D-backs to go after ‘pitching, pitching, pitching’

PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks like the three minor league prospects they received in the "lightning round" hours just before the nonwaiver trade deadline ended Thursday afternoon. They love the money they saved.

With a wallet suddenly $33 million or so fatter after trading Martin Prado to the New York Yankees and Gerardo Parra to Milwaukee, the D-backs plan to attack their major area of need — starting pitching.

"Probably pitching, pitching, pitching, for us to get back to where we were in ’11," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said of the offseason target areas.

"We are either going to develop those guys or trade for those guys. I know that Ken (managing partner Kendrick) and Derrick (president/CEO Hall) want to win. I don’t see us breaking this thing all the way down. I think we want to get back up to speed more in the short term than the long term."

The D-backs acquired power hitting catching prospect Peter O’Brien from the Yankees for Prado, and obtained outfielder Mitch Haniger and left-hander Anthony Bando from the Brewers. O’Brien has 33 home runs, third highest in the minors leagues while playing at two levels this summer.

None is expected in the majors this season and maybe next, although the D-backs believe Haniger is closest. 

The return truly is in the future as the D-backs look to rebuild a starting staff behind Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, perhaps Archie Bradley and a group of other candidates that includes Chase Anderson and Josh Collmenter. The D-backs have traded major league starters Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs in the last two offseasons, and although neither is having a strong season, it has tested their depth.

D-backs at the deadline

The next level of top prospects — 2013 draft choices Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair among them — appear to be several years away from the majors.

Towers, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and the D-backs’ scouts were busy until the 1 p.m. Thursday deadline, when the Prado/O’Brien trade was finalized. The D-backs also received a lot of hits on relievers Brad Ziegler and Oliver Perez, Towers said, but nothing good enough to keep them from dismantling a bullpen that looks to be a strength moving forward.

"My only two cents has been, my job is to evaluate our organization and evaluate the big league club," La Russa said. "For us to get better, there are some priorities. You take the areas of strength and you build from them to get to something else.

"I know Kevin has said it, and so has Derrick — pitching is a big priority. The human cost is a good one, because these guys (Prado and Parra) are high character guys. But when you look at your job, the responsibility is to present a team that contends and hopefully plays in October … then we have work to do. I really like some of the flexibility that we are going to get financially to move toward areas of need."

The Yankees agreed to take all of the remaining $25 million remaining on Prado’s contract through 2016, a selling point the D-backs could not overlook. Parra would have made about $6 million-$7 million in a final year of arbitration in 2015 before possibly going away as a free agent in 2016.

The emergence of outfielder David Peralta made Parra expendable, and two of the D-backs’ best position player prospects are Double-A Mobile third baseman Jake Lamb and High-A Visalia third baseman Brandon Drury. Parra is hitting .259 with six home runs and 30 RBI this season, and his peripherals are down. He is hitting .212 against left-handed pitchers and .165 with runners in scoring position, and some scouts believe he has lost a step in the outfield after winning Gold Gloves in left field in 2011 and right field in 2013, his first season there after replacing Justin Upton.

Prado, hitting .270 with five home runs and 42 RBI, was the major piece the D-backs received in the seven-player Upton trade with Atlanta before last season. Drury was a part of that package.

Peralta entered the first game of a homestand against Pittsburgh on Thursday hitting .313 with three homers and 19 RBI in 47 games since being promoted from Double-A Mobile on June 1, and he started in right field three times on the D-backs’ recent road trip.

Dealing Prado and Parra "is the worst part of my job," Towers said.

"Families are affected. Both these players loved being D-backs. (Parra) actually teared up when I had to talk to him in the clubhouse today. This is all he’s ever known. He has been an incredible Diamondback. I am going to miss some of the plays he made defensively. I wish him nothing but the best in Milwaukee. I’m sure they are going to enjoy watching him out there, and he was a big part of my first year when we won the division in 2011."

The D-backs will spend the final two months of the season scouting pitchers, both as potential trades acquisitions and free agent signees, Towers said. Corbin has missed the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring, and Bronson Arroyo will miss the rest of the year after the same operation. Miley is the only starter who has been in the rotation all season.

Towers see it as a simple formula.

"For us to contend, we are going to have to get our pitching up to speed," Towers said, ticking off the names of the Dodgers’ big three, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

"You have to have those big horses at the top."

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