The first priority of Arizona Diamondbacks’ management this offseason is to acquire one or two proven starting pitchers. Clearly, it was the team’s weak link in 2015 and with designs on a playoff berth in 2016, shoring up the rotation first and foremost is the way to go. There is also this idea that the D-backs will also be in the market for a closer with the attempted acquisition of Aroldis Chapman still fresh on everyone’s mind. However, based on what we saw out of Brad Ziegler last year and the performance of others leading up to the ninth inning, does Arizona really need to be in the market for a stopper?
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Ziegler converted 30 of 32 save opportunities, finishing with an ERA of 1.85. He allowed 48 hits and 17 walks while striking out 36. However, because he doesn’t throw 98 MPH or has a breaking ball that buckles opposing hitters’ knees, he is not thought of as an traditional closer. To that end, what difference does it make in how he gets batters out? If he punted the ball up to the plate and still put players away, it’s the same as a strikeout in most circumstances. The only time Ziegler’s lack of strikeout prowess comes into play is the threat of a sacrifice fly. That is offset by the fact that he can enter a game in the eighth inning with runners on and get out without surrendering a run. He then could go on and finish a game. Power, or “traditional” closers are used almost exclusively in the ninth inning. The bottom line is that Ziegler gets the job done and if the team elects to keep him in the role of stopper the D-backs wouldn’t fare any worse with him as opposed to a bigger name.
Some would argue the D-backs are a better team with Zeigler as the main setup man with someone else doing the finishing. That would be ideal but do you really have to go outside the organization to acquire that guy? Thinking outside the box a bit, what’s wrong with giving someone like Daniel Hudson or Randall Delgado an opportunity? Hudson has now shown the ability to stay healthy for an entire season after two Tommy John surgeries. He has the stuff to be that guy with an upper-90’s fastball and hard curve that enabled him to fan 71 batters in 67 2/3 innings. Delgado seems to have found his niche as a short reliever and he too, features a potent fastball. Delgado struck out 73 batters in 72 innings last year. Perhaps even Andrew Chafin can get a look as he was the Snakes’ best reliever last season after Ziegler.
Finally, is the situation so dire for the D-backs at the closer’s spot that they need to either trade for one or overpay for one? The proposed trade for Chapman would have included Braden Shipley, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects. For a team that is short on quality starters, now is not the time to be trading away any pitcher that can help the starting rotation fairly soon. Look at what holding on to young pitchers has done for the New York Mets. As for the free agent market, there are no real standouts unless one thinks Francisco Rodriguez is the answer. The team would be better served saving the money and using it to lock up a core player such as A.J. Pollock or David Peralta.
The Arizona Diamondbacks do not need to venture outside the organization for a big-name closer. Look at the players in that position for the final playoff three teams. Jeurys Familia was brought up through the Mets’ organization. Roberto Osuna is 20 years old and pitches the ninth inning for the Toronto Blue Jays. Wade Davis was acquired by the Kansas City Royals after faltering as a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was the main setup guy until Greg Holland got hurt. Someone among Ziegler, Chafin, Hudson and Delgado could just as easily save games for the D-backs in 2016. Management should use the available resources toward another area of the team.