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With deal, D-backs cleanse K problem

12/6/2010

My wife's grandfather recently told us the story of how his mother would get rid of bedbugs in the small apartment where he grew up. (This story was prompted by the recent spate of bedbug infestations in New York City.) Apparently, she would pour kerosene into the springs of the mattress where the bedbugs lived and bred ... and would drop a lit match down the spring to incinerate them. Of course, the risk of this approach is that if you do it wrong, or are a little too aggressive, you will burn your house down.

Well, I think Arizona general manager Kevin Towers has decided that strikeouts are akin to bedbugs, and will gladly bust out the kerosene can to get rid of them.

In the deal that sends Mark Reynolds to the Orioles for a pair of arms in David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio, the Diamondbacks add some bullpen pieces, but have also traded Reynolds at the absolute nadir of his value. This is a hitter coming off a year in which his strikeout total exceeded his (decimal-point-free) batting average. Reynolds is not a great everyday player; he has plus-plus raw power, at least a 70 on the 20-80 scale, but obviously has contact problems, while decent breaking stuff kills him -- and he'll see a lot of that facing good pitching in the AL East. He's not a good defensive third baseman and never will be. But he's a more valuable player than he showed in 2010, when his batting average on balls in play was more than 100 points below his career average through 2009; if he just gets that half of that back -- odds are he'll get more -- he'll be useful and will have more trade value next winter than he did in this one. Moving to a very good park for right-handed power hitters in Baltimore won't hurt either. He's guaranteed $13 million over the next two years, expensive if his 2010 performance is his new level, but reasonable if he bounces back.

The Orioles also get him by giving up two relievers, one of whom, Kam Mickolio, was never likely to do much for them in that tough division. David Hernandez has a much better arm, and out of the pen he'll work in the mid 90s and tends to miss a lot of bats in the strike zone; he's got a fringy low-80s curveball that he commands well but that mostly keeps guys from sitting on the fastball. Mickolio is 6-foot-9 with an average fastball and will flash an above-average slider, but his cross-body delivery and slight head violence point both to below-average command and possible arm health risks. Hernandez in particular should make the Diamondbacks bullpen better, and Mickolio helps if he throws enough strikes, but given the volatility of reliever performance, trading away everyday players is not the best way to build a bullpen.