The general manager says they're close. The starting catcher, who likely will be
playing on another team next season, says they couldn't be further away.
"This organization is going in a different direction," catcher Johnny Estrada
said of the Diamondbacks. "It's going with a youth movement, it's cutting
payroll. The writing is on the wall as far as wins and losses. You can try and
kid yourself all you want, but at the end of the day, you can't be convinced
you're putting a championship team on the field."
After a 76-86 season, which tied them with Colorado for last place in the
National League West, the Diamondbacks realize they have to add quality pitching
help to the starting rotation. General manager Josh Byrnes said they will do
just that, but probably not a whole lot else in terms of big-name additions or
The team had three pitchers log 200-plus innings this season -- right-handers
Brandon Webb (235), Livan Hernandez (216) and Miguel Batista (206 1/3) -- but
Batista could leave as a free agent. Even if he stays, there is a need for a
top-end starter to pitch behind, or possibly even in front of Webb, a Cy Young
Award candidate this year after posting a 16-8 record and a 3.10 ERA.
Or Arizona could make a move to get a younger pitcher with a large upside.
"We have things we can trade to try and target that type of guy," Byrnes said.
Byrnes indicated there may be a tweak or two to the bullpen, but the priority is
finding a starting pitcher -- probably through a trade -- and by using a surplus
of arbitration-eligible players and dangling some young prospects.
"I don't think we need to make a ton of moves," Byrnes said. "Obviously, we
finished the year kind of as a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of as run
scoring and run prevention. I think we'll bring back the vast majority of our
"But I think more than likely, off-season acquisitions will probably relate more
to pitching. I think we have a good foundation of both starters and relievers,
but I think can break out of the middle of the pack and get to a little bit
better level where we're a playoff type of team."
Arizona will be saving a lot of cash in losing the salaries of outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Shawn Green, and there may some temptation to alter the starting
lineup next year by adding a player with some pop in his bat. The last two
sluggers brought in, however, only spent a year with the club before moving on.
There was Richie Sexson in 2004, Troy Glaus in 2005. But there is glaring hole
in the cleanup spot, as the Diamondbacks don't possess a true slugger. They
produced only 11 home runs and 79 RBIs out of the No. 4 spot this year.
"The overall balance was fine," Byrnes said, "but to go from a solid type of
team dynamics to one that's playoff-ready, to one that's one of the four best in
our league, I think we need to add a little more offense. We ended up scoring 70
more runs than we did last year, but we've got to get up to the 800s and we've
got to have the type of lineup that can do that, and probably the best way is to
get a little more dangerous in the middle.
"That might come from improvement from our own (players) or who knows? I think
one through eight was good, we scored runs, it was solid, but was it sort of
above average? No."
--LF Luis Gonzalez played his final game for the Diamondbacks on Sunday, going
0-for-5 in a 7-6 loss to the Padres at Chase Field in front of a sellout crowd
of 48,946, the largest ever for a regular-season game at the ballpark.
Gonzalez leaves the team as the franchise's career leader in games (1,194),
at-bats (4,488), runs (780), hits (1,337), total bases (2,373), doubles (310),
home runs (224), RBIs (774), sacrifice flies (44), times hit by pitch (61),
walks (650) and intentional walks (94), in addition to slugging percentage
(.529) and on-base percentage (.391).
--3B Chad Tracy collected his team-best 49th multi-hit game of the year Sunday.
He also hit two home runs, his 19th and 20th, giving him just the second
multi-home run game of his career.
--RHP Brandon Webb may have significantly hurt his chances of winning the NL Cy
Young Award when, in his last start of the season, he tied a season high by
allowing seven earned runs in his shortest outing of the year -- four innings --
in a 7-6 loss to San Diego on Sunday.
Webb, who finished 16-8, saw his ERA climb from a league-best 2.88 to third
overall at 3.10.
"I don't think that this one game, hopefully, won't affect it too much," he
said. "It probably did a little bit of damage to the ERA and things like that,
but I don't think this one game will make or break."
--Bench coach Jay Bell announced he will be stepping down from his position, but
the team said he will return as a special assistant to manager Bob Melvin. Bell,
who has aspirations of managing in the majors, also will some part-time coaching
during homestands. He wants to spend more time with his family, which is the
reason hitting coach Mike Aldrete gave for recently announcing his resignation.
--Arizona finished the season 76-86, just one victory shy of matching last
season's win total when it improved 26 games over the 111-loss campaign of 2004.
The Diamondbacks' all-time record after nine seasons is just shy of the .500
BY THE NUMBERS: 80 -- RBIs by 3B Chad Tracy, which led the team, but tied for
the fewest of any yearly leader in the club's nine-year history. Shea Hillenbrand finished with 80 during the 2004 season, which saw the Diamondbacks
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If that game happens earlier in the year, we forget all about
it. It's unfortunate that a guy that I felt like pitched better than anybody
I've seen this year -- I haven't seen the American League -- but to go out there
and have basically one bad game all year is unbelievable." -- Manager Bob Melvin
on Brandon Webb's last start of the season, in which he allowed seven earned
runs and lasted just four innings, possibly hurting his chances of winning the
NL Cy Young Award.
The Diamondbacks enter the offseason with a couple key objectives, which include
finding a top-end starter to complement ace Brandon Webb and veteran Livan
Hernandez, and deciding if they need to invest in a quality cleanup hitter or
trust a fairly capable lineup without a proven slugger. If they decide they need
both, the moves likely would occur through trades, not free agency.
BIGGEST NEEDS: Arizona has the defense, but it doesn't have the starting
pitching to lead a group of mostly young position players and a bullpen that
remains slim on postseason experience. With Miguel Batista probably leaving
through free agency, there isn't a difference-maker among the rest of the
candidates, and the Diamondbacks may have to part with some of their better
prospects to fill this need. Webb and Hernandez aren't enough. Not nearly.
FREE AGENTS: LF Luis Gonzalez, IF Craig Counsell, UT Damion Easley, RHP Miguel
Gonzalez was told on Sept. 15 that his $10 million club option was not going to
be picked up and the team had no plans for him next season, but he wants to be
an everyday player and hopes to sign with a team in the NL West, potentially the
Padres. There is interest in bringing back Counsell, but only for a super
utility role, as shortstop and second base will be occupied by Stephen Drew and
Orlando Hudson, respectively. Counsell has said he probably will pass on the
offer and try to sign elsewhere if there's a chance to play every day. Easley
likely will return in the role he played this year, as a bat off the bench and a
player who can make starts at shortstop, third base and right field. Batista and
his representatives have had preliminary talks with the club about returning,
but it is thought he will sign elsewhere for more money, with the Mets possibly
being an option.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: 2B Orlando Hudson, C Johnny Estrada, OF Eric Byrnes, RHP
Luis Vizcaino, RHP Claudio Vargas, RHP Juan Cruz, RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP Jorge Julio.
Hudson likely will receive a multiyear extension after basically having the best
season of anyone on the club. He's in the hunt for his second consecutive Gold
Glove Award. Estrada is gone. He will be traded despite a stellar offensive
season that saw him hit .302 with a career-high 11 home runs and finish with 71
RBIs. He has too many enemies on the club. Byrnes will be replacing stalwart
Gonzalez in left field and is also eyeing a multi-year extension. The only
pitchers who could be out of the loop are Cruz and Julio. Cruz is certain to
gather interest from several clubs, but Julio has fallen off the radar some
because of his wildness.
IN LIMBO: Estrada, Vargas, Cruz and Julio can't be sure of their futures, and
ditto with left field prospect Scott Hairston, who has seen a job open in left
field with the departure of Gonzalez, only to learn it will given to Byrnes.
Estrada's situation is sure to be solved in the form of a trade, and he's
already stated he would like to moved to Philadelphia, if possible. If not,
destinations could include San Diego, if Mike Piazza doesn't re-sign, and
perhaps San Francisco, which is near where Estrada was raised.
PROSPECT WATCH: CF Chris Young didn't get as many at-bats or starting
assignments as some of the other youngsters among the position players, but the
Diamondbacks have seen enough to know he can handle the job in center next year.
He rates out on the plus side of every aspect of his game, and he could mature
into a power hitter as well as speed burner with top-notch defensive skills. C
Miguel Montero is thought of so highly in the organization, the club is willing
to part with switch-hitting starting C Johnny Estrda, who was among the team
leaders in RBIs. Montero was a September call-up and made several starts down
the stretch. It looks as if he will be the man in 2007, with Chris Snyder
helping provide a 1-2 punch. RF Carlos Quentin was promoted in July, and it
wasn't long before the Diamondbacks agreed they would be better served trading
Shawn Green away -- he went to the Mets -- to open up daily playing time for the
rookie, who experienced his share of highs and lows during the second half.
1B Tony Clark, who had right shoulder surgery, should be fine by the time the
team reports to spring training. He has one more year left on his contract.
OF Jeff DaVanon underwent surgery to repair a left ankle injury, and he will be
ready in time for spring training. He has a player option to return to the club
in 2007, and has indicated he plans to exercise it. He also had a cyst removed
from his right shoulder late in the season.