Miner Staff Reporter
What went wrong? Now that the final week of baseball season is upon us, that's the million-dollar question facing the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It's simple: pitching command, particularly in the rotation. That's the one thing they have to address during the off-season, given the position they were in earlier.
A few weeks ago, the D-backs were on a seemingly clear path to the 2013 Major League Baseball postseason. They were in the hunt for a possible wild card berth and had a chance to surpass the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National League West division title.
Then Arizona's playoff hopes came to a screeching halt last Thursday at home - against the Dodgers, of all teams. Already an issue for him over the past few weeks, starting pitcher Wade Miley again struggled with his command and keeping the ball in the diamond.
He surrendered a three-run home run to Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who smashed it to deep left field. While the offense did more than enough to pull Miley out of the gutter with six runs in the third inning, Ramirez gave Arizona fits - again.
He took reliever Chaz Roe deep to left-center field in the top of the seventh, hitting his second bomb of the day. In the eighth inning, L.A. catcher A.J. Ellis hit a line drive straight to seats in left field off of Arizona reliever Josh Collmenter.
Before you start cringing about the bullpen, think about it.
Guys like Roe and Collmenter aren't the top bullpen arms. Brad Ziegler, Heath Bell and J.J. Putz (all of whom have previous closing experience) have been unhealthy for much of this final stretch.
When the rotation got into trouble, Roe had to be someone who could mend the early wreckage. He isn't that type of pitcher. Nothing against Roe, but the predicaments Arizona faced are the kinds that Ziegler, Bell and Putz have been known for in the past. Those guys have to be 100 percent healthy next season if Arizona wants to thrive down the stretch - meaning the final six weeks.
You have to go back to the rotation. What can be done? Get a dependable arm (or two) to add the depth they lack. They need guys who not only can go six innings or more, but who also have solid command and can keep the ball in play.
Here are a couple names that could suffice: Toronto's J.A. Happ and Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa (yes, I'm serious about De La Rosa - and for a good reason).
Happ, 39-42 since 2007, has the experience pitching in the National League (Philadelphia from 2007-2009, Houston in 2010 and 2011, heading into late July 2012 when he was dealt to Toronto). Having already won a World Series ring with the Phillies in 2008, Happ can add stability to the rotation. He is also known for mixing up his pitches effectively, most notably his curveball and both fastballs (two-seam and four-seam). And his $3.7 million salary is beyond reasonable for the D-backs.
But if Arizona really wants to shoot for the stars in landing a quality starter, why not Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa? While his $11 million salary may be too much of a burden, they'd be smart to inquire about his services.
Since 2008, De La Rosa has been the Rockies' most consistent starter. When healthy, he's confident with his command. Pitching at Coors Field, of all places, became the turning point in his career. That transitioned into being a dependable presence on the mound, regardless of which park it is.
He can get the ground out or big strikeout. In critical moments, he throws with poise. He may not be top-of-the-line, but he can lead the rotation. He also knows the NL West well, which would be an even greater incentive from Arizona's perspective.
And let's not forget the Monfort brothers (having moved here to Kingman from Denver, I can tell you first-hand that Rockies fans can't stand the sight of those guys, their financial decisions). If it means they'd have the chance to dump De La Rosa's salary, they'd do what they can to unload that ample wad of cash.
They're not quite the opposite of the New York Yankees, financially speaking, but they don't have the highest salary cap either. Assessing risk versus reward, Arizona should think about De La Rosa or someone of his caliber.
The lineup is intact for the long run, so there's no need to mess with it. Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollack, Matt Davidson, Didi Gregorius and Gerardo Parra are a strong foundation.
If Arizona can bolster the rotation, 2014 should be fun times.