The Diamondbacks had Sergio Santos, a top shortstop prospect, coming off
shoulder surgery that would keep him out of the bigs for the '05 season, and
first round pick Stephen Drew, the heir apparent at the shortstop spot, had yet
Clayton was here for a year. With the G-Force providing the offense and
Craig Counsell manning the lead off spot in the batting order, Clayton could hit
down in the batting order, and make Brandon Webb a better pitcher, simply by
catching the ball. It gave the D'Backs time to sign Drew, evaluate Santos,
and figure out what the future of the shortstop position would be.
Now we head into 2006, and it appears the same questions are upon us.
Why? The simple answer is it took Drew a long time to sign.
Drew waited, quite literally, until the last possible minutes to sign on with
the Diamondbacks, early June, and thus only got about half a season to prove
himself. Scouts, coaches, and FutureBacks are all in agreement that he is
for real, but there is some disagreement about whether a player with less than
500 pro at bats (all in the minor leagues) is ready to step into the spotlight
of a starting job in the big leagues. If the Diamondbacks determine he's
ready, the case is closed, Stephen Drew is the starting shortstop in Arizona for
the foreseeable future (read 10 years).
But what if he's not.
This is where things get sticky. Clayton seems uninterested in being a
backup, something he almost certainly would be by midseason at the latest, and
even if the Diamondbacks were willing to guarantee Clayton the starting job all
the way through 2006, he's seeking a two year deal, and there is no way the
Diamondbacks are going to let Drew ride the pine that long.
But if Drew isn't ready? Do you rush the #1 prospect in the
organization? Do you risk destroying his confidence and the fans support
of him by hurrying him to the bigs, and if not, do you go back to Clayton,
assuming you could even get him to sign?
There is another answer, and one that would fit like a glove.
His name is Nomar.
Diamondbacks fans, sit down for a second, because the next statement might
knock you off your feet.
Nomar Garciaparra should be the top free agent priority for the Arizona Diamondbacks this offseason.
Deep breaths everybody. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
Does somebody have a paper bag?
It makes sense on virtually every level. Garciaparra has continued to
prove two things over the last three years.
NUMBER ONE: When he is healthy he is productive.
NUMBER TWO: He is incapable of staying healthy.
And that's exactly why the Diamondbacks should be aggressively pursuing him.
Garciaparra will come cheap, and come short term. He's desperate to prove
that he can play a full season, so desperate that he won't blink before signing
a one-year deal. He won't command more than $1 million, and as long as
he's healthy, he's worth five times that. Last season in Chicago he
continued to prove he can't play everyday, appearing in only 62 games, but he
also continued to prove when he's on the field he's an asset, hitting .283 with
nine homers in just 230 at bats. The rumors of Garciaparra being a selfish
player also seemed to be laid to rest last season when he returned from injury
and offered to play third base for the Cubs after Aramis Ramirez went down with
So bring him on. Pay him a million, give him a one year deal, and watch
this next scenario play out.
Garciaparra comes to Phoenix (where he'll be closer to wife Mia Hamm, whom
the cameras will love during Diamondbacks broadcasts), pledging that he intends
on staying healthy all year long. Stephen Drew starts the year in
Triple-A, just a two hour drive away. Drew starts the season on fire,
hitting nearly .400 in his first month at Tucson, while Garciaparra is solid in
the #2 hole of the Diamondbacks lineup, protected by Chad Tracy and Luis Gonzalez behind him.
MAY: In the seventh inning of a home game against the Dodgers,
Garciaparra comes to the plate with two on and two out in a one run game.
He laces a shot to the left center field gap, scoring both runners and giving
the Diamondbacks the lead. As he rounds second base the ball is thrown to
the plate, and Garciaparra aggressively takes off for third. Half way
there his face suddenly contorts in pain. His groin, which caused him to
miss three months in '05, is tweaked. He heads to the disabled list for
three weeks. Drew is called up from Tucson.
JUNE: Drew struggles in his first go round in the Majors. He's
hitting the ball hard, but everything is right at guys, and he starts pressing,
lunging at breaking pitches and chasing balls outside the zone.
Garciaparra is deemed fit to return in the middle of the month, and does.
Drew is sent bat to Tucson to settle down and regain his confidence.
JULY: With the Diamondbacks trailing the Giants by three games in the
West, Garciaparra goes on one of his patented hot streaks, hitting nearly .500
with runners in scoring position during the month and hitting back to back game
winning home runs in SBC field as the D'Backs sweep the Giants and take over
first place. In the final game of that series Garciaparra goes deep in the
hole to field a ground ball, leaps, throws, gets his man at first base but comes
down awkwardly and leaves the game. Meanwhile Drew has gotten back on
track, is taking breaking balls the other way, and tearing up the Pacific Coast
League again. The Diamondbacks elect not to call Drew up until an MRI is
performed on Garciaparra. Alex Cintron will start at second base, and
Craig Counsell will move over to short.
AUGUST: Garciaparra's MRI reveals a strained tendon in his knee, and
after Cintron struggles, hitting just .200 and striking out in half his at bats
during a two week stretch following the injury, Drew is recalled from Tucson.
In his first game after the call up, Drew goes 3-5 with a home run and a game
winning sacrifice fly against the Dodgers. In game two Drew walks twice,
goes 3-3 and scores two runs hitting in the #2 slot in the batting order.
He goes on to hit .335 in August, and though Garciaparra is reactivated, the
Diamondbacks trainers say while he might be available to DH in interleague games
and pinch hit, he's not yet strong enough to play everyday.
SEPTEMBER: Drew continues to hit well, and Garciaparra, now as close to
100% as he's likely to get, becomes a utility infielder, spelling Troy Glaus at
third when his knee acts up for a couple of days, and Craig Counsell against a
couple of left handed starters. The Diamondbacks cling to a three game
lead in the NL West. On the last weekend of the season, Drew is given a
day off against the Dodgers Odalis Perez, who Garciaparra has hit well against
throughout his career. In the third inning Garciaparra is hit by a pitch
in his left elbow and is forced to leave the game. Drew comes on and hits
the game winning single that clinches the division for the Diamondbacks.
Garciaparra is kept on the postseason roster, and has a pair of pinch hit
singles in the postseason, while Drew plays solid defense and hits well, though
the Diamondbacks lose the Division Series to eventual World Series champion St. Louis in five games.
The Diamondbacks thank Garciaparra for his services, but elect not to pick up
their club option for 2007, and Drew wins Rookie of the Year by hitting .321
with 13 homers, 57 RBI and 40 runs scored in 84 games. The next season he
makes his first All-Star Game, and takes the Diamondbacks to the World Series
twice during the next four years. In 2011 the Yankees sign Drew to replace
the retiring Derek Jeter. They pay him $135 million dollars over seven
Not bad for a million dollar investment. Sign Nomar.