The Diamondbacks have agreed to re-sign right-hander Rubby De La Rosa to a minor league contract, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. De La Rosa will earn $750K upon making the big league roster and also can earn an additional $3.5MM via incentives, Piecoro reports. Though De La Rosa has worked as a starter in previous seasons with the D-backs, Arizona will move him to a relief role in an attempt to keep him healthier after he missed the bulk of the 2016 season battling elbow issues, Piecoro adds.
De La Rosa had Tommy John surgery as a prospect, but there was some fear in 2016 that he’d require a second TJ operation due to the aforementioned elbow troubles. As a means of avoiding that fate, the 27-year-old underwent stem cell therapy in September. Piecoro notes that there are still no guarantees on De La Rosa’s health, which will remain somewhat of a mystery until he’s able to face live hitters and throw off a mound during Spring Training.
Many scouts have tabbed De La Rosa as a reliever, as we’ve noted here at MLBTR over the years. De La Rosa typically shows good velocity, averaging between 94 and 95 mph as a starter, but he lacks a quality third offering and has long struggled against left-handed batters (career .286/.363/.489 batting line allowed). A shift to the bullpen will conceivably allow De La Rosa’s velocity to play up even further and can help to limit the number of lefties he faces (while also potentially making him more effective versus lefties by way of increased velocity).
If De La Rosa does make the roster and perform well over the life of a full big league season in his new role, he’d remain controllable for the Diamondbacks for one more winter. De La Rosa was non-tendered by the D-backs a month ago due to the fact that the team didn’t want to risk a projected $3MM salary for him, and he has just four years, 97 days of big league service, so he’ll remain arbitration-eligible next winter.