If the Diamondbacks are going to upgrade their club for next season, it will likely take money.
When general manager Kevin Towers enters baseball’s Winter Meetings next week in Orlando, deep pockets should be the order of the day. For Towers, the professed needs are an outfielder with some pop in his bat and a starting pitcher.
To make his “wish list” come true, Towers will have to show economic power.
For starters, the Diamondbacks’ payroll was listed at $89.1 million at the start of last season. That represented a 20 percent rise over the previous year. In order to bring down the figure and have more leverage in signing a possible free agent or offering a competitive salary to a player which could be traded to the Diamondbacks, Towers took a step in that direction Tuesday.
In trading reliever Heath Bell to the Tampa Bay Rays, as part of the three team transaction, the Diamondbacks save a reported $6.5 million. In the short term, Arizona will pay the Rays $500,000 but Bell commands $9 million, of which $4 million is paid by the Marlins, who traded Bell to the Diamondbacks last winter.
Bell represented a heavy burden unloaded by the D-backs.
Not only did the 36-year-old command a large salary for a marginal season, but his numbers clearly did not justify the rewards. In 2013 with Arizona, Bell went 5-2 with a 4.11 ERA but surrendered 12 home runs and blew seven save opportunities.
With Bell out of the picture, Towers can save some money and take a closer look at bullpen prospects Matt Stites, Jake Barrett and leftovers Joe Paterson, J. J Putz, Brad Ziegler, David Hernandez and Josh Collmenter.
One pitcher possible on Towers’ radar screen could be a lefty for the bullpen.
With Matt Reynolds likely gone for 2014 because of Tommy John surgery and Tony Sipp demoted to the minors, Towers has no lefty either as a long reliever or at the back end of the bullpen.
In order to work out a deal in which he could save money, Towers finalized a trade with two other teams. In the transaction Tuesday, Towers sent Bell to the Rays, the Reds sent catcher Ryan Hanigan to Rays, the Rays dealt minor league reliever Justin Choate to the Diamondbacks and Arizona traded lefty David Holmberg to the Reds.
In addition to Choate, who was 1-3, six saves at Short Season A Hudson Valley last season, the Diamondbacks receive a player-to-be-named later, and that’s the part Towers likes.
“The key to the deal was picking up the player-to-be-named,” said Towers in a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Because there is paperwork involved and other considerations, I can’t tell you who the player will be. We could make that announcement during spring training or at the end of spring training.”
Because the Rays’ organization is traditionally deep in pitching, Towers said he’s confident about landing a quality arm.
In the meantime, he dealt Holmberg, a pitcher with considerable major league potential. With Jeff Pico, the Diamondbacks’ pitching field coordinator last season but now manager Bryan Price’s pitching coach with the Reds, Holmberg was attractive. In order to eliminate Bell’s burden, Holmberg became part of the trade package.
“I liked Holmberg but Pico wanted him,” Towers said. “I think he has the potential to be a back-end starter and could wind up in a starting rotation some day.”
HUDSON’S FUTURE IN SEDONA RED
When the Diamondbacks did not tender a contract to Daniel Hudson for 2014, the immediate response was abandonment.
During this past summer, Hudson underwent a second Tommy John reconstructive surgery in as many years, and the organization came to the conclusion Hudson’s career is essentially over.
While he made $518,000 last season, the native of Virginia Beach, Va. became pre-arbitration eligible for 2014. The Diamondbacks had until 10:01 p.m. local time Monday night to tender a contract and that would have been worth $1.1 million.
“We came close to a resolution but nothing was resolved,” said general manger Kevin Towers. “Both sides want this to happen but time is critical. At this point, I would say we’re inside the five yard line. We’ll probably come to a decision (about Hudson) within the next week or so.”
Hudson was one of several players not tendered a contract. Others out there could fit into the Diamondbacks’ scheme for 2014.
The Cardinals did not tender a contract to former closer John Axford, and Axford could replace Health Bell, dealt to the Rays.
Another interesting fit could be catcher J. P. Arencibia, who was not tendered a contract from Toronto. Catcher for Team USA in last year’s World Baseball Classic, Arencibia could complement Miguel Montero behind the plate.
At this point, Tuffy Gosewisch is penciled as the Diamondbacks’ back-up catcher. Wil Nieves, Montero’s back-up a year ago, was not tendered a contract for 2014.