's Inside Pitch

Webb isn't ready to be the D'Back 'Ace'

Who's going? Seems like everybody. Who staying? Seems like nobody over the age of 23. Who's coming? Uh...can we get back to you. breaks down what is looking like a rough offseason for the D'Backs. From Backman to Melvin, Sexson to No One, Free Agents to Arbitration is in the mix with the D'Backs.

   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 project.
   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 2005.
   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 or Seattle Mariners.
   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 ship?
   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 downright impossible.
   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 account."
   --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 Shea Hillenbrand, RHP Mike Koplove, RHP Brandon Lyon, LHP Casey Fossum and LHP Randy Choate).
   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.
   ARRIVALS: None.
   DEPARTURES: RHP Shane Reynolds (released), RHP Matt Mantei (free agent likely won't be back), RHP Steve Sparks (free agent, might try to sign with Houston).
   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 isn't ready 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 setup man.
   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, Rich Aurilia) 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 necessary. Recommended Stories

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