The Diamondbacks are not afraid to shoot for the stars in their pursuit of free agent pitchers this winter.
A year after making an offer on high-dollar, high-value Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers has touched base with the representatives of White Sox free agent left-hander Mark Buehrle, FOXSportsArizona.com reported.
The D-backs, seeking to add a veteran to a rotation headed by right-handers Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, also have spoken to free agent Hiroki Kuroda's camp. The D-backs are not believed to have made offers but instead are in the process of establishing price points in the market.
If the D-backs add a pricey free agent such as Buehrle or Kuroda, it is likely that arbitration-eligible left-hander Joe Saunders would not be tendered a contract at the December 12 deadline, making him a free agent. If the D-backs do not like market trends, Saunders could return. He is expected to make about $7.5 million in his final year of arbitration in 2012.
Buehrle, who turns 33 late in spring training, has won at least 10 games and thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last 11 seasons, all with the White Sox. Buehrle does the little things that the D-backs prize -- he throws strikes, fields his position well, and holds runners better than anyone in baseball. He has won three straight Gold Gloves and has limited opponents to 24 stolen bases over the last six years.
The southpaw finished a four-year, $56 million contract last season and as the top free agent starter on the market could command a similar deal, which appears out of the D-backs' price range.
Kuroda, who turns 37 in February, played for $12 million last season and would not require long-term commitment.
In addition to price, the D-backs must weigh the length of any new contract against their stash of minor league pitching prospects who might be only one or two years away. Right-hander Jarrod Parker, who made the playoff roster, and left-hander Wade Miley played in the majors this season. Left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin and right-handers Charles Brewer and Trevor Bauer are all believed to be close.
The D-backs do not want to tie themselves up with a long-term commitment to a high-priced free agent with that much projectable talent on the horizon.
--RF Justin Upton received one first-place vote in BBWAA balloting for the NL MVP Award and finished fourth, behind Brewers LF Ryan Braun, Dodgers CF Matt Kemp, and Brewers 1B Prince Fielder. Braun had 20 first-place votes from the 32 votes, while Kemp had 10 and Fielder had one. They were the only four players named on every ballot. Upton, who was made available in trade last winter, had a career year, hitting .289 with 31 home runs, 88 RBI, and 105 runs. It was the D-backs' highest finish since LF Luis Gonzalez was third in 2001.
--Former D-backs infielder Jay Bell was named the hitting coach at Class AA Mobile for 2012 after a five-year hiatus from the game. Bell, a former Gold Glove shortstop, was the D-backs' bench coach in 2005-06 before stepping away to be with his family. Bell has been a spring training adviser and in 2011 helped rookie Arizona League manager Andy Green. Bell replaces Alan Zinter. Mobile won the Southern League last year. Green was named manager of Missoula of the rookie-level Pioneer League for 2012.
--OF Gerardo Parra, a first-time Gold Glove winner in 2011, is expected to join his Zulia team in the Venezuelan Winter League after receiving an OK from the D-backs. The D-backs had discussed pulling their players from Venezuela after the kidnapping of Washington catcher Wilson Ramos in early November. D-backs hitting coach Don Baylor is managing the Margarita Braves, and four D-backs -- Venezuelan native C Henry Blanco, 3B Sean Burroughs, OF Collin Cowgill, and RHP Kevin Mulvey -- are on his roster. RHP Barry Enright also is in the league.
--Former D-backs catcher Robby Hammock will make his coaching debut as the hitting coach for the D-backs' short-season Arizona League rookie affiliate. Hammock, who considered coaching last winter, played at Class AAA Reno last year before being purchased by the D-backs when rosters were expanded last September.
--President/CEO Derrick Hall, 42, was discharged from a Los Angeles hospital before Thanksgiving, nine days after undergoing successful surgery to remove a cancerous prostate gland November 9. Hall, who announced in September that he had cancer and surgery was likely, said he went public in order to create awareness and encourage men to be tested.
DIAMOND STAT: 3 -- D-backs to finish in the top five of the NL MVP voting, after RF Justin Upton finished fourth this season. 3B Matt Williams (1999) and LF Luis Gonzalez (2001) both placed third.
QUOTABLE: "The minute he walks through that clubhouse door, it's all baseball. There is no B.S. There is no kindergarten play. It's baseball until the minute he leaves. That's Tony La Russa-like, Bobby Cox-like. The great managers, I think that's the way they approach the game." -- D-backs general manager Kevin Towers, on manager Kirk Gibson's style.
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