Very little has changed we broke down the likely 2014 bullpen. There’s still just one spot open for a lefty to join Joe Thatcher, with five righties (J.J. Putz, Josh Collmenter, Brad Ziegler, David Hernandez and Will Harris) locked into spots if they’re healthy. Still, the few changes that have been made point in a very promising — and young — direction.
Assuming a seven-man bullpen, there might only be one spot to actually fill. The search for a second lefty is ongoing. With the five RHP listed above, there isn’t really room for an additional guy, although if Arizona began spring training with six likely guys, things would probably sort themselves out.
The sixth RHP bullpen arm was Heath Bell, but GM Towers went completely out of the playbook to sell a prospect to move him. A great move, but also a great sign. A mid-market team can’t afford the most promising of bullpen types: the very expensive kind. So if Arizona can’t buy a best-case scenario bullpen, it would be far better commit to a young one. Young bullpens cost quite a bit less than ones composed of veteran arms, but they’re also much more flexible. And flexibility is a huge benefit — a free agent reliever signed for $5M a season can’t get demoted to work on delivery problems.
I covered the benefits to the Diamondbacks for building a cheap bullpen not too long ago, so I won’t belabor the point now. I’m just glad that on the first day of slow D-backs news for a while, the club seems to have taken another step in the right direction.
Arizona tabbed Cubs reliever Marcos Mateo in the Rule 5 draft today, a move that was met with approval by many in the industry. Rule 5 guru J.J. Cooper at Baseball America tweeted that the D-backs made the draft’s best pick. Will Mateo save the season? Of course not. As Nick Piecoro wrote this morning, Mateo is not young (29) and has not set the world on fire in his brief time in the majors (5.04 ERA in 44.2 IP). As Piecoro also pointed out, Mateo’s stuff, recent minor league success, and current dominance in the Dominican Winter League do mean that Mateo has at least a chance of being a productive member of the Arizona bullpen this year.
Mateo certainly doesn’t even have a guaranteed job. Only if one of the Arizona righthanders went down would a slot open up — and unlike a typical young hurler, Mateo can’t be optioned to the minors without being offered back to the Cubs for half of what Arizona paid for him. If not injury, only a terrible spring performance from Will Harris might allow Mateo to break camp with the team.
Mateo is unlikely to be as useful as the wave of relief prospects Arizona has on the horizon for late 2014 and 2015, at least for this season — as noted above, flexibility is a big part of a young reliever’s value. I’m not saying that I think Mateo will make the 25-man at all. Mateo is just a sign that Arizona does not feel the need to replace Heath Bell with another veteran reliever. I held my breath for a while when Arizona was rumored to have made an offer to Joba Chamberlain, but I’m going to ignore such rumors in the future unless there’s actual confirmation.
Although the Rule 5 Draft giveth, it also taketh away — and as speculated previously, Arizona did indeed lose Mobile BayBear Kevin Munson. Munson was taken by the Phillies, but I think there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be offered back to the D-backs by midseason. I’m much less confident that the club will get another shot with Patrick Schuster, a lefty who repeated at High A Visalia in 2013 as a reliever. Coming from a low arm angle, Schuster could survive as a Rule 5 matchups guy in the major league pen — just like San Francisco’s Javier Lopez did originally. More importantly, the Padres knew exactly what they were doing — the Padres got the first overall Rule 5 pick from the Astros as a player to be named later in the Anthony Bass trade.
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