's Inside Pitch's Inside Pitch

Randy's gone, Green is in, Vazquez is here, but for how long? Who's going to catch the ball, is Estes going to be throwing to them? Like a good mystery novel, everytime the Diamondbacks answer a question they ask three more. keep you up to date on the latest machinations down at the BOB.

  The Diamondbacks have been one of the busiest teams in Major League Baseball this winter, and after their horrendous slide in 2004, it shouldn't come as any surprise. But after acquiring the likes of Javier Vazquez, Troy Glaus, Russ Ortiz, Royce Clayton and Craig Counsell, there was still plenty of work left to do.
   Arizona finally completed the much-awaited trade with the New York Yankees that sends Randy Johnson to the Bronx and was feverishly working to finalize a side deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that would bring a new right fielder and a proven No. 5 hitter in Shawn Green.
   Acquiring Green would almost top off the Diamondbacks' relentless pursuit of rebuilding a once-proud, young organization that slumped to a 51-111 record last season, the worst in the major leagues. But considering Arizona would have to enjoy a 30-win improvement next season just to reach the .500 level means the tinkering will likely continue.
   In Vazquez and Ortiz, two capable, inning-eating starters, the Diamondbacks have retooled their rotation, but it now no longer includes Johnson, perhaps the most dominant left-hander in history.
   It does, however, open the door for Arizona to sign free-agent lefty Shawn Estes, who has made it clear he would love to pitch near his offseason home in a Phoenix-area suburb, and with those three proven arms aboard, it should only help further the development of prized sinker-ball pitcher Brandon Webb.
   Competition for the fifth starter's job figures to be intense, with ex-Yankee Brad Halsey, another lefty, battling with former reliever Oscar Villarreal and hard-throwing prospect Ramon Antonio Pena Paulino.
   Glaus, Arizona's new third baseman, helps replace the power source the club lost when Richie Sexson left to sign as a free agent with Seattle. Green, meanwhile, gives the Diamondbacks extra pop and more run production they never could have received had they re-signed free-agent right fielder Danny Bautista.
   The middle of the infield, where defensive lapses often triggered many losses, is stronger with the additions of Clayton and Counsell at shortstop and second base. Shea Hillenbrand, who has been on and off of the trade block and was Arizona's most consistent hitter in '04, could return as the starting first baseman or may still be dealt, opening up a starting job for last year's third baseman, Chad Tracy.
   But once Green is in the fold and the Diamondbacks can sign either Estes or try to land A.J. Burnett from the Marlins, they still have a void in center field. Arizona couldn't convince free-agent Steve Finley to return, and the club isn't sure Luis Terrro, a raw talent, is ready to assume the everyday responsibilities.
   With that in mind, the Diamondbacks recently turned their attention to Oakland outfielder Eric Byrnes, who hit .283 with 20 home runs and stole 17 bases in 18 attempts last season. Byrnes, 28, could be moved for a package that includes one of Arizona's extra infielders -- Matt Kata, Alex Cintron or Scott Hairston. Only one of those three is likely to be with the Diamondbacks when they start spring training next month.
   --RHP Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox said he wasn't thrilled about his former Arizona teammate, LHP Randy Johnson, joining the New York Yankees. But he acknowledged the rivalry between the two teams and the two aces just got more intense.
   "You put that guy on the top of the rotation and you've got the edge on everybody," Schilling said. "I'm not conceding anything if I happen to match up with him. But at the same time, he's got the track record.
   "I certainly didn't want him to go there, and unfortunately, the rich get richer, in a sense. But it's going to be something special. It's definitely another challenge. And like we said last year: If one guy is the reason we don't win, then we don't deserve to be world champions."
   --LHP Shawn Estes, who won 15 games last season for the Rockies, had offers from Houston, Washington and San Diego on the table, but he let a deadline with Padres expire and was said to be leaning toward signing a one-year deal with the Diamondbacks.
   --RHP Steve Reed could join the team and add some valuable experience to a bullpen that had a bloated 4.69 ERA and allowed 295 walks in 523 1/3 innings.
   BY THE NUMBERS: 30 -- More wins needed by the Diamondbacks from last season's win total just to reach the .500 mark in 2005.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a joy and exciting to see Randy pitch. Watching him was a learning experience for the young guys. I hate to see him go, but he wants another shot (at a World Series). Hopefully this will work out for us as well with the players we're getting." -- Diamondbacks relief pitcher Mike Koplove on the trade of Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees for pitchers Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, catcher Dioner Navarro and about $9 million in cash.
   SS Royce Clayton signed a one-year deal worth $1.28 million and will be Arizona's everyday starter in 2005. 2B Craig Counsell signed a two-year deal worth $3.1 million and is expected to be the club's starting second baseman next season. C Kelly Stinnett agreed to a minor-league contract. RHP Andrew Good was released. LHP Shane Nance was designated for assignment. 1B Richie Sexson signed with Seattle as a free agent. LHP Randy Johnson was traded to the Yankees. The club was on the verge of acquiring RF Shawn Green from the Dodgers. Green and the Diamondbacks agreed Sunday night (Jan. 9) on a three-year, $32 million extension.
   ARRIVALS: RF Shawn Green (trade with Dodgers, pending physical), RHP Javier Vazquez and LHP Brad Halsey (trade with Yankees), 3B Troy Glaus (free agent from Anaheim). RHP Russ Ortiz (free agent from Atlanta), SS Royce Clayton (free agent from Colorado), INF Craig Counsell (free agent from Milwaukee), C Kelly Stinnett (free agent from Kansas City).
   DEPARTURES: LHP Randy Johnson (traded to Yankees), 1B Richie Sexson (free agent, signed with Seattle), RHP Shane Reynolds (released), RHP Matt Mantei (free agent, signed with Boston), RHP Andrew Good (released, signed with Detroit), LHP Shane Nance (non-tendered).
   BIGGEST NEEDS: Arizona's starting rotation still is in flux. The team was angling for another veteran starter, LHP Shawn Estes.
   FREE AGENTS: RHPs Shane Reynolds, Steve Sparks, Mike Fetters and Scott Service; INFs Greg Colbrunn and Carlos Baerga; OF Danny Bautista.
   The Diamondbacks offered arbitration to 1B Richie Sexson, but he left as a free agent and signed with Seattle.
   IN LIMBO: 1B Shea Hillenbrand, SS Alex Cintron.
   With Glaus joining the lineup, Hillenbrand could be dealt. Cintron spent the last six weeks of the season at second base and will compete with Counsell there now that Clayton has been signed to play short.
   MEDICAL WATCH: 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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