For a moment at least, I for once found myself agreeing with Diamondback’s GM Kevin Towers on something; on the morning radio show on Arizona Sports 98.7 with Doug and Wolf, Towers said of his team’s sluggish start, “We realize it’s April. We don’t want to panic, we don’t want the players to think we’re panicking. But to me, if things don’t get better, I think change needs to happen.” ‘Finally,’ I thought, ‘he’s recognized that Arizona’s starting pitching isn’t up to scratch. Maybe now we’ll see Archie Bradley called up to the majors – let me go check my fantasy teams’ waiver wire.’ Alas, Towers had other plans; it has since been announced (as reported earlier by Jacobo Hakim on MLB Nation), that the D’Backs have instead signed Randy Wolf to a minor league deal, and also plan on transitioning Josh Collmenter back into the starting rotation after his beginning the year in the ‘pen.
Not exactly the moves I had in mind, but at least an honest admission of the pitching incompetency behind Arizona’s early struggles.
At 4-8 (even after taking their last two games from the San Francisco Giants), Arizona have been repeatedly burnt by the negligible contributions of their starters. With presumptive ace Patrick Corbin pronounced out for the year before the season opener in Australia, darn near everyone who needed to step up in his absence has so far failed to do so; Trevor Cahill has been rocked to an 0-3 record, giving up 12 runs and 29 base runners through his first 13.2 combined innings (this after accruing a 6.95 ERA and 1.82 WHIP in 22 Spring Training innings). Brandon McCarthy – of whom I despise pointing out flaws purely because of his hilarious Twitter account – and his 7.82 ERA (with four home runs allowed through 12.1 innings) hasn’t fared much better. Randall Delgado too has been a welcome sight to opposing hitters, allowing nine earned runs in his first eight innings of work and posting a nauseating 2.88 WHIP along the way. Not even offseason addition Bronson Arroyo has been able to provided a spark – his typically ‘meh’ 4.82 ERA bettered only by Wade Miley (4.05 through his first three starts). With 72 runs allowed through their first 12 games – 32 alone resulting from pitches thrown by the CahCarthGado pu pu platter – if there was ever a team in dire need of rotation help, this Arizona squad would be it.
How much of that sorely-needed help can be gained by signing Wolf and moving Collmenter however, seems dubious. How much help can Towers realistically expect from a 37-year old Wolf, who will be trying to resurrect his late-career comeback from a second Tommy John surgery after being (rather ignominiously) cut from the Seattle mariners this spring? The last time he was seen on an ML bump in 2012, Wolf was providing Milwaukee, and for a short spell, Baltimore too, with -1 WAR value and a 5.65 ERA. Collmenter too, figures to be of little help; the whole reason he was in the bullpen in the first place was because of his awry time as a starter (once his funky delivery was seen enough times, the Michigan man became home run fodder). Judging by his splits, the 28-year-old quite belongs in his current role as the team’s long man.
No, the real help lies in wait in Reno – and via the school of ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ reasoning, can’t be called up soon enough. Back in my pre-season preview series I documented how Archie Bradley might be the difference maker for the Diamondbacks but would likely be held back with a view to limiting his service time, and as it turned out – to no one’s surprise – he was. Now though, with his big league ship plummeting quickly, it’s time for Towers to blow up that conservative plan of common logic lest he want to see Arizona’s season down the drain by the time Bradley would have originally arrived – the ninth best prospect in all of baseball per Baseball Prospectus is needed to keep the runs off the board at Chase Field right now rather than simply dominating down in Nevada.
Propping up the NL West, 3 games back of the division leading Dodger and Giants after less than two weeks of play already, the Diamondbacks need to get going, and quickly, if they’re to be playing for any meaningful purpose come August. Quite rightly, they’re throwing everything against the wall in hope of something sticking, but I fear that instead of shoring up the rotation, the measures taken so far will rather merely have the effect of a band-aid on a gaping wound. Aggressively calling up Bradley, though a drastic measure, may well be Towers’ last hope in regards to salvaging 2014 in Arizona.