D-backs all in to win in 2014
Key additions and record payroll have Arizona primed for success
SYDNEY -- Consecutive 81-81 seasons had the D-backs searching for answers this past offseason.
Players talked constantly during winter workouts at the team's Salt River Fields Spring Training facility about ways in which they could make the clubhouse environment even better.
"It starts getting exciting when you talk about, 'What can we do to win?'" first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "'What can we do to play better? How can we get the best out of our team and individuals and our abilities?' It's fun to talk to guys and have everybody moving in the same direction."
That direction includes getting back to the playoffs, something the club did in 2011, when it won the National League West.
"It's an angry group that knows we want to win this year," veteran pitcher Brandon McCarthy said. "Nobody wants to be sitting at home in October again and watching other teams. It gets old when you do it."
Meanwhile, the front office did its part to improve things.
Looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter, the D-backs went all in on free agent Masahiro Tanaka before losing out to the Yankees. They eventually settled for free-agent right-hander Bronson Arroyo, whom they signed right after camp opened.
|Projected Opening Day lineup|
Feeling that his team was lacking in power, general manager Kevin Towers traded for one of the game's big sluggers in left fielder Mark Trumbo, even though it meant parting with prospects Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs.
After watching his team blow 29 saves last season -- tied for the Major League lead -- Towers decided to add to his bullpen depth by trading for White Sox closer Addison Reed. And not satisfied with the way his left-handed relievers looked during Spring Training, he inked Oliver Perez to a two-year contract.
"I think ownership certainly has given [manager Kirk Gibson] and me the resources and the payroll flexibility to go out and fulfill all our needs," Towers said. "We added power in Trumbo, we added a back-end guy in Reed, we added Arroyo as a veteran starter, we added a Perez as a lefty reliever, we got [Eric] Chavez back because we wanted a weapon coming off the bench. Our payroll is going to be over $100 million, and over $100 million, you should win."
With all the moves, the payroll soared to a record $110 million.
"We've made some key additions," veteran second baseman Aaron Hill said. "Our team was a lot better than that last year, and we've improved and made our team even better with some additions in the bullpen and Trumbo."
Trading prospects and reaching a record payroll mean the D-backs are all in to win in 2014.
"We're going to spend money if we see players that are going to make a difference," managing general partner Ken Kendrick said.
W: Kershaw L: Miley SV: Jensen
As Towers surveyed his team just prior to leaving for Australia, he liked what he saw, though he did say remaining healthy would be a key.
One day later, ace Patrick Corbin partially tore his ulnar collateral ligament, all but certainly ending his 2014 season and dealing a blow to a team that was counting on him to lead the rotation once again.
Wade Miley was named to start in place of Corbin on Opening Day, and Trevor Cahill will get the ball in the second game. How the rotation shakes out after that will be determined in the week the D-backs have between the Dodgers series and the reopening of the season on March 31 against the Giants.
McCarthy is the only certainty at this point, as Arroyo has been battling a bulging disc in his back and hopes to be ready for his first turn through the rotation. Arizona could turn to Randall Delgado, Archie Bradley or Bo Schultz to take Corbin's spot.
The bullpen looks far deeper, with Reed closing and J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler setting him up. Hernandez has thrown the ball well this spring and looks more like the 2011-12 version than 2013, which is good news for the D-backs.
Perez and Joe Thatcher provide left-handed options, and Josh Collmenter proved to be extremely valuable in his swing role last season. Just like the rotation, the final mix of the bullpen will not be certain until March 31.
Offensively, Arizona is banking on Miguel Montero to return to form after a disappointing 2013. If he does, the lineup could be formidable, with Goldschmidt, Trumbo, Hill and Martin Prado. Outfielders A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra figure to trade off between the leadoff and seventh spots.
"I think guys are excited to get going. We have a very talented team all around -- starting pitching, bullpen, defense, hitting. The front office brought in some new pieces, and we have some new coaches," Goldschmidt said. "Guys have been working hard, and now it's kind of up to the players to go out there and play and take advantage of the opportunity that's in front of us."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.