The main goal that Kevin Towers set out to do before the July 31 Trade Deadline was to improve the Diamondbacks pitching and he certainly did that in two separate moves.
Towers acquired Jason Marquis from the Washington Nationals on Saturday in exchange for minor league infield Zach Walters. Marquis, a free agent at the end of the season, is expected to fill the role as the team’s fifth starter which has been occupied by Micah Owings the last couple of weeks.
Marquis has pitched extremely well in his 20 starts so far this season. On an improved Nats team, the right-hander went 8-5 with a 3.95 ERA. That is the lowest that his ERA has been in a season since he was in St. Louis all the way back in 2004 when Marquis was a 26-year-old youngster.
Walters was drafted in the ninth round by the Diamondbacks during the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. In two seasons playing A-Ball, the 21-year-old has hit .302 with 13 homers and 99 RBI seeing most of his time playing shortstop, but also seeing time at third, second and even at the DH spot.
Most scouts see Walters as a utility player if he does ever get up to the big league level. Walters has drawn the comparison of current Diamondback Geoff Blum of what kind of player he could eventually turn into.
The Diamondbacks moves didn’t stop with just the Marquis deal.
Early Sunday morning, the Diamondbacks got right-hander reliever Brad Ziegler from the Oakland Athletics. In exchange for getting Ziegler, Arizona gave up first baseman Brandon Allen and minor league reliever Jordan Norberto.
Ziegler has quietly been one of the better middle relievers in all of the American League the past four seasons in Oakland. The 31-year-old in 2011 has pitched his best since he did during his rookie season back in 2008.
He has gone 3-2 with a 2.39 ERA in 43 appearances so far this season. Ziegler has allowed 38 hits in 37.2 innings, but he has done a great job of getting out of trouble numerous of times throughout the season.
Allen did a great job hitting at Triple-A Reno, but has struggled once again at the big league level. In 29 at-bats, Allen has hit only .172 with an eye-popping 13 strikeouts. Allen did show some pop with three home runs and seven RBI, however.
It remains to be seen where he will fit in with Oakland, but look for Billy Beane and company to have Allen start the final two months of the season in order to see what they have in the youngster.
Norberto was up briefly last season with the Diamondbacks. The left-hander really struggled throwing strikes surrendering 22 walks in only 20 innings on the mound. Norberto has continued his wildness at Triple-A Reno this season where he has allowed 26 walks in 48 innings.
If he can suddenly find the strike zone on a consistent basis, Norberto has good enough stuff to be a very effective arm out of the bullpen for Oakland, but of course that remains to be seen.
These two moves clearly make the Diamondbacks better in the short term. Marquis is a clear upgrade over Owings for the fifth spot in the rotation. Owings can now slide back to the bullpen, where he pitched very well in the beginning of the season.
Ziegler should fit in very nicely in the seventh inning role setting up David Hernandez and J.J. Putz. Suddenly Kirk Gibson won’t have to turn to a young pitcher like Sam Demel or Bryan Shaw for a key role in the late innings when they have very little experience doing so. Ziegler does.
Probably the most important thing to take away from these two moves way that Arizona gave up very little in return. Walters ceiling is as a utility role player, which are a dime a dozen in the league. Allen was expendable with Paul Goldschmidt set to be called up today and even though Norberto has quality stuff, it is highly unlikely that he will be a reliever you can count on with his control issues.
Tip your cap to Towers. The Diamondbacks general manager improved this club without risking the future by giving up one of the team’s top prospects. Bravo Mr. Towers.