Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers has never been shy about pulling the trigger on a big offseason move.
But after back-to-back .500 seasons, it’s clear not all of his recent moves — be it trading Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves for Martin Prado, Randall Delgado and a handful of minor leaguers, Jarrod Parker to the Oakland Athletics for Trevor Cahill or signing Brandon McCarthy and Cody Ross to two and three-year deals respectively — have gone according to plan.
No more so is this clear then with the team’s starting rotation.
While Towers has certainly made a point to create a level of depth in that department — trading for Cahill, trading for Delgado, signing McCarthy and holding on to prospects like Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs — it hasn’t exactly equated to production.
In 2013, Arizona starters went 46-59 with a 4.13 ERA (11th in the NL), 725 strikeouts (11th in the NL) and an opponent batting average of .264 (13th in the NL). And if not for an All-Star caliber first half by Corbin, who made the team as a back-end starter coming out of camp, those numbers would have been even worse.
Towers has already tried to amend the problem on one front by firing pitching coach Charles Nagy and replacing him with former New York Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey. But according to ESPN.com’s senior baseball writer Jerry Crasnick, the D-backs GM also plans to make acquiring a top-end starter his No. 1 priority this winter.
And in Crasnick’s estimation, the team’s sights are set on two pitchers in particular.
If the Diamondbacks try to acquire an elite starter by trade, the natural targets are Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Chicago Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija, both of whom are being mentioned in speculation because they’re two years shy of free agency. At the moment, the Cubs are still trying to sign Samardzija to an extension, and sources say Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman has yet to fully engage in discussions about Price.
Samardzija would seemingly come a little cheaper, as he has a career 29-35 record with a 4.19 ERA. In his first two seasons as a big-league starter, the former Notre Dame standout has lost a combined 26 games and hasn’t had a WHIP lower than 1.21.
On the other hand, Price is a year removed from a Cy Young season in which he went 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 8.7 strikeouts/per nine ratio. In 2013, in what was largely considered a “down season,” the 28-year-old went 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA.
While it would likely take a hefty package to pry Price from Tampa, one name not expected to be thrown in the mix is 21-year-old Archie Bradley.
Here’s what Towers told Crasnick in regards to Bradley’s availability in trade:
“I don’t see that happening. Not that anybody is untouchable, but we’re hoping he’s our David Price, and we can control him [for several years].
“He’s gonna get every opportunity to crack our rotation this spring. He’s pretty much dominated every level he’s been at. The more you test him, the better he is. He’s not looking to make our rotation as the fifth guy — he’s looking to make it as the ace.”
Whether Towers is actually able to obtain a highly-coveted starting pitcher remains to be seen. However with team president Ken Kendrick boasting back in November about the team’s increased payroll and a rival out in Los Angeles that continues to prove that high salaries are not a hinderance when it comes to building a championship team, something is bound to happen — sooner rather than later.