Ziegler: Trade from Arizona was bittersweet, won’t rule out return to D-backs

Jul 13, 2016, 6:00 AM | Updated: 11:40 am
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Brad Ziegler delivers during the ninth inning of the Boston Red Sox 4...
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Brad Ziegler delivers during the ninth inning of the Boston Red Sox 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Sunday, July 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
LISTEN: Brad Ziegler, Red Sox Closer & Former D-backs' Pitcher

Brad Ziegler spent parts of six seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and in that time further solidified his place in baseball as one of the game’s very best relief pitchers.

The Diamondbacks’ closer for the second half of 2015 as well as the first half of 2016, he established a franchise record for consecutive saves with 43, and at the same time was about as well respected a player as you will find on a roster.

He’s just no longer on the Diamondback’s roster.

The struggling team traded the 36-year-old pitcher to the Boston Red Sox last week in exchange for a couple of young prospects in what may be the first of a handful of moves the D-backs make with an eye toward the future.

The more the D-backs lose — they are 38-52 at the All-Star break — the more it makes sense to explore whether or not some impending free agents, like Ziegler, could be worth more to the team in what trading them could return than what they can do on the field.

Ziegler posted a 2-3 record with a 2.82 ERA and 18 saves this season for the D-backs and Tuesday, as a guest of Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, admitted to being surprised by a deal he was not necessarily hoping for, even though it sent him from a team near the bottom of the standings to one in Boston that is near the top.

“It was kind of bittersweet,” he said. “This organization has been a special place, a special time while I’ve been here. I’ve been super excited every single year and it was really fun this offseason to see them going out and acquiring players and doing everything they felt they could to make us a contender, and it was so disappointing the way the season went.

“To now kind of have a shot to make a pennant run with another team and especially one with a storied history and a phenomenal fan base, it is exciting from that standpoint. For the last two-and-a-half months of the regular season I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and try and help that team get in the playoffs.”

Ziegler has appeared in one game for the Red Sox, striking out two batters while not allowing a base runner in an inning of work. The closer in Arizona, he expects to have more of a setup man role in Boston, though there may be opportunities to lock down games depending on how the schedule shakes out.

The right-hander can’t necessarily predict that, though, just as he could not predict the struggles his now former team went through. Ziegler admitted that everyone thought the Diamondbacks would fare much, much better, adding there is no single thing that has led to their dismal record.

“It was frustrating because we didn’t know what to do,” he said. “Everybody’s giving it 100-percent effort every time we’re out there, we’re doing all the things that we needed to do to prepare, and when it came down to execution we just didn’t get the job done.

“It was frustrating; every single guy in that locker room was equally frustrated.”

That’s not to say Ziegler sees the D-backs’ future as a bleak one. A return to health for A.J. Pollock and others would help considerably, he said, because having to rotate so many players in and out of the lineup never really allowed anyone to get going.

The talent is there, he said, pointing to Jake Lamb’s arrival as “an absolute force” and a pitching staff that is talented but lacks experience.

Ziegler’s belief in his former team is genuine, and he’s probably not the only one who thinks the Diamondbacks are not nearly as bad as their record.

Better health would make a difference, yes, as would certain players performing to the level that was expected. Assuming the D-backs do not turn things and make a magical run this season, further improvements could come via offseason acquisitions.

Now, could one of those acquisitions be the re-acquisition of Ziegler? He will be a free agent, after all, and given the way he has talked about his time in Arizona, it would make sense if he had an interest in returning.

“It’s possible,” he said. “I’m not closing any doors, for sure. Like I’ve said, the fans here were great, the organization treated me well. I just never know; I never know what anybody’s thinking. There’s 29 other teams out there and I’m sure I’ll have a conversation, at some point, with Boston, but at least 28 other teams that I won’t even get a chance to talk to until the World Series is over.

“With that being the case, we’re in kind of wait-and-see mode and just see when that time comes, are there five teams that are interested? Are there 20 teams that are interested? And anywhere in between? And maybe it might only be one or two teams that are interested, and if that’s the case we’ll play those cards when they come. But right now I’m just trying to do everything I can to focus on preparing for New York on Friday and the rest of the season with Boston going forward.”

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