In theory it seemed like a fair swap, but I'm not sure anybody in baseball
thought it would be this easy. The Diamondbacks needed a reliever, and they had
an abundance of middle infielders. The Phils had an extra set up man and wanted
another infielder, preferably one with some versatility. Thursday night the two
teams helped each other out, as the Diamondbacks acquired veteran reliever Tim Worrell from the Phillies for utility man Matt Kata. The Phillies got the extra
glove they needed in Kata, and the Diamondbacks picked up a proven veteran who
has set up, closed, and lived through multiple pennant races, and somehow they
got the Phillies to send cash as well.
What made this deal work was actually a deal the Phillies had previously made. On June 8th the Phillies traded infielder Placido Polanco for Tigers set up man Ugueth Urbina, thus leaving them short on infielders and long on set up guys. With Urbina becoming the primary eighth inning pitcher in Philly, Worrell became an attractive piece of trade bait, particularly to a team like the Diamondbacks, who are desperately looking for someone to get the ball to Brandon Lyon (eventually) or Brian Bruney (for the time being).
In many ways it seems the Diamondbacks made out like bandits here, but by no means are the Phillies getting the short end of the stick. Worrell is aging (he‘s 38), and expensive (he‘s in the second year of a two year, $5.5 million contract), but still can be effective, and could be exactly the kind of pitcher the Diamondbacks need. He throws strikes and should help Bob Melvin not only stabilize the bullpen, but Worrell could be the kind of veteran whose presence will help youngsters like Lance Cormier. He's steady, throws strikes and has been through the playoff chase before with the Phillies, Giants and Padres.
Worrell spent the better part of two months on the DL this year for undisclosed personal reasons, and had asked the Phillies to trade him somewhere closer to his Arizona home. Now that he's in a situation he's more comfortable with the Diamondbacks would like to see him pitch the way he has the last four seasons, where he's averaged 76 appearances and held an ERA just under 3.00.
Kata on the other hand is a player most certainly on the upswing. He might be the Diamondbacks everyday second baseman right now if he hadn't injured his shoulder early in 2004, when he had won the starting second base job in Spring Training. Though he's hit only .249 in his Major League career he's never gotten as many as 300 at bats in a single season, and his minor league numbers show a player with a nice average (.281 for his minor league career), with a little pop (his 11 home runs at Double-A El Paso in 2002 were a surprise), and good speed (87 steals 124 attempts for his minor league career). With the glut of middle infielders in the D'Backs system (Alex Cintron, Jerry Gil, Andy Green and Brian Barden are all essentially player who would fill the same role Kata did with the big league club), it was probably Kata's best shot at the bigs to get out of Arizona.
In Kata the Phillies are getting a young switch hitter with a little bit of power, a little bit of speed, and a bunch of different gloves. This season with the Triple-A Sidewinders Kata has played all three outfield spots, third base, shortstop, as well as his most natural spot, second. While he is unlikely to play everyday in Philadelphia, he should get two or three starts a week allowing Phillies manager Mike Hargrove to give Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell and even Bobby Abreu the occasional day off.
For the Phillies it might not be enough. It will be a particularly competitive Wild Card race, and they are virtually out of the National League East race already. Unless Jim Thome comes back quickly, or the Phils make a move for another bat, Kata isn't likely to be the guy to put them over the top. The Diamondbacks however might have just reinserted themselves into the middle of the NL West race. The Padres, reeling from a 11-0 loss to the Mets, a loss suffered with Padres Ace Jake Peavey on the hill, have had plenty of opportunities to pull away, but have been unable to.
And with nine days left before the trade deadline there's no telling what could happen. The Diamondbacks would still love to add another reliever, and if it didn't require them to give up any of their top prospects they might be interested in an upper echelon center fielder. Likewise the Padres could pull off a deal, but with Phil Nevin coming off the disabled list, the recent return of Eric Young and Damian Jackson, and a 100% Woody Williams back, there aren't a whole lot of holes for them to fill, and in essence those guys coming off the DL are adding players to a team that's already in first place.
Just one more Mr. Moorad, just one more deal Mr. Garagiola Jr. A lefty reliever, Brian Fuentes might be available in Colorado. What about Jimmy Gobble in Kansas City or Scott Eyre in San Francisco? It might cost you Scott Hairston, it might cost you Alex Cintron, it might even cost one of those guys and a lower level prospect, but get us two more scoreless innings, a scoreless seventh and eighth, and we'll have a shot.
And wouldn't that be great? Worst to first? Want to see the city of Phoenix really get energized again? Want to see the state of Arizona get all into baseball? Give us a pennant race in September and we'll put football on the back burner.
This is a great start.
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