Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, pulled off a five-player deal
If order to acquire a player believed to help your team, the equation holds you give up something viewed as equal.
That was how Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, deduced from the trade on Thanksgiving Eve. That’s when Hazen acquired right-hander Taijuan Walker from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for infielder Jean Segura. As part of this five-player deal, the Diamondbacks also picked infielder Ketel Matre, a switch-hitter who the Diamondbacks envision as a shortstop or second baseman. Also going to Seattle was outfielder Mitch Haniger and relief pitcher Zac Curtis.
Walker, a 24-year-old native of Shreveport, La. but raised in Yucaipa, Calif., comes to the desert with an even major league history. Sporting a 22-22 lifetime record, a 4.18 ERA for 62 starts, Walker’s potential, to this point, outweigh his results.
“Walker is a power pitcher and still growing,” Hazen said in a conference call with reporters late Wednesday night. “We look at this as improving the pitching staff. That’s a priority we’ve identified, and this is a great opportunity for us. There is a great up-side to Walker and that is we’re getting a really good starting pitcher.”
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If there is one issue haunting Walker, it could be inconsistency. Last season with Seattle, Walker, at 6-4, 220 pounds, went 8-11 with a 4.22. He also allowed 27 home runs, but a concern Hazen said was not pressing. The leader in 2016 was James Shields and that right-hander allowed 40 homers.
At this point, Hazen dismissed Walker’s penchant for giving up the home run, and cautioned, “we’re in the process of getting to know him and see how he uses his stuff.”
Aside from the formal and informal introduction, Walker is coming off surgery performed last month. By mid-season, foot and ankle issues effected his effort on the mound. On Oct. 17, he underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone fragment on his right ankle. He is expected to make a full recovery, and be ready for spring training when pitchers and catchers report to Salt River in February.
In Marte, the Diamondbacks acquire an infielder with greater offensive skills. Some reports label Matre a defensive liability, but Hazen said, “we like his athleticism.”
Over parts of two seasons with Seattle, Matre, a native of the Dominican Republic hit .267 in 176 games and picked up 19 steals. In six minor league seasons, Marte hit .289 with 102 steals.
Marte is now thrown into the mix with Phil Gosselin, Dawel Lugo, Jack Reinheimer and Brandon Drury to compete for infield jobs. Add Nick Ahmed, recovering from right hip impingement , and Hazen is correct when he says, “there will be some great competition for infield jobs.”
For now, Hazen would not speculate on two issues.
First, could there be the possibility of an existing starter moved to the bullpen? As well, where does the Segura trade leave Drury, who had a strong September and finished with a .282 batting average (16 homers, 53 RBIs).
“At this point, I’m not going to speculate on players,” Hazen added. “It’s much too early for that and we’re only in November. Plus, we still would like to acquire additional pitching. So, things may be not finalized into we get to spring training and possibly beyond.”
What Hazen would say after acquiring Walker, “we have strengthened our rotation.”