The last week was a quiet one in baseball, with no moves of any real significance.  Most of the D-backs news is of the speculation variety.  On the Masahiro Tanaka front, Ken Rosenthal reported on Friday that the Japanese pitcher “remains the D-backs’ No. 1 target.”  Rosenthal reasons that if the D-backs had been willing to enter the Choo fray to the tune of $140M, the team could be serious contenders for Tanaka if the bidding ends up around $120M (plus the $20M posting fee).  I do not doubt that Arizona is serious about spending money this offseason for a pitcher, and I think we all remember the winter meetings statements (one power hitter, one starter, one of which would come from free agency, and the other via trade).  There’s just no reason for the front office to talk this loudly if they weren’t serious.

I question the premise of Rosenthal’s statement, though.  At the time of the Choo rumor, I thought it might just have been an attempt to get some thin leverage with the Angels in the Trumbo negotiations.  I’m not moving from my guess that Arizona has a 3% chance or so of signing Tanaka (and Steve Gilbert also cautioned recently that fans should keep “expectations tempered).  That’s due in part to the possibility that the Tanaka bidding will end up in the $150M-$160M range.

Still, if Arizona had been willing to devote $140M to Choo, we’re guessing that they would have traded for David Price or Jeff Samardzija — and both of those pitchers would be due salary well in excess of what Trumbo is getting (probably less than $5M in 2014).  So there could be room here to get something done with Tanaka.  It’s never that I thought Arizona would not be motivated, or that they definitely couldn’t pull it off — it’s more that there are other teams with a more pronounced need and more cash to spend.

In his column yesterday, Rosenthal had another D-backs tidbit — he said we should not be surprised “if the Diamondbacks trade right-hander J.J. Putz” with Addison Reed now on the roster.  Rosenthal went on to speculate that Putz could be used in a swap for Ichiro Suzuki or Yovani Gallardo.  I have no idea whether Rosenthal had any basis for either of those matches, but if Putz were to get moved, why in the world would either happen?  Ichiro has little usefulness to a club that already has a defensive specialist in right field and an outfield logjam that will already limit the playing time of Cody Ross.  And although Gallardo is far from done as a helpful major league starter, I’m not sure he’s really an upgrade over Randall Delgado at this point — and what would the Brewers do with Putz?

I feel like I must be missing something, in terms of Putz trade speculation overall.  If Putz gets traded, a lesser-known quantity will end up in the bullpen mix at the outset of the season.  I have no major qualms with that — I’m on record urging the D-backs to commit to younger relievers — but trading something useful for something not so useful seems unlikely.  There’s also the financial benefit of keeping Putz.  Yes, he’s going to make $7M in 2014.  But swapping him probably means taking on similar money, and plugging Putz in as closer in 2014 could save the D-backs quite a bit of money by lowering Reed’s expected 2015 arbitration award (and, thereby, his next two arb salaries).

On to the links:

  • In his debut Beyond the Box Score article, Jeff Wiser addressed the issue of closers and arbitration in a general but very thorough way — I really urge you to read it, especially if you have lingering questions about whether Reed should close for the D-backs in 2014.  Some great and persuasive research from someone I’m proud to work with here at Inside the ‘Zona.  Be sure to weigh in with a comment!
  • Speaking of Jeff, when he penned his post on whether Towers is going for broke this offseason, I thought that the debate that he framed might be the dominant one for the next several months (or even the next nine months).  By failing to pick up a two-year option for 2015-2016 this offseason, ownership put Towers in a do-or-die position for this season.  Last Tuesday, Nick Piecoro wrote about GM tenure generally and the increased pressure on Towers.
  • At Snake Pit last week, Jim McLennan called for some serious predictions for the 2014 D-backs season, and had some not-so-serious predictions of his own.  I encourage everyone to weigh in with their own predictions in the first article — should be a lot of fun to go review them after the season ends.  And I’ll take the opportunity in the first roundup of 2014 to say thanks to McLennan and all of the other guys at Snake Pit for all of the great content in 2013.
  • At Venom Strikes, Joseph Jacquez addresses the Rosenthal statement about how Putz could get moved.  In a vacuum, I agree that Ichiro could help most teams, but at $6.5M, he’s more of an overpriced Eric Chavez, but at a position (outfield) where Arizona is already paying for one too many guys.  I agree that Gallardo could help, though, if he could be had for Putz without Arizona adding much more to the pot.  And I absolutely agree with Jacquez that Arizona has other bullpen arms that are fully capable of high-leverage innings, even if I do think the team would be best served overall with Putz closing games.
  • Also at Venom Strikes, Thomas Lynch took a look under the hood with a profile of Trevor Cahill and one of Brad Ziegler.  With regard to Cahill, I agree that he’s a good bounce-back candidate — the only reason we identified him as a good trade candidate is that we thought a whole bunch of other teams would agree with that, too.  Jeff, Rod and I are talking quite a bit about Cahill behind the scenes, so we expect to address him in greater detail soon.  On Ziegler — I absolutely agree that he is very, very valuable, especially when he’s deployed in the situations he handles best.
  • At SweetSpot, Michael Eder did a pitch f/x analysis of Masahiro Tanaka.  It’s from a small and old sample, but it’s still interesting to measure Tanaka in a way that lets us compare him to others, in terms of events, rather than performance.
  • At FanGraphs, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the D-backs were posted today.  A few surprises there.  We’ll take a turn at interpreting these numbers soon, especially given our up-to-date understandings of playing time in 2014.
  • At Beyond the Box Score, a few other articles of particular interest to D-backs fans.  Jeffrey Bellone’s article on the number of big bats it takes to win is of interest in the wake of the Trumbo acquisition; Bryan Cole’s piece on how a starter can affect team performance on the following day interested me a lot with regard to Wade Miley’s true value; and Randy Holt addressed some red flags with Matt Garza, who is probably Arizona’s next choice after Tanaka.

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