coupled with the unexpected signings of Mora and Blum were all somewhat shocking.

soco: Nope.

Kishi: Not really. It’s pretty much what they’re for, right?

Now that the dust has settled and emotions calmed, let’s go through the transactions one by one. Your opinions, please...

a) The Mark Reynolds trade

snakecharmer: Not surprised in the least. I wish we weren’t giving up cash/PTBNL and of course I wish the relievers were a little more proven, but right now, I think it’s fine. I understand why we had to sell low on Reynolds, and both of those relievers are young and look to be with the team for a while. Now we just have to hope they don’t learn any bad habits in our bullpen.

Wailord: Am I surprised? No. I think a lot of us felt that it was more of a matter of "when" rather than a matter of "if". I’m still not entirely thrilled with the deal, but it’s entirely possible that my mind still clings to name value far too much. If we have a whole bunch of control over some young pitchers that undeniably improve the what was the team’s biggest weakness, I don’t know if you can argue it too much.

Azreous: Maybe a little, if only because I had thought the "ZOMG STRIKEOUTZ" issue would be addressed by doing more than trading for two relievers (who may both work out). If this new movement is all about bringing Gibson’s fiery-ness into the fold, with a more controlled clubhouse environment and more accountability on the field, that’s fine. I don’t mind that. But I don’t understand the rationale behind moving the one guy on the roster, more than anyone, who had been a leader in that area the past two seasons. Reynolds never left anything on the field, and most Diamondbacks fans remember him calling out his teammates for their poor performance on more than one occasion. Couple that with dealing a guy at about his lowest possible value after Reynolds’ horrific 2010, and I’m still not a fan.

Jim: Much like Stephen Drew will be, file this one under "inevitable, but still a shock when it happens." Not normally a fan of trading a position player for a reliever, but when it’s multiple relievers, that can then make sense. Did we sell low on Reynolds? Possibly. But if he didn’t rebound in 2011, Mark would become undealable. Even if he does, by the time we’re ready to contend, he’ll also be a lot more expensive, biting into his surplus value. I’ll miss those majestic shots to left tho’.

Sprankton: I still have mixed emotions but I completely understand the reasoning behind it. Like Jim said, another down year in 2011 and we’re cornered into a pretty bad contract with little trade value. That being said, the return we got isn’t awful, and despite what we think we deserved, we should be satisfied with a pair of quality relievers who have decent upside.

soco: I still don’t like it.  We gave up one of our best producers and cash/PTBNL for two middling middle relievers?  I hope it works out.

Kishi: Not a fan. I understand the urge to cut down on strikeouts and improve the bullpen, but we sold low on a guy who had great potential and was showing improvement in his defense. We didn’t bring back LaRoche at least partially due to his Ks, but I think Reynolds could have improved and provided value that at least balanced out the strikeout rate. We’ll see what we get out of these relievers, though.

b) Signing Melvin Mora

snakecharmer: Not terribly excited. A 39-year old non-power hitting guy? He only hit 7 home runs in Coors Field, he isn’t going to improve any at Chase Field, even if it is a hitter’s park. Would’ve liked someone a bit younger, but his average is good for only playing part time last year. I don’t expect him to be the everyday third baseman though.

Wailord: Meh. He’s obviously a downgrade from a guy like Reynolds, but he comes cheaper on a short deal. It’s obviously not the world’s most exciting deal, but he plugged a hole for cheap. I’m not counting on him for team MVP or anything...

Azreous: We’re not that likely to be competing next season, at least with the present roster (understanding that there’s $10m-ish to spend potentially), so any short-term, low-cost deals can be acceptable. I think I would be a little more for this deal if the stark reality of changing from Reynolds to Mora had taken more than about 90 minutes to unfold.

Jim: At least it’s not the multi-year deal first reported, which would have had me forming a mob with torches, all by myself. This one has "overpaying for veteran presence" written all over it, and I’m pretty sure we could get similar production for close to league minimum, rather than the $2.4 million Mora gets. Throw in the cost of Geoff Blum, and we’re not really saving much money at the hot corner, over what Reynolds would have cost

Sprankton: Going with the majority; it’s not too cool. I get the whole "veteran presence" logic but I think we had plenty of stopgap alternatives already within the organization.

soco: Not excited about the few million we’ll be paying a mediocre platoon.  Certainly there was some bargain basement guy who could produce the same as those two?

Kishi: A fair portion of why I’m not a fan of the Reynolds trade. It’s pretty hard to get that excited about the team when I imagine a Blum/Mora platoon manning third.

c) Signing J.J.Putz

snakecharmer: Very excited about this move. He was a really great young pitcher in Seattle, his ERA of 2.83 is something the Diamondbacks haven’t seen in years... I’m excited for him to be here!

Wailord: Now, here’s something I am entirely thrilled about. I followed Putz quite a bit last season when he was with Chicago (for no other reason than he was on my fantasy team) and I enjoyed watching him play. Couple that with the fact I’ve got an unnatural obsession with closers (not to mention we badly needed one), I think this was a great signing on Towers’ part.

Azreous: No problem with this whatsoever. I think bullpen stability is a huge benefit for teams, and a defined, established closer like Putz, especially at that reasonable price, fits the bill perfectly.

Jim: Marvelous. One of the best relievers in the majors over the past five years, proven success as a closer, locked in through 2013 if we want, and at an average of $5 million per year? As a yardstick, fellow reliever Joaquin Benoit is just one year younger, and his career ERA+ is 105, more than thirty points worse than Putz. Benoit got $16.5 million for three years.


soco: Sounds good to me.  Hopefully he’ll actually stay good when he comes to Arizona.

Kishi: Pretty much my favorite move of the winter meetings. If he can produce like he has recently, it’ll be nice to have a fairly solid arm in the ‘pen to fall back on.

d) Picking up Joe Paterson in the Rule 5 draft

snakecharmer: Well, I haven’t known many Rule 5 drafts to make a huge impact on teams, at least not recently. I don’t know much about him, but it’s a cheap risk worth taking.

Azreous: Seems like a decent guy to take a flier on. If nothing else, bullpen arms are easy to jettison if he doesn’t pan out. You know, like Bob Howry.

Jim: Mostly harmless. If he works out, great - and I’ve an inexplicable better feeling about him than our last two efforts in this department (James Skelton and Zach Kroenke).

Sprankton: Feeling good about it. If it falls through, there’s Mike Hampton to help pick up the pieces.

soco: Nothing to worry about.

Kishi: From what I’ve read, this one looks like it could be a pretty good pickup for us. We need a lefty, and it’s certainly low risk.

Overall, which was the best and the worst move?

snakecharmer: Right now, I’d say I’m not thrilled with Mora, nor would I be terribly excited to see Blanco join the team, if that happens. But I guess we have to trust Towers. Again, I love the Putz signing.

Wailord: It’s difficult to say what the worst move is, really. You can’t really say much about the Reynolds trade until we get to see what we got in return actually in action. It’s not a trade that you can look at and immediately declare horrible (well, a few of us have, but it’s not a for-sure thing until we see Hernandez/Mickholio in action)... as for the best, I’m still in love with the signing of Putz. Still undecided if I wish to curse him by purchasing his jersey.

Azreous: The best move is Putz. The worst is Geoff Blum, although that doesn’t really count as a winter meeting move. So until we see how our pair of new relievers pans out, let’s say Reynolds.

Jim: Putz and Mora, respectively. A multi-year deal to Blum is questionable, but then adding Mora on top - how much veteran presence do we need?

Sprankton: I’ll take Putz on top and Blum’s contract on down. Signing Geoff Blum to a bench role is cool and all but for two years? Really? Bleh. The Miranda trade is fine for now, that is if we plan on using him extensively, but if we end up signing Cantu it’ll easily take honors as the worst move.

soco: Adding Mora for a mediocre replacement platoon isn’t very good.  Putz is the best by default, I suppose.

Kishi: Of the Winter Meetings moves, Mora for the worst and Putz for the best.

What did the moves tell you about Kevin Towers’ plan for the team?

Wailord: I think the biggest takeaway is that KT isn’t holding back or letting his hands be tied by the previous regime, and he fully intends to make this team his and make it operate how he sees fit. He obviously made it a huge priority to solidify the bullpen, something that probably deserved to be at the top of his list, and having a general manager that isn’t afraid to make some radical changes to his team before he even gets to see them hit the field is probably a good thing.

Azreous: He thinks pitching is supremely important. So much so that he’s overhauled last year’s bullpen almost completely, and traded from a position of strength (offense) to do so. More to the point, he’s a fan of bullpen arms who can miss a lot of bats, which is why I think Carrasco was shown the door despite his reasonable contract and solid numbers. If nothing else, I think he wants to have his own stamp on this roster as quickly as possible, to distance himself from the previous GM’s work. And it’s hard to say he hasn’t done that.

snakecharmer: Ditto. It shows me Towers is dedicated to rebuilding this team to compete in a year or two and he isn’t worried about offending anybody in the process. Reynolds was obviously a huge fan favorite, I’d venture to say more so than Upton, but Towers knows what he needs to do to improve this club, and he’s going to trust the fans to come back when the team starts to win.

Jim: The past is history. No-one is untradeable. "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night." He’s building from the bullpen up - which makes sense, given the atrocity exhibition that was in 2010. [First William Burroughs, now J.G.Ballard...] The comment that stands out was Towers’ bold claim that we’re going to be known for our pitching. I don’t that has been the case since the days of Curt and Randy. If he can make that come true...

soco: He doesn’t give a sniff about how the team, or players were previously evaluated.  Not a bad thing.

Kishi: Well, I’m looking forward to finding out who the Final Five are over the season. Oh, sorry, wrong plan. From what he’s done, I get the feeling he wants to build this team from the pitcher’s mound out.

Compare the team before the winter meetings to the one after. On a scale of one to nine, where one is "very much weaker", five is "the same" and nine is "very much stronger," where do you put the Diamondbacks?

snakecharmer: I’d say our pitching is definitely stronger, and our power is weaker. What’s the net gain? After last year, we definitely needed the pitching, so I think it’s a net gain. I’d estimate a 7.

Azreous: Again, there’s still a couple holes to address. I just don’t see how we’ve vastly improved to the point of contention -- yet. As such, the moves get a 6.

Jim: Slightly stronger. The bullpen pitching has been seriously upgraded, at the cost of a moderate downgrade on the offense. That’s for 2011. If you project the moves further down the road, they look better for us, but for right now, I’d call it a six.

Sprankton: Six - Only because 1B and LF are still being tossed around and 3B has now become Sonoran Palms.

soco: I’m going to go with a five.  I’m not going to be optimistic until I see the team on the field giving me a reason to believe otherwise.

Kishi: 6, at best. Few steps forward, few steps back, and still too many questions that need to be answered.

It’s reckoned we have at least $8 million left to spend. How would you spend it? [memo to self: avoid mentioning hookers and blow]

snakecharmer: There are three positions I’m still not sold on: left field, first base, and third base. I suppose Tony Abreu/Melvin Mora at 3rd isn’t too bad, but we need a better 1Bman than Allen and a better outfielder than Gillespie/Parra. Put $3-4m in the outfield, and..... I don’t know what else we can get for $4m....

Azreous: While I think Juan Miranda could be okay at first, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Brandon Allen get a chance in left, I also wouldn’t mind upgrading at one of the positions Jenny mentioned. Our corner infield oscillates between shaky and unproven, and I’m not sure I want to endure six months of Gerardo Parra in left.

Jim: Hoo... No, wait...I’d like to see us add another decent starting pitcher. At the moment, who would we use if one of the front five dropped out? Even if it was Duke, there still seems to be a steep drop-off to pitcher #6 (unless we want to pull up Jarrod Parker - and, frankly, I’d be happier not see his service clock start running in 2011 at all).

Sprankton: Do we need to? I’m good with giving Allen some playing time in LF and letting Miranda have his chance at 1B. We could keep adding cheap depth to the roster in the form of not-so-desirable players (Nady, Cantu, Blanco) or we can use the pieces we already have and see what happens. In a year when not many of us are expecting to break .500, I say we save that extra cash if nothing good is left out there. We lost on Konerko and looked the other way on Lee. Hell, let’s save the extra dough and use it to bust out in this year’s draft.

soco: If that $8 million could be squirreled away, then that’s what I would do.  I don’t think we’re $8 million away from a contender, so I wouldn’t spend it unless there was a guy who I really felt was going to change the team for the better.  

Kishi: It’s a rough choice there. Too many questions, and not enough cash. If I had to pick one spot, I’d say left field. But I don’t know who’d be a worthwhile pickup there for that money. I don’t know, maybe we should just save the money, bring back Scott Hairston and see if we can convince the fans it’s 2005 again. (Or we can get Eric Byrnes back- the fans loved him, right?)

If the 2011 campaign started today, where do you think the Diamondbacks would finish in the NL West?

Wailord: I’d probably peg us fourth, and not because I think our team is put together poorly, but moreso because we’re composed of a lot of players that need to see more time in the Majors before they can really be everyday sorta guys. Now, I don’t keep up with the Padres or anything (I make it a point to avoid GLB...), but I know they just lost (unarguably) their best player in Adrian Gonzalez, and I don’t see them repeating last year’s success. Maybe that’s me being naive, but I don’t see us being dead-last.

snakecharmer: I agree, I don’t think the Padres can repeat, and the Dodgers look like they’ll be weaker next year too. I think SF will make a run a maintaining the title, for sure. (Ugh, not looking forward to all the gloating when I go, which has already started....) If we can actually play at our potential, I’d put us in third.

Azreous: It looks to me like the Rockies and Giants will compete for the NL West title. The Padres and Dodgers both got worse, and I don’t see how that’ll change before Opening Day. So with a couple more moves, I could see third. As we stand currently, just finishing out of the cellar would be an accomplishment.

Sprankton: I think if the pitching works out to be as promising as we expect it to be then Arizona should be able to squeak by with a fourth place.

Jim: It’s a long way up from where we finished 2010. I’m keeping expectations low, and would be happy to finish fourth. If we can get our win total into the 80’s I’d be deliriously satisfied with that. It looks like the Padres are in sell mode (Yeah, get within one game of the title...and basically give up. This is why I’m glad Jeff Moorad is now their problem) and the Dodgers will be hamstrung by their War of the Roses remake. Giants seem clear favorites to me, the Rockies might catch up, and the rest of us will fight over the scraps.

soco: I imagine the D’backs will still be last, but maybe not as far behind as they were last year.  I don’t think the Padres will have the same magical run, but I don’t think they’re going to drop down to fifth, either.  It might be Giants, Rockies, Padres, Dodgers, D’backs next year.

Kishi: I’d say July and August give us a hard-fought battle for third place, but we’ll probably settle into fourth around late September.