D-backs seeking arms in 'lightning round'
PHOENIX -- At a news conference announcing the Ryan Roberts trade last week, Kevin Towers' cell phone went off.
The ring tone: the theme from "A Fistful of Dollars."
What else? Towers does not bring a serape and a stubby cigar into trade negotiations, but the soundtrack fits.
The Gunslinger is always itching to make something happen. Just try him.
The D-backs added third baseman Chris Johnson in a deal with the Astros on Sunday and now are targeting pitching, Towers said before boarding the team flight to Los Angeles.
"Teams that win and go deep in the postseason do it with pitching,” Towers said.
Towers did not specify whether he was seeking rotation or bullpen help. It could be either. Or both. Since Josh Collmenter has emerged as a swing man who can handle both roles, Towers could go either way. It's on his resume.
Just one case in point: David Wells, a very late acquisition in 2006, helped the Padres win the NL West pennant.
In his first trade-deadline season in Arizona, Towers acquired reliever Brad Ziegler and starter Jason Marquis last year. Ziegler has been outstanding since. If not for a fractured ankle, Marquis would have contributed down the stretch.
Whom will it be this season? Time will tell.
But it will be someone.
Right-hander Kevin Correia has requested a trade after losing his spot in the Pirates' starting rotation to newcomer Wandy Rodriguez, and he could be an option, as Towers and Correia know each other from their time in San Diego.
Correia, 8-6, is nearing his fourth consecutive season with at least 10 wins, and the Pirates are said to be looking to add position-player depth, possibly at shortstop. The D-backs are heavy on the left side of the infield with Johnson in the fold and could afford to make a move there.
There are numerous scenarios probably just as likely, but the D-backs will have to do something Monday to create roster space for Johnson. Rookie third baseman Ryan Wheeler appears safe, as Towers talked about getting giving him a good look down the stretch.
Johnson is the kind of incremental in-season upgrade for which Towers has earned his reputation. The D-backs' third basemen were 27th in the major leagues in OPS before Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the Mets, and Johnson should benefit from a change of scenery.
He was one of the few major league-caliber players still with the Astros when they arrived here last Monday, as he proved by going 4 for 11 with three doubles and two RBI in the D-backs’ three-game sweep. Surrounding him with quality hitters should only help.
The deal cost the D-backs two pieces they will never need -- Double-A Mobile outfielders Marc Krauss and Bobby Borchering -- given their outfield depth in the high minor leagues. The organization considers A .J. Pollock and Adam Eaton major league-ready, and the D-backs already are four deep in the outfield as it is.
It is the kind of from-strength-to-address-weakness transaction that smart teams make, and it is another reason the D-backs will listen on outfielders Justin Upton, Chris Young and Gerardo Parra this winter. But that's a story for another day.
The D-backs enter their 10-game road trip in win mode, 4 1/2 games behind both the Dodgers and Giants in the NL West after Los Angeles took three straight at AT&T Park over the weekend to move into a virtual tie.
The Dodgers gained three games in three days, and the D-backs certainly believe they have a run in them, too. Because of that, they are almost certain not to make a major shuffle in the "lightning round," as Towers likes to call the final hours leading up to the nonwaiver trade deadline at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Joe Saunders, who had his streak of consecutive quality starts end at six Sunday, is going nowhere unless the D-backs fall completely out of contention in the next few weeks, a scenario that seems unlikely after a 7-3 homestand that built momentum for a 10-game trip that also includes stops in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
The D-backs have a lot of belief in young pitching prospects such as Trevor Bauer, Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs, Bauer’s struggles in his brief time in the majors notwithstanding. At the same time, Saunders' experience pitching in pennant races is invaluable.
Drew remains a more likely candidate to be dealt because he is all but certain to enter the free-agent pool after this season. The D-backs spoke with the Tigers about a Drew-for-Jhonny Peralta deal before Detroit turned to Atlanta’s Omar Infante last week.
The A's appear to be in the market for a shortstop and were said to be interested in Toronto’s Yunel Escobar, but talks apparently have cooled. Drew might be a fit with former D-backs manager Bob Melvin, whose A’s are pulling a 2007 D-backs with their "anybody, any time" run.
So hunker down. Given his record, Towers will do something.
And given his record, it will make the D-backs better.