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Diamondbacks at the Winter Meetings - Changes Ahoy!

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Changes were a'comin' Arizona's way at the very start of the 2010 Winter Meetings. Kevin Towers began the week bright and early, 9am Pacific Time, with undoubtedly his biggest move of the week, sending slugger-strikeouter third baseman Mark Reynolds and cash/PTBNL to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for relief pitchers Kam Mickolio (age 26) and David Hernandez (age 25). Hernandez had a 3.13 ERA in the bullpen last year for Baltimore, while Mickolo spent the year in AAA Norfolk. Despite his 6+ ERA, Arizona scouts got a good look at him in the Arizona Fall League and were seemingly impressed.

The Mark Reynolds deal caused uproar among the fan base, here and elsewhere, but if anybody is honest to goodness surprised at the move, you should really re-read my piece from October. Though the team traded low on Reynolds, the goal of revamping this team with better pitching and fewer strikeouts left them little choice to trade him now. The Diamondbacks saved $12.5 million that was owed to Reynolds this season and next and received two bullpen arms that appear to be under our control for several more years.

Some of the money saved from Reynolds went immediately to signing Melvin Mora to a one-year contract play third base, and signing to J.J. Putz to a 2-year deal to presumably be the Diamondbacks closer. J.J. had several great years with Seattle and had a sub-3 ERA last year as a late-inning guy in the Chicago White Sox 'pen. This deal, I'm personally quite excited about. Kevin Towers said he spoke to Chicago starter (and former Padre - drink) while going after Putz (which is now a word you can use at AZCentral).

Tuesday's news was boring compared to Monday! No signings or trades, just names being bandied about. The Diamondbacks were interested in Paul Konerko, who on Wednesday decided to stay with Chicago (White Sox). Rumor has it we were looking to sign Matt Diaz (too expensive), Xavier Nady, or Jorge Cantu for the utility role. Both Brandon Allen and Gerardo Parra seem to be on the market as trade pieces.

On Wednesday, Mike Hampton officially agreed to a minor league contract with Arizona, which includes an invitation to spring training for a chance to win a spot in the bullpen. Arizona is also supposedly closing in on a one-year deal with Henry Blanco as backup catcher and a deal to sell Rusty Ryal's contract to a Japanese team. And it is extremely unlikely that Justin Upton gets moved elsewhere this off-season.

Today's Rule 5 draft saw the Diamondbacks claim Giants AAA pitcher Joe Patterson. He had good numbers in AA and AAA this past season, and Towers is going to give him the opportunity to be the lefty specialist. He must remain on the big league roster ALL season or be offered back to the Giants at half price ($25,000). The team also selected outfielder Jose Rivero from the Mariners but he is merely a pawn in a minor-league transaction. To finalize the Zach Duke trade, Cesar Valdez was sent to Pittsburgh; one less young struggling pitcher on our watch.

Thus ends a busy 4 days of moves by Kevin Towers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. What do you think - is the team better or worse than they were 5 days ago??

Jim adds: Guess I'll update this with the stuff on Patterson I sent 'Skins this morning, originally for us in his recap of the day...

SF Dugout described the decision not to protect Paterson as "a little bit of a head-scratcher," saying he "is not going to be a closer, but he’s a lefty-specialist, and good at it." Jim Callis of Baseball America called him "crafty", and said he "gets by with curveball and guts." And credit the guy at MCC who said, "I could see a team that is in need of rebuilding their bullpen taking a flier on him as a LOOGY," though he had Tampa Bay in that role, rather than us!

He sports a very impressive 2.64 ERA after 175 minor-league relief appearances, and spent most of last season in Fresno, the Giants' AAA affiliate, where his ERA was 3.48, and his K:BB ratio 49:24, in 54.1 innings. Most recently, Paterson pitched alongside the D-backs in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions. He worked 12 innings, allowing six hits and two walks, while striking out an impressive 15, with an overall 2.25 ERA. As a side-note,
I like his durability: Joe has worked more than 65 innings, each of the past three seasons, more than you'd expect for a LOOGY.

This move likely explains why Mike Hampton only got a minor-league deal: because of the rules (the Giants can take him back, if he doesn't stay on the 25-man roster), Paterson will
be the de facto LOOGY until he shows himself incapable of the job.  Of course, that is always a distinct possibility. Our last two Rule 5 picks, James Skelton and Zach Kroenke, haven't worked out so well, making such a hash of it that we had to negotiate a trade for Skelton and re-sign Kroenke as a free-agent in order to keep them.

However, if there's a player it's possible to "hide" on your 25-man roster, a LOOGY is probably among the best spots, and if it doesn't work out... Hey, there's always Hampton, waiting in the wings.