When Wally Backman was introduced as the new manager of the
Diamondbacks -- a position he held for just four days until ownership pulled
the plug on his hire because a series of past incidents in his personal life
came to light -- he said with conviction that Arizona wasn't a rebuilding
Whatever team officials said to Backman about how it plans to
build its roster for next season, it would be nice of them to share it with
new manager Bob Melvin
, who can't be sure what the team will look like in
The Diamondbacks don't know if their cleanup hitter, free-agent
first baseman Richie Sexson
, will be back in the fold. In fact, as the start
of the free-agent signing period began, it was looking much more likely that
Sexson was on his way out for good, possibly signing with the New York Mets
Now there's word from the Randy Johnson
camp that the ace
left-hander apparently wants to be traded and, according to his agent, doesn't
want to be part of any rebuilding process. Who could blame Johnson if that,
indeed, is to be the case in Arizona?
The problem is, nobody knows for sure. General manager Joe
Garagiola Jr. has targeted more than a dozen decent free agents he thinks
could significantly improve the Diamondbacks' image and on-field success (and
there's a lot to improve after 111 losses), but how do you convince free
agents to jump aboard what others in the industry apparently view as a sinking
One thing is certain: The Diamondbacks aren't courting any of the
marquee names on the free-agent circuit. The Carlos Beltrans and Adrian
Beltres are going to end up with the haves, not the have-nots. But even
attracting second-tier type players could prove to be difficult, if not
The bungling of the Backman hire, not to mention the plodding
pace of naming Melvin's coaching staff (still not finalized by Nov. 12) and
the uncertain futures of both Sexson and Johnson make complicated matters only
that more complicated for the Die-mondbacks.
Co-owner Ken Kendrick cited "quality of life" and the
team's previous winning ways (a World Series championship in 2001 plus three
NL West titles) as reasons for players to want to come to the desert. But the
reality is, a good portion of the free agents Arizona wants to sign already
live there during the offseason and might not necessarily be the best pieces
to the puzzle, only the most easiest to convince.
For the Diamondbacks to save face -- and repair a dwindling fan
base -- Garagiola & Co. will have to act swiftly, shrewdly and
surprisingly if the Diamondbacks are to recover in 2005 or fall flat on their
faces once again.
--LHP Randy Johnson apparently wants out of Arizona, at least
according to comments attributed to one of his agents, Alan Nero. Diamondbacks
president Rich Dozer said trading Johnson is the last thing Arizona wants to
do, but the team intends to sit down and discuss the situation with Johnson.
"It's hard for us to consider trading what we consider to be
the best left-hander of all time and a future first-ballot Hall of
Famer," Dozer said. "However, we'll take his feelings into
--Broadcaster Mark Grace, who interviewed but was turned down for
the Diamondbacks' managerial position, appears set to return to the booth
alongside Thom Brennaman and forgo any chance, at least next season, of
managing in the minor leagues to amp his resume.
--Vice president and assistant GM Sandy Johnson resigned to
become a special assistant to New York Mets GM Omar Minaya. The Diamondbacks
interviewed former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette for a role similar to Johnson's,
but it wasn't what Duquette had in mind.
--Former interim Diamondbacks manager Al Pedrique, who was set to
return to the club as Arizona's third base coach, turned down the offer and
appeared head to a front-office position with the Houston Astros. Pedrique
wanted more than a one-year contract from the Diamondbacks and got a two-year
offer from Houston.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Players eligible for salary arbitration (1B
, RHP Mike Koplove, RHP Brandon Lyon
, LHP Casey Fossum
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not prepared to answer that." --
Casey Close, Richie Sexson's New York-based agent, when asked if the
Diamondbacks would be given a chance to match or exceed a free-agent offer
Sexson might receive from another team.
The Diamondbacks haven't made their projected payroll in 2005
public information, but it isn't expected to be higher than last year's $77
million budget, and yet the club has multiple holes to fill. The D-backs could
free up as much as $26 million by trading ace pitcher Randy Johnson and losing
power-hitting first baseman Richie Sexson to free agency, but then they would
need at least two quality starting pitchers, a new shortstop, and at least two
outfielders in center and right.
DEPARTURES: RHP Shane Reynolds
(released), RHP Matt Mantei (free
agent likely won't be back), RHP Steve Sparks
(free agent, might try to sign
BIGGEST NEEDS: Arizona has almost too many to mention, but it
starts with the starting rotation, which is hanging by a thread if Randy
Johnson were to be dealt, which seems to be his wish. Brandon Webb
to anchor the staff. The Diamondbacks need reliable veteran help and have
isolated some key free agents, namely Shawn Estes
, Russ Ortiz
and Matt Clement
, though they might end up with none of those arms.
FREE AGENTS: 2B Carlos Baerga
, RF Danny Bautista
, 1B Greg Colbrunn
, RHP Jeff Fassero
, RHP Mike Fetters
, RHP Matt Mantei, OF Quinton McCracken
, RHP Shane Reynolds, RHP Scott Service, 1B Richie Sexson, RHP Steve
Sparks, 1B Alan Zinter.
The Diamondbacks have been trying to re-sign Sexson, who's their
top priority, but if they can't upgrade in right field, they'd love to bring
back Bautista. Arizona might be willing to invite Fassero to spring training,
but the rest are long shots to return.
ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: LHP Randy Choate, LHP Casey Fossum, 1B/3B
Shea Hillenbrand, RHP Mike Koplove, RHP Brandon Lyon.
Hillenbrand's situation will become more clearly defined once
Arizona knows its status with 1B Richie Sexson and/or decides to look
elsewhere for pop in the lineup at either first or third base. Hillenbrand,
though, was the D-backs' most consistent player in 2004 and can play first or
third. Koplove was one of the mainstays to a rather unpredictable bullpen even
though he didn't have his greatest season. He will be back, however, as a
IN LIMBO: LHP Randy Johnson, 1B Richie Sexson, 1B/3B Shea
Hillenbrand, SS Alex Cintron
, 3B Chad Tracy
Johnson might force the Diamondbacks to trade him to a contender
(the Yankees top the list), which would free up $17 million (including a $1
million personal services contract). But Arizona must get fair market value
for the Big Unit, which could make things tricky. If Sexson stays, Hillenbrand
would either move back to third base or possibly be trade bait. If both Sexson
and Hillenbrand stay, Tracy could become an outfielder. He also could play
first if both Sexson and Hillenbrand leave and the club goes after free-agent
3B Troy Glaus
. SS Alex Cintron spent the last six weeks of the season at
second base, and Arizona has eyes on bringing in a veteran (Royce Clayton
) to play short.
MEDICAL WATCH: Arizona's medical department is predicting there
is at least a 10 percent chance of 1B Richie Sexson suffering the same injury
that wrecked his 2004 season -- a left shoulder subluxation and torn labrum.
LF Luis Gonzalez
, who underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament
in his right throwing elbow, will begin throwing around Christmas to test his
rebuilt arm. C/INF Robby Hammock was scheduled to meet with surgeons who
operated on his left knee in spring training to see if another surgery is