D’backs’ Offseason is a Strange One


The Arizona Diamondbacks announced on Monday that they have extended the contract of closer J.J. Putz through the 2014 season.  It was just the latest move by the team that has quite frankly, had an offseason that leaves me a bit perplexed.  The series of transactions and one big non-trade that have taken place since October if taken individually make sense but when viewing the whole picture could be construed as strange, baffling and even at times incoherent.   While the final grade for the D’backs this Winter is still incomplete, the last three months have been interesting to say the least.

Kevin Towers, the Master of Disaster? Image: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The trade of Chris Young which netted Heath Bell and Cliff Pennington  got the ball rolling on the flurry of activity that was to come.  Trading Young was not a surprise and getting back Pennington as a stopgap measure at shortstop was reasonable.  Bringing in Bell was puzzling considering his age and salary.  The Miami Marlins will be paying $8 million of the remaining $18 million left on his contract.  OK, that’s not unreasonable.  However, with the extension of Putz the bullpen now has between $23 and $24 million in salary over the next two seasons for two relievers 35 and over.  That seems like a pretty steep price for the organization particularly when you consider that Bell could be guaranteed $9 million in 2015 if he reaches certain incentives.  2015 also happens to be the year David Hernandez becomes a free agent.   I don’t understand why Putz needed to have an extra year added when if the team fell out of contention, he could be traded for something of value and then resigned next offseason.

Then there was the deal of top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer to the Cleveland Indians which brought back shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius  from the Cincinnati RedsIt was a surprising move but not really shocking as Bauer had fallen out of favor with management and with other members of the team.  Still, he was the third pick in the 2011 draft and many people felt they should have gotten more for him.  Again, a tough move to swallow but one could see the logic behind it.   But then word leaked of the trade that would have sent Justin Upton to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for four prospects.  Among the four was shortstop Nick Franklin who is the Mariners’ #3 rated prospect according to mlb.com, 29th overall in their top 100.  Had Upton not rejected the deal, it is conceivable that Franklin would have been the starting shortstop of the present and future and the D’backs basically gave away Bauer on a wing and a prayer that Gregorius could be used as trade bait to help them acquire additional talent.

Cody Ross was signed in December to a three-year $26 million deal with an option for a fourth year.  Perhaps the team overpaid for him but still a decent move until you realize that the outfield went from crowded to jammed.  The team could always send  Adam Eaton to Tripel A Reno but that would go against what Kevin Towers and company wanted to do which was to play better on defense and add more speed.  Sending Eaton down in favor of playing Ross every day defeats both of those purposes.  The D’backs then tried dealing Upton probably knowing full well that Seattle was one of the places he did not want to go. 

I don’t understand these moves.  The organization took on some questionable salaries for the next two years or so which includes Brandon McCarthy if he has not recovered fully from his horrific 2012 injury.  Meanwhile while stating they want to contend in the National League West in 2013, they are trying to trade their best player who has a reasonable deal for the next three seasons.  Towers’ dealing better pay off  this season or it is Kirk Gibson who will suffer the consequences. 

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