"We're going to be known for our pitching. We're in a ballpark where you can have an average power guy and still hit home runs"
-- Kevin Towers
I'd like to thank the Diamondbacks, as for once, the manure hit the wind-propelling device on a day when I had not much better to do, than hit the "N new tweets" button every five minutes. I was thus prepared to handle the tidal-wave of news which rolled across from Florida, and the reactions thereto. In summary: we traded Mark Reynolds and a PTBNL to the Baltimore Orioles for two relievers, signed Melvin Mora as a replacement, and filling the closer's role, with a two-plus year offer to J.J. Putz - or, as he was known on azcentral.com, "J.J. (inappropriate term)". Towers is certainly not letting the grass grow under his feet...
After the jump, a few thoughts on all these moves, and what they mean for the team.
I was taken aback by the vitriol shown to the Reynolds move: right from the first comment, I had to check and make sure I wasn't on azcentral. An emotional reaction is understandable - Mark has been a fan favorite here, almost since his debut in May 2007. But in many cases, that seemed to be all there was, along with a nasty undercurrent of pure insult, aimed particularly at Towers. This was disappointing, because I thought we were better than that. If you don't like the deal (and there are reasons to do so, I don't deny), then explain why, rather than just posting a link to a Youtube video of If I Only Had a Brain, a picture of sinking ships, or straight-up abuse. Thank you. :-)
I certainly don't mind it as much as some - I voted "Good" on the poll. From a neutral corner, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.com said, "This looks like a fair trade for both sides that fills a need for the Orioles for the next couple of seasons," and I agree. Look at it this way: we trade two, perhaps three, increasingly-expensive years of Reynolds for eleven years of player control. Now, obviously, relievers are less valuable, but if you assume 65 innings per season (and 26 pure relievers hit that mark in the NL last year), it's 715 innings in total - getting towards four seasons of a starter. Put in those terms, it seems a lot more credible, even putting player comparisons aside..
The deal also looks better for Arizona if you are working on the assumption that we aren't going to compete in 2011 - when Reynolds' surplus value is likely to be at its height [he gets a 50% boost in salary for 2012, to $7.5 million, with an $11 million team option for 2013]. Intentionally or not, Kevin Towers let slip something in this afternoon's press-conference, saying "We're not one player away, we're several players away from being competitive in a very good division." This makes sense: you can't turn a team that lost close to a hundred games into a contender with minor tinkering. Wholesale change is needed, and you can't do that without giving stuff up.
As was pointed out in the comments, Mark was going to be gone at some point between now and the end of 2012, with little chance of his option being exercised. The sooner it happened, the cheaper and more attractive he would be. Certainly, he could have rebuilt his trade value with a rebound season in 2011, but that has to be played off against his increasing cost and decreasing control. And if he didn't rebound, and rebound a lot (his actual performance in 2010 was worth only 0.8 WAR, according to B-R.com), we would be stuck with an extremely-expensive player who is almost impossible to deal.
After having to go and breathe into a paper-bag at the news we gave Melvin Mora (39 by Opening Day) a multi-year deal, I was relieved to hear that it was only a one-year contract. However, I still think the $2.4 million we paid was too much, especially as it looks like he'll be the main half of a platoon at third-base with Geoff Blum, who is also going to be overpaid for his role, in my opinion. Why not lob Tony Abreu at the position full-time, and decide once and for all, whether he has what it takes to be a regular player? But again, this is not a move with any impact beyond 2011, which I have already written off in almost every meaningful sense.
Another interesting point to come out of the press-conference was that Towers said it seems unlikely Justin Upton will be traded: "It's probably less likely that we end up moving him. We knew that, going into that exercise, that it would take an awful lot to make a trade...but if someone was willing to overpay, and we were able to fill multiple holes... I'd say it's highly unlikely that Justin Upton leaves the desert."
Completing an extraordinarily busy day for Towers and the Diamondbacks, the team announced the signing of reliever J.J. Putz, who will act as the team's closer. The reaction to this trade was a great deal more positive, with almost everyone being pleased to have an experienced man for the ninth inning, who has a almost unblemished track record over the past few years. I can't argue with that: the sense of dread which accompanied our relief corps trying to protect almost any lead, of any size, last season, was something I do not want to experience again. I note, again, the importance of the "local element", with Putz looking to play near his home.
Two years for $10 million is really very reasonable, especially for a free-agent. Consider that we paid Chad Qualls almost $4.2 million for his 2010 performance, and his numbers over the preceding few season had not been as good as Putz's. As another comparison, Jose Valverde earned $4.7 million with the Houston Astros in his second year of arbitration, so the cost is similar to that as well. While Putz, obviously, is older than either of those men - he'll be 34 in February - I don't see a two-year deal that ends at the age of 35, as possessing too much risk.
I do have some concerns over his health, as Putz hardly seems to have had a season without a trip to the DL - most recently with the White Sox in August, thanks to knee tendinits. I found an entire article on a Mets blog discussing Putz's elbow, which is a little bit concerning. However, it doesn't appear to have been a problem of late. That aside, there's no doubt that the revamping of the Arizona bullpen has taken some very significant steps forward today: only this morning, we had a mere two names certain of spots, in Juan Gutierrez and Sam Demel. Now, that number appears to be five. Of course, whether they're any good or not, we'll have to wait and see. Is it Opening Day yet?
Amazed to see this will be my fifth significant post of the day (as well as a bevy of linkposts, etc. - the daily "news and rumors" post from this morning has almost vanished off the bottom of the page already!). I wonder why Towers didn't sign Paul Konerko as well to play first-base, just so that he could spend the next three days riding the teacups at Disneyworld. With just about everything else out of the way, we'll have to wait and see if there is anything of interest to speak about tomorrow, or if we are now in for three days of thumb-twiddling, Me, I'm off for some well-deserved Tivo goodness...