26 August 2012
On Sunday, the Diamondbacks traded 31-year-old LHP Joe Saunders for hard-throwing right hander Matt Lindstrom. Saunders had pitched 3 years for the Diamondbacks since being acquired in the Dan Haren trade, and had basically done his job - throwing a lot of innings with an ERA slightly better than league average. More importantly, his presence in the rotation allowed the team to give prospects Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs a much-needed season in AAA instead of rushing them to the Majors. The Diamondbacks will go with a rotation of Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin, and Tyler Skaggs to finish the 2012 season.
The 32 year-old Lindstrom becomes another hard-thrower in the Diamondbacks' bullpen. He has experience as a closer, with 45 career saves, but has actually pitched better as a set-up man over the last two seasons.
Over the last two years, Lindstrom has significantly lowered his ERA and WHIP, due primarily to better control. His fastball velocity has dropped a little, from an average of 97.6 mph in his rookie year of 2007 to around 95.0 this year, but that would still make his fastball the fastest on the team, just ahead of David Hernandez (94.7) and newcomer Matt Albers (93.4). Lindstrom gets a good percentage of ground balls (career 47.4 GB%), and does not allow many home runs (career 0.51 HR/9). His career Swinging Strike percentage is a solid 10.3%, which is similar to that of J.J. Putz (11.8%) and David Hernandez (10.0%).
Although Lindstrom is 32 years old, his arm has fewer pitches on it than most pitchers his age, because he took a two-year sabbatical from 1999-2001 as a missionary in Sweden. He started his minor league career at the age of 22, but had hardly touched a baseball in the preceding two years.
Lindstrom makes $3.6M this year, and has a $4M club option for 2013, which is a lot to pay for a set-up man, (with a $0.2M buyout). The Diamondbacks will probably decline the option, but may try to negotiate a new deal for the next year or two.