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An off-season evaluation

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During a Diamondbacks' holiday event at Chase Field just before Christmas, general manager Kevin Towers said he had one piece of unfinished business.

That was a continuing search for a starting pitcher and here, on the advent of spring training, that wish remains.

With pitchers and catchers due to report shortly at Salt River, the projected starting rotation is the same as closed the 2013 season.

The fact Towers did not complete a transaction for a starting pitcher does not mean his off-season was unsuccessful. By certain measures, the Diamondbacks may have improved themselves and then again, they could have done some other things.

This appears to be a classic case of the half-filled or half-empty bottle.

The trade to bring outfielder Mark Trumbo into Sedona red is the cornerstone of Towers' off-season moves. This deal shuffled the batting order and also put an emphasis that the D-backs intend to play "long ball" this season.

Brought in to be a strong bat behind first baseman Paul Goldchmidt, Trumbo could be more of a liability than an asset. He comes with defensive baggage as the left-fielder and a penchant for striking out. Though Chase Field is considered one of the better hitters' parks in baseball, Towers says Trumbo could hit 40 or more home runs this coming season.

By bringing Trumbo in the fold, Towers eliminated the prospect of playing "small ball," and the ability to manufacture runs. That all ended when outfielder Adam Eaton was dealt to the White Sox and that broke up the possibility of Eaton leading off in left field and A. J. Pollock hitting second, or the reverse, in centerfield.

Now, the top of order appears to be Pollock, followed by Aaron Hill at second, Goldschmidt and then Trumbo in the clean-up spot.

Going into his final contract year with Arizona, Towers could be on the "hot seat" to produce and may have compromised the team's ability to beat down the opposition with speed and daring.

To address a woeful bullpen, Towers did acquire closer Addison Reed from the White Sox and resigned Brad Ziegler to a two-year deal. Set-up reliever David Hernandez, who came up with a strong September after demoted to Triple A Reno earlier in the summer, needs to pick up where left off.

If that happens, it makes Towers' pick-up of Reed justifiable. Otherwise, the closer could emerge by committee but Ziegler would likely have the edge here.

Overall, Towers' off-season moves need to come under the microscope. Usually astute and a careful student of the bullpen, Towers may have stepped in quicksand here.

Then again, if Trumbo, the key to all off-season transactions surprises in many aspects of the game, Towers could save his job in Arizona.


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