D-backs have options heading to Meetings

Free-agent pitching, possible trades both open to Arizona

D-backs have options heading to Meetings

PHOENIX -- By offering free-agent pitcher Johnny Cueto a $120 million contract in November, the D-backs sent a message that they are serious about improving their starting rotation.

The D-backs will take their quest to find one -- and possibly two -- starters to Nashville where baseball's annual Winter Meetings open Monday and run through Thursday morning.

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage Sunday at 6 p.m. MT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees Monday at 9 a.m. MT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 8 a.m. MT.

During their disappointing 2014 season when they finished with the worst record in baseball, the D-backs began shedding contracts in an effort to gain greater payroll flexibility. That effort continued during part of 2015.

• Hot Stove Tracker

As the moves were being made, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said the money the team saved was being placed in a "bucket" for future use when the time was right.

A few weeks ago, the D-backs showed just how full that bucket had become when they flew to the Dominican Republic to personally pitch Cueto on signing a six-year, $120 million contract.

That deal would have blown away the team's previous largest commitment, which came last offseason when the team signed Cuban free agent Yasmany Tomas to a six-year, $68.5 million deal.

Cueto rejected the D-backs' deal as he looks to test the market a bit more, and with Jordan Zimmermann signing with the Tigers for five years and $110 million, it appears Cueto will be able to get more than $120 million.

While the D-backs have not closed the door entirely on Cueto, they also do not plan to wait around. Expect Arizona to continue to speak with agents for the next tier of free-agent pitchers (Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir, Wei-Yin Chen, John Lackey and Jeff Samardzija) next week in Nashville.

In addition, when Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda is posted, the D-backs are likely to be players for him.

The D-backs not only have money to spend, with A.J. Pollock, Ender Inciarte, David Peralta, Tomas and Socrates Brito, the D-backs have pieces to deal.

In the infield, they have a pair of young third basemen in Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury as well as middle infielders Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed. Add to that group veterans Aaron Hill and Phil Gosselin and last year's No. 1 overall pick, shortstop Dansby Swanson, and the depth is there if they choose to deal.

"I think we have to be open to both options," D-backs GM Dave Stewart said regarding free agency and trades.

The D-backs and Reds earlier this offseason discussed a deal involving Hill and Brandon Phillips that could regain traction at next week's Meetings. That move would seem to be a precursor to the team moving one of its other middle infielders for pitching.

The Indians have young pitching like Carlos Carrasco that could appeal to the D-backs, and while the A's have said they don't intend to move Sonny Gray, that could change depending on whom Arizona is willing to give up.

With money to spend and depth to trade from, the D-backs certainly will be a team to keep an eye on in Nashville.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.