Arizona Diamondbacks: Bullpen Needs to Come into Focus
By Mark Brown
The bullpen of the Arizona Diamondbacks is far from settled.
Any successful team must have a stellar bullpen, but that essential component may be difficult for the Arizona Diamondbacks to field.
Instead of letting players with limited experience grow and transverse through “the process,” Arizona general manager Mike Hazen has chosen to go another route. In signing veteran closer Fernando Rodney in the off-season, the plan is to go with a short-term solution. While Hazen had the option to easing Jake Barrett, Enrique Burgos, and possibility others into the mix, the plan now is to rely on Rodney.
If Rodney is in his prime and saving over 40 games per season, that would be a wise course. The two negatives against Rodney, who will be 40-years-old on March 18, is his age and durability. For his 14-year major career with seven teams, Rodney recorded 261 saves. He reached a career-best, and American League-best in 2014 with 48 saves with the Rays.
For a team to remain competitive in their division race, a closer should save between 40 and 48 games. That number can be flexible, but anything over 40 seems pretty much mandatory. Should Rodney go down with an injury which will put him on the DL for any considerable amount of time, Hazen could be forced to go with Barrett, Burgos or scan the waiver wire.
If the Diamondbacks are rolling the dice about their closer, the same can be said for the middle relievers. After two two commendable seasons in a set-up role and following two Tommy John surgeries on his right elbow, Daniel Hudson was not offered a 2017 contract. Instead, the native of Virginia Beach, Va. signed a two-year with the Pirates for a reported $11 million.
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That puts Hazen scrambling for a set-up reliever to Rodney as well as dependable sixth, seventh and possible eighth inning relievers.
The emphasis here looks to depend on players left over from last season. If Randall Delgado is a prime candidate for the long reliever spot, then field manager Torey Lovullo could interchange Andrew Chafin, Steve Hathaway, Zack Godley, Evan Marshall, Silvino Bracho and Burgos throughout his bullpen.
Not on the 40-man roster but with an invitation to spring training, three lefties could draw attention.
First, Jared Miller, who was rose rapidly through the Arizona farm system last season, could receive a watchful eye. Starting at Kane County, Miller ended at Triple-A Reno and then pitched in the Arizona Fall League. Until the Diamondbacks switched him to the bullpen at the start of the 2016 season, Miller was a starter as well. Josh Taylor, obtained in a trade with the Phillies in 2015, has been a starter. Taylor could also be moved to reliever.
Plus, the Diamondbacks will get a look at reliever Yuhei Nakaushiro, who posted a 0.00 ERA in 13 appearances with Reno. He allowed seven hits and struck out 13 batters in 10.2 innings.
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For the Diamondbacks to rise within the National League West Division, Hazen must work his magic and create a bullpen worthy of production and success.