Earlier today, the Diamondbacks completed a three-team deal with the Rays and Reds which saw Tampa Bay acquire catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds and Heath Bell from Arizona. The D'Backs didn't get big time talent back in the trade, but they unloaded $5.5MM of the $6MM they owed to Bell in 2014. I asked Arizona GM Kevin Towers what he might do with his newfound financial flexibility.
"We still got some bench pieces that we need to put together, we still have interest in bringing back Eric Chavez as a guy who was a key bench player on the club last year. We also want to add depth to our starting pitching, a No. 1 or a No. 2 [type], that would probably come via trade. We have some free agents [that we like], but we'll probably be more aggressive on the trade front. Also, with Cody Ross coming back from the hip injury, we'll also look into a corner outfield bat," Towers said on this afternoon's conference call.
Without giving exact figures, Towers said that the payroll in 2014 will be "well above where it was last season." Arizona's opening day payroll was roughly $86.3MM, putting them right around the middle of the pack.
It's safe to say that Bell's tenure in Arizona didn't work out exactly as Towers & Co. had hoped. Despite that, the GM says that he's still hopeful that the 36-year-old can be a contributor for the Rays.
"Bell's velocity is still very good, his average velocity was very comparable to what we saw in San Diego and what it was in Florida…For Heath its all about location," Towers explained. "He's able to hit his spots..but the thing I saw, he didn't land his curveball as effectively as he did in San Diego. He had a 12-6 curveball to set up his fastball…I still think he has a lot left in the tank, one thing I've always liked about him is that he has a very resilient arm."
Towers admitted that he was sorry to see left-handed pitching prospect David Holmberg go, but he said that he wouldn't have been able to secure the same kind of return without his inclusion. That return, of course, includes more than minor league righty Justin Choate – it means the millions in financial relief and a player to be named later. That PTBNL from Tampa Bay, Towers said, will probably be the key player in the trade from his side. Towers added that the player cannot be disclosed now because of "administrative reasons," indicating that the player has already been agreed upon.
Even after moving Bell, who finished 32 games for the club last season, Towers said that he "won't be real active" in finding bullpen help. Whatever needs he has, he'll look to find solutions internally. The GM acknowledged that Randall Delgado could go to bullpen if he lands a rotation upgrade. KT will also seek out "another multi-inning guy" besides Josh Collmenter. As for the closer role, Towers declined to name a favorite at this stage of the offseason.
In addition to the trade talk, Towers also fielded questions on the club's decision to non-tender Daniel Hudson. Even though the D'Backs have now lost their exclusivity with the pitcher, Towers sounds hopeful that the two sides will still hammer out a deal.
"I think we kind of ran out of time…I'd like to say we were at the five yard line or inside of that, so my hope is that we will come to a resolution and he will be a Diamondback in the very near future. We just weren't able to finalize anything by 10 o'clock the other night," Towers said, adding that he could see an agreement happening in the next couple weeks. "I think both sides still want this to happen."