Arizona has been relatively quiet on the first baseman front despite letting 2010 starter Adam LaRoche walk as a free agent, and Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes that the Diamondbacks seem likely to give minor-league veteran Juan Miranda a chance to claim the everyday job.
Acquired from the Yankees for a mid-level prospect last month, Miranda has consistently posted solid numbers in the minors and is a career .287 hitter with a .374 on-base percentage and .481 slugging percentage in 301 games at Triple-A.
He was never going to get a chance stuck behind Mark Teixeira in New York, but if platooned and given starts primarily versus right-handed pitching the 27-year-old is capable of being very useful for the league minimum.
According to Piecoro “new general manager Kevin Towers is rolling the dice on a few buy-low candidates” like Miranda and “seems keen on giving him an opportunity.”
Rather than give him a shot to earn a bench job, the Diamondbacks have sold 27-year-old utility man Rusty Ryal to Yomiuri Giants in Japan. He was released last week in preparation for the move.
Ryal debuted in 2006 by batting .271 with 11 extra-base hits and a .946 OPS in 68 plate appearances and got off to a similarly strong start this year by going 10-for-24 (.417) through mid-May, but then hit just .240 with a .610 OPS in his final 196 trips to the plate.
He has a solid track record in the minors, including a .290/.347/.527 mark at Triple-A, but Ryal will no doubt make more than the $400,000 big-league minimum salary in Japan and at age 27 probably didn’t feel like shuttling between the majors and minors again in the hopes of a bench gig.
Baltimore is “closing in on signing” first baseman Adam LaRoche, according to Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse.
Craig wrote this morning that the Orioles, Nationals, and Padres are seemingly fighting it out for LaRoche and Derrek Lee, so perhaps Lee could generate a nice little bidding war now.
Arizona declined its $7.5 million option on LaRoche for 2011, choosing a $1.5 million buyout instead, and then LaRoche turned down the Diamondbacks’ arbitration offer, so they’ll receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds for letting him walk.
LaRoche drove in a career-high 100 runs this year, but also had his lowest batting average (.261), on-base percentage (.320), and OPS (.788) since 2005. He’s typically been a slightly above-average first baseman offensively and adds some extra value with a good glove.
If the Orioles end up signing LaRoche he’ll join trade acquisitions Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy as part of a new-look infield that includes just one holdover in second baseman Brian Roberts.
After finding a backup catcher in Henry Blanco the Diamondbacks “will next turn their attention to finding a right-handed bat who can play left field” and are targeting Xavier Nady or Austin Kearns, according to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com.
Gilbert speculates that Nady could have a slight edge because he has experience at first base in addition to seeing plenty of time in the outfield. Arizona is looking for a right-handed bat because projected starting left fielder Gerardo Parra swings from the left side of the plate.
Nady missed nearly all of 2009 following Tommy John elbow surgery and struggled to bounce back with the Cubs this year, hitting just .256/.306/.353 with six homers in 347 plate appearances. He’s a career .297/.367/.451 hitter versus lefties.
Kearns was more productive this year, hitting .263/.351/.395 in 461 plate appearances for the Indians and Yankees, and has a .261/.383/.416 career line off southpaws. He’s also a superior defensive outfielder and a year younger than Nady.
As a longtime lurker, occasional commenter, and former contributor at Baseball Think Factory I’m absolutely thrilled by this news: Carlos Gomez, who frequently posted comments and wrote articles at Baseball Think Factory under the screen name “Chad Bradford Wannabe,” has been hired as the Diamondbacks’ international scouting director.
Gomez, who pitched professionally in independent leagues after playing college ball at Purdue, became a scout for the Diamondbacks in 2007 when Jerry DiPoto “called me, impressed me, and then blew me away with an offer that I couldn’t possibly refuse.”
I loved Gomez’s articles breaking down pitching mechanics on Baseball Think Factory (and also The Hardball Times), and from reading his comments on various BTF discussions threads I also know that he’s a really smart, interesting guy who combines a ton of traditional baseball knowledge with an open mind to sabermetrics.
Helluva hire by the Diamondbacks and a helluva cool thing for everyone in the online baseball community.