The Infield: Are you one of those glass is half full people? Not with this Diamondbacks infield you aren't. You're overflowing. It might be the least talked about move the Diamondbacks make this entire offseason, but the signing of Damion Easley by the Diamondbacks Monday is going to have a very serious impact on the way the Diamondbacks look next year, particularly in their infield.
How? Follow along.
First Base: Don't let the resigning of Tony Clark fool you, Conor Jackson is your first baseman if the season started today. Clark was signed to do exactly what he did last year, come off the bench, produce, and spell the youngster once a week. Yes, if Clark repeats his amazing 2005, he will get more and more playing time, and if Jackson flops, he might take the position outright, but the Diamondbacks believe in Jackson, and if the season opened today, he would be manning first.
Second Base: Craig Counsell returns at second base, and in the lead off spot for the Diamondbacks if the season started tomorrow. The man with the batting stance that makes hitting coaches everywhere cringe, is a sparkplug, one of the two or three best defensive second basemen in the National League, and is wildly popular in Arizona.
Shortstop: And this is where things get sticky. Many, including those of us at FutureBacks.com, believed that Stephen Drew would be the starting shortstop on opening day. We believed this the moment Drew started destroying the Arizona Fall League to the tune of .337/6/17 in 23 games, with an on base percentage of over .500. We believed even more when it became apparent the D'Backs had zero intentions of resigning Royce Clayton.
Easley's signing has proven us dead wrong.
If the season started today, you're starting shortstop would be Alex Cintron. The Diamondbacks 25 man roster will feature 12 pitchers, and eight starting position players. That leaves five spots. One backup catcher leaves four, Easley and Andy Green will be 'do everything' utility men, literally able to play six positions each, leaving two roster spots open. Clark takes up another spot, and if the season started today Luis Terrero would get the final spot on the roster, because even though Andy Green has played center, he's not experienced, and late in games Terrero's defense will become necessary.
With Green and Easily taking the utility spots, that moves Cintron into the shortstop role vacated by Clayton. Don't be surprised if we see Drew's debut when the first infielder goes on the DL, but on opening day, shortstop is Alex Cintron's spot. He's young, talented, and would be worth a lot more in trade value if teams had actually gotten to see him play last year. That is what the D'Backs will do in '06, run Alex out there, hope he tears it up, and then move him, either in July to help land a pitcher for a playoff run, or in the next offseason, where good everyday '06 numbers will translate into a seller's market for the D'Backs.
Third Base: Troy Glaus. Yes, the speculation has him going everywhere from the Dodgers to the Angels to the Padres to the Red Sox, but right now, here and today, he's a D'Back, and if the season started today, he'd be our third baseman. Why not? Just last year he signed a massive four year deal, he's as healthy as he's ever been (which is to say not very), but he's going to hit 30 and drive in 110, and he's going to do it with the workmanlike, professional demeanor that teams in playoff races love. His glove is still at least average, and the Diamondbacks are paying way too much to sit him.
Catcher: Welcome to Arizona Johnny Estrada, you've got a low bar to clear. Whether or not the Diamondbacks rushed Chris Snyder (and personally I do not think they did), he has not given the club the offense they wanted, and when the opportunity to snatch Estrada came along, the D'Backs jumped at it, hurting an already mortally wounded bullpen in the process as they moved Oscar Villarreal and Lance Cormier. For Estrada, it is a best case scenario, as the Braves seem to have about 12 catchers under the age of 25, and in Arizona all the former All-Star will have to do to impress is hit .250 with 10 homers. A solid game caller with a decent arm, Estrada's value is at the plate, and he would likely bat in the #2 hole if the season opened tomorrow.
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