The latest column from the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro is packed with quotes from GM Mike Hazen and info pertaining to the team’s offseason plans and 2017 outlook, with a heavy focus on the catching situation. Some highlights from the column, which I’d recommend checking out in its entirety…
- The D-backs have already non-tendered Welington Castillo, signed Jeff Mathis and claimed Juan Graterol off waivers this winter, but Hazen tells Piecoro they’re still keeping an eye on the catching market, including Matt Wieters. “Matt’s a really good player and a good leader,” said Hazen. “We’ve kept up on everybody on the catching market.” Per Hazen, the likely course of action for the D-backs is to add a third catcher-capable player to partner with Mathis and Chris Herrmann in a “three-way system,” but that does not appear set in stone. “If we found more of a long-term replacement for the position, it could morph into something different,” said Hazen, though he did note that a long-term option is likelier to surface on the trade market than in free agency.
- To that end, Piecoro again reports that the D-backs spoke to the Red Sox about catchers Blake Swihart and Christian Vazquez. However, he also reports that Boston is considered “unlikely” to move either young backstop. It’s not surprising to see a new-look D-backs front office that contains former Red Sox execs Hazen, Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter all show interest in two of their former top prospects — especially when the Diamondbacks lack a clear long-term option behind the plate. Piecoro has already reported on Arizona’s interest in Swihart and Vazquez once earlier this winter, and it doesn’t seem like anything has changed since that time. Vazquez, a defensive standout with a perhaps questionable bat, is controlled through the 2020 season. Swihart carries a much higher offensive upside but isn’t as proficient as Vazquez with the glove. He’s controlled through 2021.
- Hazen also tells Piecoro that catcher-turned-outfielder Peter O’Brien, whom the club recently designated for assignment, has drawn trade interest from both American League and National League teams. Hazen cited a need “to improve our defensive versatility and flexibility” as the driving factor behind removing O’Brien from the 40-man roster. The 26-year-old O’Brien has in the past posted impressive power numbers in the minors, but he’s never hit in the Majors and is also strikeout prone (32 strikeouts in 79 MLB plate appearances). Beyond that, scouts have long suggested that he’s a man without a position on the diamond, and the old front office regime had already moved him off his original position of catcher. Nonetheless, O’Brien has 50 homers across his past two Triple-A seasons plus another six big flies in the Majors in that time (albeit all in hitter-friendly settings).
- The D-backs are still on the hunt for another bullpen arm but would like to keep the commitment to one year, Piecoro writes. Hazen explained to Piecoro that there are enough (relatively) young arms already in the organization that have piqued the interest that the front office doesn’t want to potentially block someone down the road by committing to a multi-year deal.