As first reported by Nick Piecoro, the Arizona Diamondbacks have signed left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa to a minor-league deal, with an invite to spring training. Piecoro says De La Rosa will make $2.25 million if he makes the team, and will compete for a bullpen spot. He adds the pitcher “can earn $600K in relief incentives and another $1M in starter incentives if for some reason he ends up in rotation.” De La Rosa began his career in Milwaukee, and also pitched for Kansas City, but is best known to Arizona fans due to his nine season with the Colorado Rockies. He was all but entirely a starter there (200 of 209 games), so this bullpen move is interesting.
De La Rosa was not ineffective for the Rockies, though his overall ERA was bloated by the Coors effect. He had a 4.35 ERA for Colorado, but after park effects, that translates into a 106 ERA+. In 2016, he made 24 starts and three relief appearances, with a 5.51 ERA. His peripherals drifted the wrong way, with a K:BB ratio of 1.71, which was Jorge’s lowest in his time with the team. Perhaps also of note or concern, he has had his share of issues pitching at Chase Field: over 12 starts there, he is 1-8 with a 5.05 ERA. But he has done well against the D-backs elsewhere, and overall has a winning record (10-9) and a 3.23 ERA facing Arizona.
If he’s being looked at as a left-handed reliever, that gives us a chance to leverage some quite hefty platoon splits. De La Rosa’s career OPS against left-handed batters is .655, which is 146 points lower than his figure when facing RHB. And earlier this month, Dave Cameron wrote a piece naming Jorge the biggest free-agent bargain still out there. He concluded, “If you’re a Major League GM sitting on a few million dollars at this point, you might not have a better way to invest it than by putting de la Rosa in your bullpen and letting him take a shot at the Andrew Miller-in-October role... There are reasons to think de la Rosa could be a very interesting option out of the bullpen.”
As Clefo noted on Twitter, this will actually be De La Rosa’s second spell with the Diamondbacks, though you could be forgiven for having forgotten his previous stint. Because it lasted a whole three days, back in the winter of 2003. He arrived on November 28 from Boston, as part of the return when when traded Curt Schilling to the Red Sox, and then left on December 1, one of the six players sent to Milwaukee for Richie Sexson. Over 13 years later, he’s back with Arizona - and should actually get to put on a D-backs jersey this time round!