Free agency has begun and the Diamondbacks are both affected by, and could
effect, the market. Breaking down the needs, wants, and desire of the
D'Backs in this offseason's market.
Who We Lose
Carlos Baerga, Jeff Fassero, and Shane Reynolds have already filed for free
agency. While Baerga is a great clubhouse guy, he's past his prime and
would only be brought back if he were very cheap. Fassero was signed he
last week of the season after being cut by the Rockies. He is left handed
and throws strikes. He is also 234 years old and has never exactly been
dominant. He is versatile, he's started, done the middle relief thing,
been a lefty specialist, and closed. Problem is he hasn't really done any
of it well since '98 with the Cubs. Reynolds looked like a great pickup
before last season. He was coming off a 'Comeback Player of the Year'
caliber season with the Braves in '03 and the D'Backs got him cheap. Then
he went on the disabled list and only made one start for the D'Backs in
'04. Don't expect him back.
The other players who are eligible, but have not yet filed (they have until
Nov. 11th). Danny Bautista, Greg Colbrunn, Mike Fetters, Matt Mantei,
Quentin McCracken, Scott Service, Steve Sparks, and of course, the big one,
Colbrunn, Fetters, Service, and McCracken are all guys the D'Backs probably
want back, and who probably won't ask for that much cash. Fetters is a
local guy coming off arm surgery, expect the Diamondbacks to resign him on the
cheap, McCracken is the one most likely to get offers from several other clubs,
mostly because he doesn't mind waiting until someone gets hurt to play, and then
he'll hold his own. The Diamondbacks have a lot of outfielders in the
minors ready to step up, so expect him to move on. Service finally got his
chance with the D'Backs this year after Jose Valverde went down to an
injury...and promptly lost his opportunity to rookie Greg Aquino, it seems
likely the Diamondbacks with not need Service's service any longer.
Colbrunn is something of a wild card. If the Diamondbacks can not sign
Sexson, Colbrunn becomes an interesting short term option at first base, but
probably not as interesting as the already signed, sealed, and producing Shea Hillenbrand.
Danny Bautista is a mystery. He was argueably the Diamondbacks best
hitter in 2004, but let's be honest, that really isn't saying much. He is
a better than average defensive right fielder, but without the pop most teams
usually expect out of a corner outfield spot. Much will depend on how much
cash Bautista wants, and more to the point, how big a contract he expects.
Matt Mantei is finally off the books. The one-time dominant closer (and
I mean that almost literally, there was one time where he was dominant, just
one) has been plagued with injuries, and has been a less than stellar club house
guy. He's gone, probably without so much as a pat on the back.
Steve Sparks was never intended to be a long term solution for the
Diamondbacks, and his ineffectiveness in '04 means that he will likely be
changing addresses again.
And then there's Richie. The Diamondbacks will and are persuing him
aggressively. They will push, scratch and claw to get him. The
sticking point is the number of guaranteed years on his contract, as the D'Backs
are scared to give big, long term, money to a guy who is one check swing away
Who We Should Go After
The free agent list is daunting. All of this is predicated on what
happens with Richie.
IF HE SIGNS: Then first base, and the clean up spot, are
solidified. Go on the assumption that Luis Gonzalez is going to come back
strong, there's your LF and 3 spot hitter. The Diamondbacks are happy with
Chad Tracy's progression at third, or at least happy enough to not go after a
high priced alternative. Alex Cintron isn't fooling anybody, but he's
solid defensively, and may be moved to 2B if the Diamondbacks can sign first
round draft pick Stephen Drew. Either way, expect Cintron in the middle,
alongside Drew, Jerry Gil, Sergio Santos, Matt Kata, Scott Hairston, or maybe
even Robbie Hammock at second base.
The Diamondbacks like Koyie Hill, Chris Snyder, and after some more reps
Chris Myers at catcher. They might be interested in a veteran backup, but
the list of free agent catches doesn't exactly blow anybody away. If
anyone comes expect a cheap vet, of the Brent Mayne/Paul Bako caliber, but if
the Cardinals don't resign Mike Matheny he would be a fantastic pick up to help
tutor the (inevitably) young pitching.
This leaves us with two outfield spots. The D'Backs aren't ready to
give up on Luis Terrero in center, but what he showed in the last two months of
the season certainly didn't blow anybody away. They will aggressively
persue Steve Finley right up until the point where he signs with San Diego or
Los Angeles. Carlos Beltran would be great, but the Diamondbacks will not
come close to the cash the Yankees will offer him, and if he's going to sign for
anything less than top dollar, it will be back in Houston. Outside of
those two there aren't a lot of real attractive center fielders on the free
agent market. Tom Goodwin anyone?
Right field is a little more jumbled. If they resign Bautista then the
question is moot, but if not then what?
They have youngsters who are ready, or at least almost ready, to play
everyday, which means anybody they pick up would be a second tier guy, who they
could get with a short term deal. This rules out the biggest right field
name, Magglio Ordonez of the White Sox. He's had injury problems of late,
and will probably be looking for a five to seven year deal in the neighborhood
of $7 to $9 million a year. J.D. Drew is worth looking into, if for no
other reason than signing him might go a long way toward signing his younger
brother Stephen. Again though, he's injury prone and will be asking for
big bucks, unless of course he and his brother decide to sign for less to play
together. Not likely as both are clients of Scott Boras. The name to
watch is the Houston Astros' Orlando Palmeiro.
Palmeiro has always been a fourth outfielder in Houston, and a productive
one, but if the Diamondbacks offered him the starting job they could probably
lock him up relatively cheap, and with a two year deal. Jermaine Dye is
another player who might be available at a discount, but his health issues have
to come into play. Again, he's not going to command a lot on the market,
and might be apt to sign a two year deal.
Other position players of note...Craig Counsell is back on the market, and if
the Diamondbacks could resign him it would be a huge boost if for no other
reason than the fans would appreciate it...Jeff Kent is not going to be resigned
by the Astros, he's aging, but full of production, probably can't afford him
though...Ricky Ledee is a younger right handed version of Palmeiro and is
The weakest part of the squad was the starting pitching. No secret
there. The good news is that the guys we're losing (Sparks, Reynolds,
Fassero) were already losing (Sparks) or not playing (Reynolds, Fassero) in
'04. The bad news is that the only guy who was winning (Randy Johnson),
might be on his way out via a trade. So start with Brandon Webb, Casey Fossum and Mike Gosling, and assume there are at least two (and maybe three)
spots to fill in the rotation.
The Diamondbacks are not going to pay top dollar for more than one guy, and
then only if Johnson leaves town. Top dollar starters are at a premium,
and while Pedro Martinez has stated publically that he would prefer to go to
warmer, National League, club, don't expect the Diamondbacks to go from the most
durable dominant left handed starter in the league (Johnson), to the perpetually
injured, often whining righty Martinez. The D'Backs might be looking to
Boston, but it would likely be for Derek Lowe. Lowe's stock certainly rose
during his fantastic World Series run, but probably not out of the D'Backs price
range. Problem is his stock is high enough that he would become the Ace on
the Diamondbacks staff, and nobody's quite sure he is going to be that good, he
certainly wasn't in the '04 regular season. On the other hand if the
Diamondbacks front office was going to pony up for a stud righty, Florida Marlins starter Carl Pavano has all the right moves. A Cy Young contender
this year who is under 30 years of age and while he'll command big money, it
won't be Jason Schmidt money, and Pavano has gotten better every year for the
last three years.
Brad Radke is a top of the rotation free agent, he's also on the top of the
Yankees list. Never mind.
Paul Byrd and Jaret Wright both had resurgent years in Atlanta coming off
seasons they missed due to injury. Sound familiar? Fool me once
(Reynolds) shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Still, if they were
Matt Clement is still relatively young (29) and very
effective...sometimes. His value will be set by what the Cubs offer him,
problem is there is no guarantee the Cubs will offer him anything at all.
Glendon Rusch of the Cubs was incredible, left-handed, and versatile last year,
but will probably be a priority for the Cubs, still if promised a spot in the
starting rotation (something the Cubs are unlikely to do) he might be available
at the right price.
Aaron Sele, Brett Tomko, Andy Ashby, Eric Milton, Kevin Millwood, Jose Lima,
Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez, Ismael Valdez, Jamey Wright, and Esteban Loaiza are
all mid level guys who could work very nicely, and it seems the entire Cardinals
starting rotation is available. While Chris Carpenter is likely to be
resigned, the same is not assured for either Woody Williams or Matt Morris.
If I'm the D'Backs front office my priorities go like this.
Sign Sexson. Sign Pavano. Pick a pitcher, any pitcher from the
above list (though I'd look to Loaiza, Milton, and Rusch first). After
that Palmeiro or Dye would do nicely in right, though I'd actually prefer they
convince Bautista to sign a deal for four years or less, in the general
neighborhood of four million a year. Pick up Baerga again, let him
cheerlead, move Randy and Shea Hillenbrand. Get a big time reliever,
another starter (a real good one), and a whole bunch of prospects. Sign a
veteran catcher on the cheap, the first name that comes to mind? John Flaherty. Who? He's Jorge Posada's backup in New York, which is of
course, why you don't know who he is. He's not going to play much here
either, but as long as he walks around with World Series rings and starts
sentences with, "Well, Joe Torre always said..." and "When I was
catching Mariano Rivera in the bullpen..." he's fine by me.