Following the trade of Aaron Hill to the Brewers, we wrote about the curious position of the Diamondbacks' financial position. Despite a new revenue stream coming on tap, from the Fox Sports Arizona deal, the payroll this year is looking likely to be significantly lower than it was in 2015: we're currently looking at an Opening Day figure of around $81 million, over $10m less than last year, and well short of the payroll figures we were hearing at the start of the off-season, which were closer to $100 million.
Time is obviously running out, what with pitchers and catchers now reporting in less than two weeks, but in comments today to Nick Piecoro, it appears that GM Dave Stewart is still looking to improve the bullpen, and thinks that free agency is a more likely option than trade. "Trading three or four prospects for seventh-inning guys is probably not something I want to do." Reading between the lines - and with the usual caveat about Dave Stewart's pronouncements - it's perhaps interesting that he's interested, not in a closer, or even an eighth-inning guy, but more of a mid-inning reliever, Sounds like he's happy with Ziegler in the ninth, and probably Hudson as set-up guy.
We should note that Stewart explicitly said that the Diamondbacks have not talked to Tyler Clippard's agent - this seems to have been an idea floated by Piecoro. However, Stewart appears to have reacted positively, saying "That is a good name. I know we talked about it internally, so I think there’s a pretty good possibility we will (reach out), at least just to see." However, it seems odd, if Clippard was genuinely of interest, to have left it until February to get in touch. I suspect there is some smoke here - either the Diamondbacks aren't that interested (and are just seeking to drive up the price), or more negotiations than admitted have actually been taking place.
Clippard has been solid and dependable, with a 147 ERA+ since 2009. He is perhaps cheaper than some, with only 53 career saves - albeit 19 coming last year, split between the Athletics and Mets. He's still only 30 (his birthday is later this month), which makes it a bit of a mystery as to why he is still on the market so late into the off-season. Our colleagues over at Beyond the Box Score looked into this last week, saying that Clippard's sharp mid-season drop in velocity and lowered release point were "reasons for concern" and concluded "chances are he'll accept a one-year, incentive laden Major League deal with a team who can afford to take a chance on his upside."
One area in which Stewart does appear to be telling the truth, is when he talks about the remaining free agent relievers and says, "I think there’s probably only going to be a few options that will fit. I don’t see there being a bunch." He's not wrong. Outside of Clippard, the two "closer type" names listed by MLBTR as still available are Joe Nathan and Greg Holland. The former may not even pitch again, having undergone his second Tommy John procedure early last season. Holland is no better, the Royals having opted to non-tender him after the World Series due to elbow concerns, and he subsequently also had TJ.
If we opt to venture further onto the Island of Misfit Relievers, there are more options - though how appealing they are, is a matter of opinion. The following right-handers are on the market, per MLBTR: David Aardsma, Burke Badenhop, Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt, Blaine Boyer, Jason Frasor, Jeremy Guthrie, Tommy Hunter, Casey Janssen, Kyle Lohse, Justin Masterson, Bobby Parnell, Joel Peralta, Dale Thayer, Ryan Webb and Jerome Williams. If we're looking for left-handed help, the list is shorter: Joe Beimel, Craig Breslow, Randy Choate, Neal Cotts, Brian Duensing, Sean Marshall, Franklin Morales, Eric O'Flaherty, Manny Parra, Eric Stults and Matt Thornton.
Bit of a mixed bag there - anyone of interest? Or we may end up going with options already available. "We’ve got some pretty good depth that we’ve built here," Stewart reckons. Piecoro's piece lists five pitchers as having "bullpen spots locked up" - no surprises there, being Ziegler, Hudson, and the trio of converted starters, Andrew Chafin, Josh Collmenter and Randall Delgado. Candidates for the other two slots name-checked by the GM were Silvino Bracho, Enrique Burgos, Jake Barrett and Evan Marshall, "among others". All told, I think it's an area where - while it might be nice to pick someone up - I'd likely be content going on Opening Day with seven of the names in this paragraph.