- Carson Kelly is eager to finally get a chance at regular MLB playing time, the new Diamondbacks catcher tells The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan (subscription required). Acquired by Arizona as part of the Paul Goldschmidt blockbuster, Kelly will see much more action with the D’Backs than he did as the backup behind workhorse Yadier Molina in St. Louis. Molina’s continued longevity meant that Kelly, a former second-round draft pick and top-60 prospect in the sport, became an expendable piece. “In the big leagues, I’ve only had a chance to fail. I’ve never really had a chance to grow,” Kelly said, noting that he found himself pressing at the plate when with the Cardinals since he so rarely got a chance to play. While the Diamondbacks’ three-catcher plan means that Kelly still won’t get a full everyday-catcher workload, Buchanan writes that “Kelly figures to be Catcher 1A,” and could end up getting more at-bats if he plays well.
The Diamondbacks have waved goodbye to cornerstones Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin in the past few months, leaving right-hander Zack Greinke as their best remaining player. In all, things haven’t gone according to plan for the Diamondbacks since they signed Greinke to a whopping six-year, $206.5MM contract heading into 2016, but he said Saturday that he has “(no) desire to be traded to any team,” Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. It stands to reason, then, that Greinke would block a deal to any of the 15 teams on his no-trade list should the Diamondbacks find an offer to their liking. Indeed, the Diamondbacks reportedly found Greinke’s limited no-trade clause to be a “major impediment” during the winter. In addition to his ability to block a trade to half the league’s clubs, Greinke’s a 35-year-old with $104.5MM left on his contract – two more factors that undermine his value. Still, Greinke did turn in yet another highly productive campaign in 2018, his second straight quality season after he began his D-backs tenure in somewhat disappointing fashion in 2016.
The Diamondbacks announced today that they have agreed to a one-year deal with catcher Caleb Joseph. It’s a split deal that would pay $1.1MM in the majors or $250K in the minors, per Zach Buchanan of The Athletic (Twitter link).
To open roster space, the D-Backs placed righty Taijuan Walker on the 60-day injured list. He is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which was performed last April.
Joseph, 32, is an interesting addition on a MLB deal, though the split nature of the deal and the fact that he has a minor league option remaining suggest that he’s not a lock to break camp with the club. The Arizona organization already has Alex Avila under contract, still controls the out-of-options John Ryan Murphy, and acquired youngster Carson Kelly as a significant part of the club’s offseason trade of star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
It’s certainly possible that the club will carry three backstops, as it has done so in the past, though that’d obviously mean tying up an active roster spot. Alternatively, the Snakes could simply be planning to open things up to competition for two jobs this spring and option or trade/DFA whichever players fail to impress.
Joseph was non-tendered earlier this winter by the Orioles, the only professional organization with which he has played. He has at times been a palatable performer on offense, but has also struggled badly in two of the past three seasons. Last year, Joseph slashed just .219/.254/.321.
Clearly, there’s greater respect for Joseph’s defensive chops than for his bat. He has at times graded quite well as a framer, though that was not the case in 2018. Joseph has generally had success at handling wayward pitches and controlling the running game.
The Diamondbacks’ interesting offseason reflects GM Mike Hazen’s self-described effort to “thread the needle,” Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes in an excellent look at the Arizona organization and its top baseball executive. Despite trading away franchise cornerstone Paul Goldschmidt in what could turn out to be a highly consequential trade, the Snakes will enter the season with intentions of trying to contend — albeit with a realistic outlook and, it seems fair to presume, backup plans should things go south. Hazen says he’s committed to trying to put a winner on the field whenever possible, making clear he has no regret for pushing in chips at last summer’s trade deadline. It’s an interesting article that’s well worth a full read.
The Diamondbacks have announced deals with two veteran hurlers. Both right-hander Ricky Nolasco and southpaw Marc Rzepczynski are slated to appear in MLB camp as non-roster invitees after signing minor-league pacts.
If he’s able to crack the roster, Rzepczysnki would earn at a $1.5MM rate, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). His deal also includes a $500K incentives package.
Another pair of former MLB relievers is also joining the Arizona organization, albeit without camp invites. Righty Michael Kohn and lefty Lucas Luetge also have minors deals in place. Bob Nightengale of USA Today first tweeted Kohn’s deal.
Nolasco will be looking to break back into the majors after sitting out the 2018 season. He did make 33 starts in the 2017 campaign, and spent camp last year with the Royals, so he hasn’t been on the sidelines for all that long.
Even ignoring the absence, it has been some times since the 36-year-old was effective. Nolasco’s strong 2013 season earned him a four-year deal with the Twins, but he carries a 4.99 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in the 575 innings he has thrown since that time.
The 33-year-old Rzepczynski did see MLB action last year, though he was knocked around in both the majors and minors in stints with the Mariners and Indians organizations. At his best, Rzepczynski is an exceedingly tough assignment for opposing left-handed hitters, who have hit just .227/.296/.305 against him in his career.
Kohn and Luetge are each even deeper comeback candidates. Neither has seen the majors since 2015 and neither played in the affiliated ranks at all in 2018.
The Giants announced another move on the fringes of the team’s 40-man roster, acquiring righty Jake Barrett from the Diamondbacks after he was recently designated for assignment by the Arizona organization. Just-claimed outfielder John Andreoli was in turn designated to create space.
This is hardly the first time the San Francisco organization has undertaken such fast-paced roster churn this winter. Whether the club is mostly seeking to stash players off of the 40-man, or simply keeps finding new players it prefers to the others it has claimed, the result has been a fair bit of movement.
In this case, the 27-year-old Barrett will come aboard after his once-promising MLB career fizzled in Arizona. He has shown an ability to get strikeouts at the game’s highest level and could compete for a pen job in camp.
Andreoli may yet be an outfield option for the Giants, if he clears waivers, but will need to earn his way back onto the 40-man roster in that case. This is now the third time this winter that Andreoli has been designated for assignment.
Barrett, 27, is a former third-round pick who has thrown 93 1/3 innings for the Snakes over the past three years. He owns a 4.05 cumulative ERA with 8.5 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9.
Though he got off to a promising start back in 2016, when he worked off of a mid-nineties heater to generate a 12.3% swinging-strike rate, Barrett has since taken a step back. His whiff rate has trended down and his walk rate has gone up, leaving him with little in the way of MLB opportunities in 2018. He was effective last year at Triple-A, though, pitching to a 2.87 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in 53 1/3 innings over 42 appearances.
TODAY: The team has announced the signing.
YESTERDAY: The Diamondbacks have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent reliever Greg Holland, according to Robert Murray and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). The Boras Corporation client secures a $3.25MM guarantee and $3.5MM in possible incentives, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter links). Holland still must pass a physical before the contract will be finalized.
Now 33 years of age, Holland is not the same pitcher that once featured as one of the game’s most dominant relievers. Indeed, he last pitched as a true relief ace back in 2014. He blew out his elbow in the ensuing campaign and has never fully regained his velocity.
That’s not to say that Holland hasn’t shown his share of ability in the ensuing seasons. He turned in a successful 2017 campaign for the Rockies, so much so that he received and rejected a qualifying offer from the organization in the following winter. And though things went terribly last year with the Cardinals after a late-spring signing, Holland did rebound later in the season with the Nationals.
It truly was a dramatic turnaround, though it’s hard to pinpoint the root cause for the change. In his 25 frames in St. Louis, Holland surrendered as many earned runs and free passes as he recorded strikeouts (22 apiece). Upon arriving in D.C., Holland contributed 21 1/3 innings over which he posted a 25:10 K/BB ratio and permitted only a pair of earned runs on just nine hits.
Over the course of the season, Holland proved capable of limiting the long ball, as he has long done. And he still generated a strong 13.1% swinging-strike rate. Clearly, the D-Backs won’t anticipate the full-fledged re-emergence of the once-great closer, but they’ve evidently seen enough to believe that Holland can still be a quality, late-inning arm.
The exact plan for Holland’s usage isn’t yet evident, but it would hardly be surprising to see him receive at least a full-blown shot at earning the closer’s gig this spring. Archie Bradley currently profiles as the top ninth-inning option in Arizona, but he has been successful in a more flexible role. Details of Holland’s incentives package aren’t yet known, but could offer a hint as to the expectations of all involved.
Needless to say, the Cardinals did not see a return on the $14MM they invested in Holland last year. It’s tough to imagine the Diamondbacks ending up with a similar sense of regret, given the much lower amount promised. If they end up paying Holland the full $6.75MM contemplated in the contract, it’ll only be because he warranted the opportunities. Beyond that, even if the Snakes prove unable to mount a surprise challenge for the postseason, they ought to have an opportunity to spin off Holland (and his remaining financial obligations) to another team over the summer.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
5:30pm: Lovullo’s contract will run through the 2021 season, tweets Mark Feinsand of MLB.com.
5:07pm: The Diamondbacks announced this afternoon that they’ve agreed to a contract extension of undisclosed length with manager Torey Lovullo. His previous contract had run through the 2019 season.
“Torey’s leadership and ability to connect with people, specifically our players and coaches, provides the foundation for the culture we continue to cultivate and grow in Arizona,” said D-backs general manager Mike Hazen in a statement accompanying the announcement. “This is an exciting day for Torey, his family and the D-backs. We can’t wait to get started at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in two weeks.”
Lovullo, 53, is entering his third season as the Diamondbacks’ skipper after having previously served as a bench coach to John Farrell in Boston. That time with the Red Sox surely played no small part in his ultimate hiring in Arizona; Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen and assistant GMs Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter were all with the Red Sox prior to being named to their current positions.
In two seasons at the helm of the Diamondbacks, Lovullo has overseen a 175-149 club. That includes a second-place finish in the NL West in his rookie season — one that resulted in a Wild Card victory and a trip to the National League Division Series. Few pegged the D-backs as contenders heading into the 2017 season, and the manner in which the team exceeded expectations led to Lovullo being named 2017 National League Manager of the Year.
Things didn’t play out as nicely in 2018, as the Diamondbacks were unable to meet the lofty expectations placed on them following that surprise playoff run. The D-backs dealt with several notable injuries and saw some key players take a step back in ’18, ultimately resulting in a solid but unspectacular 82-80 record — a finish that left them 8.5 games back of the second-place Rockies and 9.5 games behind the division-winning Dodgers.
Clearly, however, that disappointing finish did little to make Hazen and the rest of the Arizona front office question Lovullo’s status as the person they prefer to lead the dugout. The Diamondbacks will again enter the season with little in terms of expectations. Face of the franchise Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals, while top starter Patrick Corbin and center fielder A.J. Pollock have signed elsewhere in free agecy. Lovullo, then, will be tasked with helping to maximize the potential of a new core group as the D-backs enter a transitional phase. The continued development of right-hander Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly, acquired in the Goldschmidt trade, will be keys to the organization’s long-term outlook, as will the manner in which prospects like Jon Duplantier, Jazz Chisholm, Daulton Varsho and Taylor Widener adjust to the Majors (particularly in the case of Duplantier and Widener, who are on the cusp of MLB readiness).
- The Diamondbacks outrighted southpaw Jared Miller off their 40-man roster and down to Triple-A, as per a team announcement. Miller was designated for assignment last week to create roster space for the newly-signed Wilmer Flores. An 11th-round pick for Arizona in the 2014 draft, Miller has a 3.85 ERA, 9.7 K/9, and a 2.08 K/BB rate over 327 career minor league frames, but he was beset by severe control problems last season, issuing a whopping 63 walks over 42 Triple-A innings.