Arizona Can't Compete in Pitching Market

After offering Randy Johnson only about a quarter of his 2008 salary to remain with the team and getting snubbed by free agent right-hander Jon Garland, the Diamondbacks made an offer to free agent southpaw Randy Wolf. Care to guess how those negotiations went?

Scratch another possible starter from the Diamondbacks' wish list.  For the second time in three seasons, Arizona was rebuffed by free agent left-hander Randy Wolf when he passed on a one-year contract offer.

The D-backs also courted Wolf after the 2006 season, before he signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract with the Dodgers, a figure Arizona did not want to reach because of injury concerns following Wolf's 2004-2006 seasons in Philadelphia.

Wolf and Jon Garland have passed on opportunities this offseason to join a rotation that already has four locked-in members: Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Doug Davis, and Max Scherzer.

Ben Sheets is one of the top starters remaining on the free agent market, but more reasonably priced alternatives such as Braden Looper, Jason Jennings, and Kris Benson may better fit the D-backs' budget. The team is believed to have between $4.5 million and $5 million left to spend after signing catcher Chris Snyder to a three-year, $14 million extension, and some of that could go towards Conor Jackson when he wins his arbitration hearing in February.

Wolf's 2007 deal with Los Angeles included an $8 million option with a $500,000 buyout. The Dodgers failed to exercise the option, but the sides came together on a $4.75 million contract in 2008. Before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline last summer, the Dodgers traded Wolf to Houston, where he went 6-2 with a 3.57 ERA in 12 starts.  According to FoxSports.com, Wolf turned down a three-year, $28.5 million offer to return to Houston this offseason.

SNAKE BYTES

--RHP Chad Qualls agreed to a one-year, $2,535,000 contract with the Diamondbacks, avoiding arbitration for the second consecutive year. He will begin spring training as the closer after converting his final seven save opportunities last season, when he was 4-8 with a 2.81 ERA and nine saves.

--1B/OF Conor Jackson and the D-backs are $1.2 million apart after exchanging arbitration figures. Jackson, who hit a career-high .300 with 12 home runs, 75 RBI, and a team-high .823 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, asked for $3.65 million. The D-backs offered $2.45 million. Jackson is in his first year of arbitration eligibility after making $419,500 in 2008.

--Tommy Jones, the D-backs' first director of player development, died Jan. 15 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. Jones joined the D-backs in their inaugural season in 1998 and remained through 2004, finishing that season as the first base coach after the midseason firing of manager Bob Brenly. Jones worked as the director of baseball operations for the Arizona Fall League in 2007.

--The D-backs have nine players listed on provisional rosters for the World Baseball Classic -- C Luke Carlin (Canada), RHP Chad Qualls (USA), LHP Travis Blackley (Australia), INF Felipe Lopez (Puerto Rico), 3B Agustin Murillo (Mexico), OF Trent Oeltjen (Australia), INF Augie Ojeda (Mexico), OF Gerardo Parra (Venezuela), and RHP Tony Pena (Dominican Republic).

--C James Skelton, a Rule 5 pick from Detroit at the winter meetings, already has begun workouts at the team's minor league complex in Tucson with minor league coordinator Jack Howell and major league coaches Chip Hale and Lorenzo Bundy, all of whom live in Tucson. Skelton has a chance to break camp as the 25th man on the major league roster. If he doesn't make it, he must be offered back to the Tigers for $25,000, half of what the D-backs paid for him.

--The D-backs no longer will telecast games in Spanish after the club was unable to help KPHE-TV get a slot on Cox Cable, which supplies most of the Phoenix area. KPHE had shown 50 games each of the past two seasons.

DIAMOND STAT: 1 -- Arbitration-eligible player, OF/1B Conor Jackson, after the D-backs were able to reach contract terms with RHP Chad Qualls. The D-backs had never gone to arbitration in GM Josh Byrnes' three years in the organization.

QUOTABLE:
"He was a really inclusive, energetic guy. I don't know if he knew the term 'management by walking around,' but that was how he ran the farm department. He was a tremendous, tremendous asset for me." -- Former D-backs general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. on Tommy Jones, the D-backs' first player development director who recently died.


Want to write for FutureBacks.com?  FutureBacks is now opening internships for the upcoming 2009 season.  If you live near one of the six Diamondbacks minor league affiliates, know baseball, and have a writing background, send your resume and two sample pieces of writing (at least one of which must be a journalistic piece about baseball) to future_backs@yahoo.com.   Applicants must be able to attend a minimum of two games per homestand, and students looking for course credit must get approval from their instructors. 

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