Diamondbacks bypass prospects, tab 35-year-old Kris Benson as fifth starter

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I wondered yesterday why teams give endless chances to washed-up veterans rather than turning to minor leaguers who might actually prove to have some long-term value. My specific example was Russ Ortiz and Ramon Ortiz both being on the Dodgers’ pitching staff despite neither having a decent season since 2004 and I also brought up Sidney Ponson, but the Diamondbacks just reminded me to add Kris Benson to the list.
Benson’s career has been wrecked by injuries rather than simply a lack of ability, but whatever the case he’s 35 years old and hasn’t been an effective major-league pitcher since 2005 or 2006, depending on how much slack you feel like giving on the term “effective.” When not injured he’s spent most of the past couple seasons in the minors, posting ERAs of 5.78 and 5.25.
Yet now that Arizona needs a fifth starter for the first time, they announced that Benson will join the rotation Saturday against the Padres. Asked why the Diamondbacks chose Benson, manager A.J. Hinch said: “We know he can handle the big leagues being poised and used to pitching up at this level for so long.” Benson’s last Quality Start came in 2006 and even then he had a 4.82 ERA.
According to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com “Benson outpitched Billy Buckner and Kevin Mulvey for the spot,” which of course was exactly my point from yesterday. Buckner and Mulvey certainly aren’t great prospects, but they’re reasonably promising 20-something pitchers whose minor-league resumes suggest they can likely be useful in the majors. Why not see what they can do rather than give yet another shot to a 35-year-old who hasn’t been good since Hinch was still a player?

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.