D'Backs pick up Heilman from Cubs for minor leaguers

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piniella heilman.jpgAaron Heilman was traded for a third time in 12 months Wednesday, going from the Cubs to the Diamondbacks for prospects Scott Maine and Ryne White.
There’s a good chance the Cubs would have non-tendered Heilman. The former Met did bounce back from an awful 2008, lowering his ERA from 5.21 to 4.11 last season, but he still wasn’t close to the same kind of reliever he was in 2006 and 2007. One of the game’s most reliable setup men, he combined to pitch a whopping 173 innings with a 3.33 ERA and 49 holds between those seasons. His strikeout rate has remained strong since, but he’s been giving up more homers and walks and it’s been hard to trust him late in close games as a result.
The Diamondbacks could let Heilman contend for a rotation spot, as he did with the Cubs last spring before being returned to the pen. Heilman would certainly prefer to start games, as he made clear in New York on numerous occasions. Heilman does have the advantage of being very good against left-handed hitters, thanks to his plus changeup. Still, as shaky as he’s been working an inning at a time these last couple of years, there’s little reason to think he’s ready to emerge as a quality starter.
In Maine and White, the Diamondbacks received a couple of fringe prospects. Maine, a 2007 sixth-round pick, had a 2.90 ERA and a 61/22 K/BB ratio in 62 IP while being used strictly as a reliever in Double- and Triple-A last season. The former Miami Hurricane has a chance to be more than a lefty specialist out of the pen, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be a true setup man.
White, 23, was regarded as Arizona’s top first base prospect a year ago, but he couldn’t hit for power in the hitter friendly California League last season. He finished at .266/.371/.356 with six homers in 418 at-bats for Single-A Visalia. Particularly now that the Diamondbacks have young first baseman Brandon Allen, who was picked up from the White Sox for Tony Pena Jr., White was very expendable.
It’s possible that the Diamondbacks could have gotten Heilman without surrendering any talent had they waited a month, but they didn’t want to take the chance. He’s set to make a little more than $2 million in his last year of arbitration, and at that price, it’s quite possible another team would have traded for him.
My thought is that it’s a pretty good move for Arizona. Heilman has proven extremely durable, and he offers more upside than the typical pitcher who goes for $2 million or so in free agency. As for the Cubs, they get one decent prospect for a pitcher who was no longer in their plans. It’s doubtful that they could have done much better.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.

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Update (4:43 PM ET): In response to this, Manfred said that if a catcher or coach made a seventh mound visit, there would have to be a pitching change (via Fletcher). However, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said (via SB Nation’s Eric Stephen) that the seventh visit cannot trigger a pitching change. The umpire would simply have to prevent the seventh mound visit.