Welcome back to the D-backs Beat newsletter! Steve Gilbert has covered baseball for MLB.com since 2001.
When we checked in with D-backs GM
Mike Hazen before the last newsletter, he said that he thought the trade market was heating up a little bit and there was a chance that Arizona would be able to get at least one more thing done before Spring Training.
Fast forward to Saturday, when the D-backs pulled off a trade of Minor Leaguers, sending outfielder Dominic Fletcher to the White Sox for right-hander Cristian Mena.
The 21-year-old Mena made 23 starts in Double-A and four in Triple-A last year, combining for a 4.85 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 133 2/3 innings.
Mena is Arizona's No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline.
“His slider and his curveball are both really good, and he’s got a decent changeup, too,” Hazen said. “I think we’re still looking for, and we haven’t laid eyes on him yet, but some velocity gains that we think could be in there given his youth and with more maturity, and then refinement of everything. He’s certainly not a finished product. I’d very much anticipate him being in [Triple-A] Reno to start the season.”
When Hazen has traded for players on the cusp of the big leagues like Mena, he has referenced the fact that to get a player with that kind of talent, organizations need to land them sooner than later.
“We felt like it was an opportunity to get a young starting pitcher,” Hazen said. “Once they sort of break out and get to the Major League level and play and play well, you have no chance to get them. We felt like this was an opportunity for us to add a really young starting pitcher, already been to Triple-A, and we think he has really good stuff.”
Mena adds to the D-backs' starting-pitching depth in the upper level of the Minors. That group includes
Slade Cecconi and Kevin Jarvis, who both saw limited big league action last year, along with Blake Walston.
The D-backs will have a competitive camp when it comes to starting pitching. While Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and
Eduardo Rodriguez are locks to make the rotation and Brandon Pfaadt certainly has a leg up, Tommy Henry, Ryne Nelson, Cecconi and Jarvis could all get looks for the Opening Day roster.
“We can never have enough starting pitchers,” Hazen said.
That lesson was reinforced last year when Arizona had to go with bullpen games in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series and Game 4 of the World Series.
Fletcher was not an easy player to part with, but with several left-handed-hitting outfielders on the roster like Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy,
Pavin Smith and the recent signing of Joc Pederson, there was a logjam in that area.
Add to that the fact that the D-backs had re-signed outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and also have Jorge Barrosa and Caleb Roberts coming up through the system, and Hazen chose to deal from a position of strength.
Fletcher had only 93 at-bats with the D-backs last season, but considering they made the postseason by a single game, his impact can’t be understated. He drove in nine runs in a two-game span on May 12-13, leading to a pair of victories over the Giants, and he made a game-saving catch in Philadelphia 10 days later.
“He’s a really good baseball player,” Hazen said. “This is a tough one because he’s a really good player. He’s going to be a good player for them. We know that. This was just -- I don’t know, sometimes you’ve got to take some of these risks, these chances, to try to acquire something that maybe a year from now you may not be able to get.”
No one knows Fletcher better than
Josh Barfield, who was the D-backs' farm director for four years before becoming Chicago’s assistant GM.
“I think part of Dominic Fletcher is that, physically, maybe he doesn’t jump off the page from a speed standpoint and things like that,” Hazen said. “But if you go watch him play over and over again, you realize how good of a baseball player he is, and that’s something a farm director would know better than anybody.”
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