PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks seem determined to add a veteran starting pitcher to the front of their rotation, even if that means losing some of their prized young pitching prospects in the process. The exploration will continue at the general managers’ meetings this week in Palm Springs.
Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Wade Miley are the D-backs’ top three starters, and the idea is to add another similar type. It fits general manager Kevin Towers’ plan of building strength through pitching, and it fits the model used by division rival San Francisco in winning two of the past three World Series.
“While we have a lot of good young pitchers, the top of the rotation is something that any team always would want to improve if they could,” managing partner Ken Kendrick said.
“The Giants really won with pitching. It is not as if they have no talented position players, but they are a very, very strong organization from a pitching point of view. We see that. And when we have won, we have done it with very strong pitching. We already have made a move to improve our bullpen. We’re going to look at the starting pitching, and we may look more at the top of the rotation if there is an opportunity to improve there.”
The thin free-agent market means a trade is much more likely to address a potential rotation addition, as well as to fill their started interest in an upgrade on the left side of the infield. Even with the trade of Chris Young, the D-backs have depth in the outfield and are expected to trade one of their veterans, either for a left-side infielder or as part of a package to acquire a starting pitcher.
The D-backs satisifed their need for another power bullpen arm by adding Heath Bell. They could find their left-handed specialist on the free-agent market, although that also could be addressed internally. One situational lefty who has caught the organization’s attention is Eury De La Rosa, who went 4-4 with eight saves and a 2.84 ERA at Class AA Mobile.
The D-backs traded for Cahill and re-signed Joe Saunders to give them four veteran starters in 2012, although the elbow injury to Daniel Hudson early last season created a hole. The addition of a veteran this season would serve as a buffer to protect young starters Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer. Corbin spent the final two months in the rotation last season, and Skaggs was there a month, with inconsistent results. Bauer, the D-backs’ minor league pitcher of the year, scuffled in his short time in the majors. Hudson is not expected back until August, at the earliest.
Corbin, Skaggs and Bauer are the three most advanced pitching prospects in the organization, but they not only the only ones. Left-hander David Holmberg, acquired with Hudson in the Edwin Jackson trade with the Chicago White Sox in 2010, has shown command of three pitches. Right-hander Chase Anderson recovered from an elbow injury with a strong season at Mobile and has continued it in the Arizona Fall League, where he was the league’s pitcher of the week last week. He struck out four in two scoreless innings in the Rising Stars game Saturday, an exhibition for top prospects that proved a rousing success with an attendance of 5,713 at Salt River Fields.
Right-hander Archie Bradley, like Bauer a first-round draft pick in 2011, is on a fast track a year out of high school. Right-handers Anthony Meo and Andrew Chafin, also 2011 draft picks, finished first and third in strikeouts in the hitter-friendly California League with advanced Class A Visalia.
If it takes two of that group to land a proven starter, the D-backs would strongly consider it. Towers demonstrated a willingness to deal a touted prospect for a proven veteran last winter when Jarrod Parker was the centerpiece of a swap for Cahill.
“We are looking at a front end of the line guy, a one, two or three,” president/CEO Derrick Hall said. “It has to be worth it. You hate to lose any of your assets, but we are so lucky to have so many good young pitchers. We have an abundance. We understand we may have to move something to get something.”
Towers believes the assessment of the organization’s pitching riches goes beyond the D-backs inner sanctum.
“If you ask 29 of the other clubs, the people I talk to, if they could trade our young pitching for their pitching, they would probably do it,” he said. “They would want our young pitching. We’re in good position.
“We’ve got guys who have strikeout-ability, which is what you want up here, people who can get good hitters out.”
The D-backs do not expect a trade to come until the winter meetings the first week of December, although something could break sooner.