All general managers have strengths and weaknesses, some of which are easier to observe than others. When it comes to the Diamondbacks’ Kevin Towers, the ability to construct a solid bullpen without breaking the bank is clearly the feather in his cap. Towers first worked that magic during his 15-year tenure with the Padres, before bringing it with him to Arizona in September 2010. Last offseason—while the Tigers and Yankees were busy dishing out expensive, three-year deals to Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano—Towers bolstered the Diamondbacks’ pen with three low-cost moves.
J.J. Putz inked a two-year, $10 million hitch with Arizona, and outperformed both Benoit and Soriano with a 1.1 WARP effort as the closer. David Hernandez, acquired from the Orioles in the Mark Reynolds deal, posted a 2.91 FIP as Putz’s primary set-up man. And Joe Paterson, a shrewd Rule 5 pick from the division-rival Giants, blossomed into an elite LOOGY, holding opposing lefty batters to a .205/.292/.242 triple-slash.
In 2010, the D’backs ranked dead last in the league with a putrid 5.72 bullpen ERA. One year of the Kevin Towers treatment pared that mark down to 3.71, good for 14th. And Towers’ two most recent moves have Arizona’s relief corps looking deeper and stronger for 2012—at a combined cost of about $2 million.
On Monday, the Diamondbacks agreed to a one-year, $1.75 million deal with Takashi Saito. Saito will be 42 by Opening Day, but he was very effective for the Brewers last season, particularly against right-handed batters, and could form a deadly seventh-inning platoon with Paterson. On Tuesday, Arizona brought in Jonathan Albaladejo—once a promising relief prospect who bounced around the Nationals, Pirates, and Yankees farm systems before making his way to Japan last year—on a minor-league deal. The 29-year-old Albaladejo pitched 63
Barring any significant moves in the coming weeks, the Diamondbacks will pay about $12 million to their entire bullpen for the 2012 season, including the recent acquisition of Craig Breslow in the Trevor Cahill deal with the A’s. That’s roughly what the Phillies will pay Jonathan Papelbon alone.