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Moves That Might Bring

The D-backs Back In Contention

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Tony LaRussa, The Arizona Diamondbacks Head Honcho For Baseball, Wants A Winning Team On The Field, But In Order To Accomplishment That Feat, Maybe They Should Sign Melky Cabrera And Trade Some Fan Favorites

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Nov. 19, 2014 — It seems as though we’re in the midst of a sports renaissance here in the desert.

The Cardinals are at the top of the NFL, the Coyotes have been relevant since Dave Tippett took over, the Suns are one of the NBA’s most competitive young teams and the Phoenix Mercury is coming off a championship win.

In the collegiate ranks, the Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats are also enjoying terrific seasons in football and credible records in basketball — with the Cats as national championship contenders. The two major universities also have plenty of players in the pipeline to prevent quick regressions. Overall, Arizona sports teams are doing very well for themselves.

What will it take for the Diamondbacks to join that group?

The team struggled to a 64-98 record last season and finished in the cellar in the NL West. But, for all of Arizona’s shortcomings, the Diamondbacks aren’t as far from success as that record might indicate. With a new general manager, manager and several key players returning from injury, Arizona could find itself in contention for a playoff spot next season.

No, this is not a column designed to mimic Tony LaRussa. The new baseball operations chief has said he would be “heart broken” if the team didn’t get to 82 wins and that he, too, thinks an improved record is not far off.

Unlike LaRussa, though, I can attempt to predict the future and chart a best path for how get there. Because while the bedrock is there — a legitimate perennial MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt and young talent galore in the pipeline — they need some pieces that can deliver in 2015 to get back into contention in the short-term.

The team already made a decent move when it traded for pitcher Jeremy Hellickson from the Tampa Bay Rays. Hellickson had an off year last season after undergoing elbow surgery (bone chips), but is historically a decent number two or three pitcher in the rotation and Dave Stewart is rightfully expecting him to perform that way.

But with the elbow and declining numbers every year since his rookie campaign, he’s definitely a risk, but the Diamondbacks didn’t give up too much. They traded minor league prospects Justin Williams and Andrew Velazquez for Hellickson.

Here are some other moves the Diamondbacks could make to bolster the roster.

Sign Melky Cabrera
The Diamondbacks need some stability in the outfield. After getting rid of Gerardo Parra last season, the team could use a solid right fielder. AJ Pollock is a lock to start in center, Mark Trumbo will start in left if his glove isn’t too much of a liability, but right field isn’t decided.

David Peralta looked pretty good in spot starts last season, but he likely isn’t the full time answer at the position. Cody Ross is on the roster, too, but he’s been up and down in his career in Arizona and really didn’t look good in the field or at the plate last season.

Cabrera, on the other hand, would give the Diamondbacks a solid starter in right. He’s got decent power (even without the roids), can bat near .300 and gets on base at an above average clip. He’s also a solid defender with a strong arm. If he can match last year’s production (16 HR, 73 RBI, 81 runs), the Diamondbacks would be lucky to have him.

Sign another starting pitcher
While a starting rotation of Wade Miley, Josh Collmenter, Hellickson, and the best out of Chase Anderson, Vidal Nuno, Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley or Aaron Blair doesn’t sound that bad, last season taught us that it can’t hurt to have too much starting pitching.

The Diamondbacks aren’t going to be players for the top pitchers on the market like Max Scherzer or Jon Lester. But, they could sign a second-tier starter to add some security to the rotation.

As crazy as it might sound, the Diamondbacks best bet might be Brandon McCarthy. Sure, the team parted ways with the pitcher after he had a rough start last year, but McCarthy rebounded to turn in a stellar second half for the Yankees. He finished the season with a 4.05 ERA but had a 2.89 ERA in just over 90.1 innings with New York.

McCarthy’s poor performance had a lot to do with Arizona’s management’s insistence that he quit throwing his cutter so often. So, he reverted to lesser pitches and his performance suffered. When McCarthy went to New York, he began using the cutter and his performance improved. With new management in place, McCarthy doesn’t have to worry about the anti-cutter mafia coming after him.

Other possible targets are Ervin Santana, Hiroki Kuroda and Jason Hammel. Some even say they might go after James Shields, but in all reality it si probably more smoke than fire on that front. The Cubs need him more and they have much deeper pockets.

Trade Aaron Hill
After a few down seasons, Hill’s value isn’t what it once was. But, in a shallow second base market, there are still a few teams out there that will jump at the chance to get a player with 20+ home run potential.

The Diamondbacks won’t get any game changers back in return, but may be able to get a solid bullpen arm or a backend starter to bolster the pitching staff.

Oakland, Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami, Kansas City and New York (AL) could all use an upgrade at second base.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have two young infielders in Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed who could step in and play the position. Losing Hill would likely have the biggest impact on Jake Lamb, who might be forced to be the everyday third baseman.

Trade Miguel Montero
This is the one that seems to make the most sense. Miguel Montero is the only player who actually broke in when they wore the purple uniforms. It was thought that one day he moight blossom into a star but he is just a good player. Nothing wrong with that, but he’s a bit overpriced: he’s had a WAR of 0.7 in 2014 and 0.5 in 2013.

The team seems to really like Peter O'Brien whom they got in the above-mentioned Brandon McCarthy trade. His bat is ready and maybe his defensive skills will be a quick fix thanks to the help of Henry Blanco and Glenn Sherlock. Even if he is not, a journeyman — i.e. cheaper — catcher can fill in admirably.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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