NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Justin Upton might have been the most discussed Diamondback on the internet and in the winding Opryland hotel hallways as the winter meetings officially opened Monday, but he was not the most popular D-back in trade discussions, general manager Kevin Towers said.
Towers would not to go there. Trevor Bauer? Gerardo Parra? It is not fair to speculate, and no one was talking. But suffice it to say the D-backs have gotten a lot of face time with a lot of teams as they discuss possible trades and free-agent signings. They met with four or five teams Sunday night, Towers said, and were expected to talk with eight or nine more by the time the first full day of the meetings was done Monday night.
“I always use this (event) to meet with as many clubs as you can,” Towers said. “I don’t know if that means being aggressive, but we’re not here to sit on our hands. I wouldn’t say we are on the verge of making a trade at this time, but we’ve talked to a lot of teams and plan to talk to more.”
The D-backs’ shopping list remains the same – a starting pitcher, a shortstop, a third baseman, a corner infield bench bat and a left-handed reliever, perhaps in the Rule 5 draft. The D-backs remain interested in catcher Wil Nieves, Towers said, and their decision to not offer him arbitration Friday was based on the belief that the $800,000 or so he would have received would stretched their budget. Henry Blanco also is an option, Towers said. The D-backs declined Blanco’s $1.24 million option for 2013, ostensibly for the same reason they did not offer Nieves.
Texas remains linked to Upton because of its excess at shortstop, but one source said Monday that there is “nothing there.” Things can change, of course. That’s what the teams are here for. The Rangers are reported to be interested in re-signing free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton, but Towers said he did not expect other teams to stay inactive until Hamilton comes off the board.
“There are a lot of people who are looking for outfielders. So some people probably aren’t willing to wait that long,” Towers said.
Baltimore plans to meet with the D-backs about Upton, an American League source said, but the D-backs do not believe there is a fit. The Orioles will not deal Manny Machado, their top young talent who could play shortstop or third base. The D-backs have shown interest in Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, another source said, but a match appears unlikely. Seibu Lions shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, who toured the D-backs facility the day before Thanksgiving, has been linked to Oakland, as has Stephen Drew.
If the D-backs acquire a starter, Towers indicated, it will be either a bonafide No. 1 or a Trevor Cahill type, both in terms of ability and salary control. Cahill, who threw 200 innings in 2012, had five years of control when the D-backs acquired him from Oakland last season. That philosophy holds, Towers said: “If we acquired that player for three years, we are happy to be locked in for three years.”
Cahill’s former Oakland teammate, Brandon McCarthy, is one of the few free agents who might be available at a reasonable cost. The D-backs are interested in McCarthy, a source with knowledge of their thinking said Monday. The Kyle Lohses and Ryan Dempsters of the free-agent pool seem out of range. Ricky Nolasco, who wants out of Miami, is not a target.
“I feel the market is somewhat inflated, and we don’t want to fish in those ponds right now,” Towers said. “To me a lot of the second-tier guys are being paid like first-year guys, but I don’t think we are willing to go there. That’s why we are not talking to a lot of free agents in terms of pitching.”
After Ian Kennedy, Cahill and Wade Miley, the D-backs’ starting candidates are Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer and possibly Josh Collmenter.
“If we are looking at bringing in a pitcher … it would have to be the right guy at the top end of the rotation that we think is a difference-maker on our ball club if we are going to take innings away from our young guys” Towers said. “The one-year rental type guys are probably not the type of guys that we’re targeting. I’d rather give the innings to the Corbins, Skaggses and Bauers.”
The D-backs will listen on all of their outfielders. In addition to his bat, Upton offers fiscal stability for the next three years. He is to make $9.75 million in 2013, $14.25 in 2014 and $14.5 in 2015. The D-backs are not concerned that the trade talk with affect him in a negative way.
“It’s part of the business. No difference than a GM on the hot seat as being fired,” Towers said. “These guys are well-paid professionals. Rumors happen. Your name is going to be asked about in trades. The good ones are able to kind of put on their blinders and say ‘I can only worry about what I can control. I’m not going to let it affect me.’ “
NOTES: Adam Eaton is out of his cast, Towers said, and should be ready for spring training after suffering a broken bone on the outside of his right hand in the final week of the regular season. … The D-backs recently added five minor-league free agents: left-handed pitchers Rommie Lewis and Eddie Bonine, first baseman Kila Kaaihue, catcher Humberto Cota and outfielder Brad Snyder. All have invitations to major-league spring training. Lewis, 30, is pitching in the Dominican Republic this winter and touched 94 mph with his fastball last week, scouts said, while pitching consistently in the 89-92 mph range. He made 20 relief appearances for Toronto in the last two seasons. Kaaihue, 28, has 15 home runs in 411 major league at-bats in the last four seasons with Kansas City and with Oakland. He hit .234 with nine doubles, four homers and 14 RBI for Oakland last season but was optioned when the A’s decided to move Brandon Moss from the outfield to first base. … The D-backs sold right-hander Brad Bergesesn to the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese Central League. Bergesen was removed from the roster before the arbitration deadline.