What Could Have Been?

Managing Editor
Posted Jan 21, 2005


What could have been? The Diamondbacks have shocked the baseball world this winter by ponying up big time cash for free agents like Troy Glaus, Russ Ortiz, and Royce Clayton. They pulled off the biggest trade of the offseason when they sent Randy Johnson to the Yankees in return for Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, and Dioner Navarro, whom they proceeded to trade for Shawn Green. The 2005 Diamondbacks will look almost nothing like the 2004 Diamondbacks. But what could they have looked like?

The 2005 Diamondbacks will look almost nothing like the 2004 Diamondbacks.  That is a good thing, but we at FutureBacks.com were wondering, what could have been?

Let's assume the Diamondbacks did what most thought they would do, continue the rebuilding effort.  The big free agent signings probably wouldn't have happened, the Randy Johnson deal very well might have.  The starters from last year, what might have been in 2005, and what probably will be in 2005.

2004 What could have been in 2005 What probably will be in 2005
LF--Luis Gonzalez LF--Luis Gonzalez LF--Luis Gonzalez
CF--Luis Terrero CF--Luis Terrero CF--Luis Terrero
RF--Danny Bautista RF--Carlos Quentin RF--Shawn Green
1B--Shea Hillenbrand 1B--Conor Jackson 1B--Chad Tracy
2B--Scott Hairston 2B--Alex Cintron 2B--Craig Counsell
SS--Alex Cintron SS--Jerry Gil SS--Royce Clayton
3B--Chad Tracy 3B--Chad Tracy 3B--Troy Glaus
C--Koyie Hill/Chris Snyder C--Dioner Navarro C--Koyie Hill/Chris Snyder

Why the exercise?  Let's take a closer look. 

Left field is Gonzo, no questions asked. 

Center field may change.  The Diamondbacks are still in the hunt for Mike Cameron, Eric Byrnes and possibly Jeromy Burnitz, but it is possible they won't get any of those guys, and this brings us to our first question.  What could have been?  Terrero was one of the top prospects in the Diamondbacks organization, until his attitude, problems on and off the field, and poor production during his call up dropped his stock like an anvil.  The up and comer in center field is Marland Williams.  While Williams is still striking out too much at Double-A, he's a true burner, something we haven't seen in the Diamondbacks lineup since Tony Womack.  So one wonders, would it be better for the D'Backs to give Terrero or Williams the opportunity, trade for Byrnes or Cameron and their salaries, or sign Burnitz for the probably $4 million a year or so he will ask?

Right Field is an even touchier issue.  Shawn Green came at a price, and that price was essentially Randy Johnson.  While Halsey and Vazquez are nice additions, make no mistake, the piece that the Yankees absolutely had to part with to get Randy was Navarro, and that was because the Dodgers wanted the young catcher in exchange for Shawn Green.  Green's contract extension with the Diamondbacks gives him $28 million over the next three years, for a player who's numbers have dropped every year since 2001.  Green has always hit well at the BOB, and there is reason to believe he will continue to do so, but $28 million is a lot to pay a guy who is holding up the top prospect in the D'Backs organization.  Quentin is a big, strong, power hitting right fielder with a canon arm and the ability to take walks, hit for average, and provide above average defense.  Perhaps the most perplexing move the D'Backs made this offseason, and it begs another question, is Carlos Quentin on the trading block?

First Base:  The most productive hitter on the Diamondbacks in 2004 was Hillenbrand, and he's now a Toronto Blue Jay.  Of course, Tracy moves to first with the signing of Glaus, and Jackson could quite possibly become the right handed part of a platoon at first in '05, but once again, a top D'Back prospect (Jackson, #2 on the FutureBacks.com Top 50) is held up by a big signing (more on that later).

Second Base:  The Scott Hairston experiment went much like The Jaime Kennedy Experiment, which is to say, quickly and with quite a few laughs.  The only real question about Hairston is why the Diamondbacks continued to move him up the minor league ladder as a second baseman when they apparently knew all along that he wouldn't be able to play the position at the major league level.  Hairston is still one of the best bats in the organization, and figures to be the first outfielder available to spell Gonzalez and Green, but that is a lot of bat to be keeping on the bench, probably the biggest reason his name is often brought up in the Byrnes rumors.  Late in the season Cintron saw time at second, and he seemed to be comfortable there.  The switch hitter, who had a fantastic, most would say surprising, rookie year, but came back to earth in '04, looked to have the inside track on the position leading into the offseason, but suddenly fan favorite Counsell was brought back to town.  At just over three million for two years, he's certainly not breaking the bank, but he hasn't been producing either.  Tentatively slotted as the Diamondbacks lead-off hitter in '05, Counsell is another example of a player whose stats have declined in recent years.  The .275 batting average and .359 on base percentage Counsell showcased during the '01 World Series winning season would be low for a lead-off man, but the .241 average and .330 on base percentage Counsell carried last season are not impressive.  Yes, Counsell does the 'intagible' things that a team needs, including pretty good defense, but Cintron's '04 numbers (.262/.301) were similar, at less money, with at least as good defense, and slightly better range. 

Shortstop is a real weird scenario.  The top shortstop in the D'Backs organization is Sergio Santos, and most agree he will eventually be converted to third base.  Gil was given the opportunity, and showed us exactly what we thought.  Slick with the glove, clueless at the plate.  Clayton also came cheap, and more to the point, he came with just a one year deal.  Both Gil and Clayton are just holding the spot, but for whom?  The answer is Stephen Drew.  The number one draft pick in the '04 draft is still unsigned, one of just two first round picks (along with the Angel's Jarred Weaver) yet to be signed.  If Drew signed tomorrow, it seems likely he'd be the starting shortstop as early as midseason, if he doesn't, the focus turns back to Santos, in the meantime, it's Clayton's job.

Third Base:  All hail the Man Troy.  The first signing, Glaus was the pebble that turned into a landslide.  Big money, big expectations, big power.  He replaces Chad Tracy, who made the All-Rookie Team last season and moves over to first.  So just in case you forgot, Glaus, a career .253 hitter, who's playing third base after two surgeries on his throwing shoulder, has moved Chad Tracy to first, where Tracy blocks the progression of Conor Jackson.  Glaus must do three things to justify his four year, $45 million deal.  The first is hit homers, a lot of them.  The second, is raise his average above the .251 he showed last year, and most importantly, he must stay healthy.  After the horribly bad luck they faced when Richie Sexson went down last season, the last thing the Diamondbacks can afford is another high profile aquisition going down to injury.  Why would we mention this?  Because Glaus only played 149 games...over the last two seasons.

Catcher:  Perhaps the most intriguing position that could have been is catcher.  Yes, Navarro was acquired in order to get Green, but what if he had stayed.  Snyder and Hill both show promise, Navarro shows more.  Perhaps the most complete young catching prospect since Pudge Rodriguez, Navarro is about as close to a 'sure thing' as there has ever been behind the plate.  Only time will tell if the combination of Hill and Snyder produce at a level even close to Navarro, but isn't it fun to wonder, what could have been?



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