Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 12/13/11
The Diamondbacks continued to shuffle their pitching staff Monday, moving to acquire free-agent reliever Takashi Saito while turning loose Joe Saunders and Micah Owings. Saito, a career closersetup man, looks to be the final piece for a bullpen that was one of the major reasons for the D-backs turnaround last season. The D-backs are expected to announce his acquisition Tuesday. The D-backs only remaining business this offseason appears to be adding a starting pitcher, now most likely a veteran free agent, after they were unable to swing a trade by Mondays deadline and declined to offer arbitration to Saunders and Owings. Saunders was 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA in 33 starts, throwing a career-high 212 innings, but general manager Kevin Towers indicated at the winter meetings that offering arbitration was not an option. Saunders had fallen to No. 5 on the D-backs rotation depth chart after the Friday acquisition of right-hander Trevor Cahill. The D-backs offered Saunders a two-year contract last week, but Towers said there was a significant gap between the two after seeing a proposal from Saunders' camp. Saunders is said to be looking for a multi-year deal, which also made it more difficult for the D-backs to find a trading partner. The D-backs moves also had a financial component. Saunders could have been expected to make about 8 million in arbitration had the D-backs offered and had he accepted, and Owings likely would have made 1.5 million or so. Owings signed a minor league contract with the D-backs last winter and made the team a month into the season, and the D-backs might have interest in re-signing him. Saito, 41, has put up solid numbers since coming to the majors from Japan in 2006, going 21-15 with 84 saves and a 2.18 ERA in six seasons. He was the Los Angeles Dodgers closer his first three seasons and has been primarily a setup man since. He was 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 30 appearances for Milwaukee last season, and he made three scoreless appearances of one inning apiece against the D-backs in the 2011 NLDS, getting a victory in Game 2 and hold in Game 2. He signed a one-year deal and is expected to make in the vicinity of 2 million after playing for 1.75 million last season. He missed the firsthalf of the season with hamstring, oblique muscle and back issues before returning to theBrewers in early July. Saito fits the Towers profile. He throws strikes and keeps the ball down. He has 389 strikeouts and 103 walks in 326 innings, and his ratio of ********* per inning is 1.03, which is quite good. Closer J.J. Putz was the only D-backs pitcher with a lower ratio last season. Saito will join David Hernandez, Bryan Shaw, Brad Ziegler and newcomer Craig Breslow as options in front of Putz. Left-hander Joe Paterson is expected to continue in his specialist role. Saunders was 15-20 with the D-backs after being acquired in the Dan Haren trade in July 2010, and his eventual replacement in the rotation could be Class AA left-hander Tyler Skaggs, another piece in that deal.Owings was 8-0 with a 3.57 ERA in 33 appearances after being purchased to make an emergency start in May. He spent most of the rest of the season in the bullpen.Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter
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