The Arizona Diamondbacks entered the offseason with a hole at second base caused by the impending departure of free agent Orlando Hudson, whose likely $10 million-a-year price tag is too rich for their blood.
Their only obvious internal options at second base include Augie Ojeda, a career
backup; Chris Burke, who comes off a disastrous 2008 season; and Rusty Ryal, who
has never played above Double-A.
While the D-backs are more likely to trade for a replacement than enter the free agent market, they have talked about filling from within by shifting third baseman Mark Reynolds to second. That move would also enable them to consider trade candidates at third base, and also would create playing time for first baseman/third baseman Chad Tracy, one of their few left-handed batters, in the event that right knee problems that affected him most of 2008 are a thing of the past.
Reynolds, who spent his college career and most of his early minor league career in the middle infield, said that he is ready and willing.
"I'm definitely open to it," Reynolds beamed. "I love second base. I've been a middle infielder my whole life. It's more comfortable for me. Third base is more of a reaction position. At second base, you can see where the catcher set up, and you know what pitch is coming a little more often. You are almost in the game more at second base."
Reynolds led the D-backs with 28 homers and 97 RBI while hitting .239, and he would give the D-backs a power source at second comparable to the best in baseball. Only Philadelphia's Chase Utley (33) and Florida's Dan Uggla (32) had more homers among major league second basemen in 2008. His 204 strikeouts would, of course, be unprecedented for someone at that position.
Reynolds' switch to second also might help their defense. He committed a major league-high 34 errors last season: 33 at third base and one at first in his one game there. He played shortstop at the University of Virginia and began there in the D-Backs' minor league system after being a 16th-round draft choice in 2004. Before becoming an everyday third baseman in the majors, Reynolds posted a .975 fielding percentage in 23 games at second base, a .934 mark in 89 games at shortstop, and a woeful .886 percentage at the hot corner.
--C Miguel Montero was off to a rough start with Margarita of the Venezuelan winter league, collecting just one hit in his first 16 at-bats with eight strikeouts. Montero suffered a broken right index finger a month into the Venezuelan season last winter when he was struck by a foul tip, causing him to miss the first three weeks of the 2008 regular season.
--RHP Juan Cruz and 2B/SS David Eckstein filed for free agency on October 30th, the first day free agents could file. The filing period runs through November 13th. 1B Tony Clark, 1B/OF Adam Dunn, 2B Orlando Hudson, LHP Randy Johnson, RHP Brandon Lyon are the D-backs' other potential free agents.
--RHP Brandon Lyon and LHP Randy Johnson are the D-backs' free agents who are most likely to return in 2009, although serious talks had not yet begun when the team's negotiating window began the day after the conclusion of the World Series. "I have had no substantive talks with anyone about my free agents," said agent Barry Meister, who represents both Lyon and Johnson.
--C Robby Hammock is eligible for salary arbitration this winter after reaching the threshold of the three years of major league service time. He has spent parts of five seasons in the majors with the D-backs.
--RHP Max Scherzer finished with 24 strikeouts in his 24 innings in the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League before being shut down,
having reached 133 innings for the year. Scherzer, who gave up three hits and one run in seven innings in his final appearance Oct. 23,
threw 56 innings at Class AAA Tucson, 53 with the D-backs and 24 in the AFL. He
was a composite 2-4 with a 2.90 ERA and 169 strikeouts.
DIAMOND STAT: 11.4 -- RHP Max Scherzer's strikeouts per nine innings in 2008, during stops at Class AAA Tucson, the parent Diamondbacks, and the Arizona Fall League. Cubs RHP Rich Harden led the major leagues with 11.01 strikeouts per nine innings among pitchers with at least 100 innings.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "These were valuable innings to help condition him for next year." -- General manager Josh Byrnes, on RHP Max Scherzer's participation in the Arizona Fall League.
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