D-backs sign Putz to be new closer
Towers further bolsters 'pen by giving veteran two-year deal
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It appears the D-backs have found their closer.
The team has agreed with free agent J.J. Putz on a two-year deal with a club option for 2013, pending a physical and a medical review.
Putz, who will be 34 in February, was 7-5 with three saves and a 2.83 ERA in 60 games for the White Sox in 2010. The D-backs attempted to sign him last offseason before he inked a deal for $3 million.
D-backs GM Kevin Towers has said improving the bullpen was his main priority since taking over for Josh Byrnes in September. He would not confirm the Putz agreement, but did indicate that he should have something to announce with regards to a closer possibly as soon as Tuesday.
"I'm not going to mention anybody who is not already here," Towers said when asked about Putz.
When asked what he would focus on after he got his closer in the fold, Towers did not hesitate.
"More bullpen," Towers said. "I want [manager] Kirk Gibson to have a lot of options late in a ballgame. I want our ballclub to be one where if we've got a lead after the fifth inning, that scoreboard is not going to change. It may every now and then, but for the most part I want it to be pretty much, game over."
Towers earned a reputation as a excellent builder of bullpens during his 14-year tenure as GM of the Padres.
"Believe me, it was on my mind when dealing with Kevin Towers, you are probably dealing with the foremost bullpen expert in our business about trying to find different pieces," Orioles GM Andy MacPhail said while announcing Baltimore's trade of relievers David Hernandez and Kameron Mickolio to the D-backs for Mark Reynolds earlier Monday. "He has found value in that bullpen in a lot of places."
To Towers, building a strong bullpen is the utmost of importance. Not just good pitchers, but ones who bring different styles to the table.
"It's a nine-inning ballgame, and the most important innings are those last two or three," Towers said. "I've been a big believer that when you build bullpens, I like guys that have different looks -- different arm slots, different secondary pitches. I don't like cookie-cutter bullpens that are all the same guy."
One thing that is not a requirement in a Towers bullpen is having a left-hander. The D-backs do have an offer out to free agent Mike Hampton, who did a nice job for them last year and would like to have him back, but if not, Arizona will look at right-handed pitchers who can get lefties out.
"Lefties, it seems like you have to overpay because you know there's not many of them out there," Towers said.
The D-backs entered the offseason with about $13 million to spend, and got a little more flexibility by trading Reynolds to the Orioles. Towers has shown in the past with his bullpens in San Diego that big money is not necessarily a requirement in building a good 'pen.
"It's an area where all 30 clubs should be competitive," Towers said. "If you're a small market ballclub, you should be able to put together a decent bullpen."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.