The Diamondbacks plan to increase their payroll to at least $75 million in 2010, perhaps more if they find a bargain in the free agent market.
They will attempt to add a fourth starter and a Tony Clark-type backup corner infielder who also can add a clubhouse presence. They have already added one veteran bullpen arm in Aaron Heilman and could potentially corral another.
Managing partner Ken Kendrick, watching D-backs prospects at an Arizona Fall League game the second week of November, would not confirm the exact salary increase for fear of giving other teams a competitive advantage, but he did say the D-backs will spend more than the $73 million and change that went toward the 2009 edition that went 70-92.
"A lot of teams may cut back, but we are prepared to add," Kendrick said. "We think we could find some value [on the free agent market]."
The D-backs have about $36 million in 2010 contract commitments to Eric Byrnes ($11 million), Brandon Webb ($8.5 million), Dan Haren ($8.25 million), Chris Snyder ($4.75 million) and Chris Young ($3.25 million), and also have bonus payments of $1 million due to Justin Upton and Max Scherzer.
With that, and adding estimated arbitration and renewal costs, the D-backs could have as much as $20 million to spend, potentially more if they are able to trade Snyder and Byrnes, who will not enter spring training as starters. Kendrick also said the D-backs are unlikely to release Byrnes, who has struggled with injuries since signing a $30 million extension late in 2007.
Kendrick indicated the D-backs would commit more resources to the bullpen, an area that has not been heavily financed the last several seasons. The D-backs traded Jose Valverde to Houston after he recorded a franchise-record 47 saves in 2007 rather than go to arbitration with the closer, who received a $4.7 million award. They obtained less expensive Chad Qualls, who earned $1.31 million.
The D-backs did not pursue relievers Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz after the 2008 season, when they became free agents. While free agent Valverde, who made $8 million in 2009, is too costly to pursue now, the D-backs are likely to target Lyon, who was a successful setup man in 2007 and a quality closer in the first half of 2008.
Lyon, 6-5 with three saves a 2.86 ERA while making $4.25 million with Detroit last season, did not want to leave and even offered to return to the D-backs in a setup role last season after spending the first five months of 2008 as the closer.
--RHP Aaron Heilman was acquired from the Cubs for two minor league players November 19, as the Diamondbacks took their first step in adding veteran help to the bullpen. Heilman, 31, went 4-4 with one save and a 4.11 ERA in 70 appearances in 2009, his first season with the Cubs after spending the first six seasons of his career with the Mets. He has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining after playing for $1,625,000 in 2009, and his salary is likely to be in the mid-$2 million range next year. The Cubs acquired LHP Scott Maine and 1B Ryne White in the deal. Maine, a seventh-round pick in 2007, was 4-5 with seven saves and a 2.90 ERA while splitting 2009 between Class AA Mobile and Class AAA Reno. White, a fourth-round pick in 2008, hit .266 with six homers and 52 RBI at Class A Visalia this year.
--SS Stephen Drew has been mentioned as a potential trade candidate in national speculation, but D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall told fans during his monthly chat session that Drew will not be moved. "That comes from other teams having interest and floating his name out there," Hall said. "He would be too tough to replace if we ever moved him. Strictly rumors." Drew was the third shortstop in major league history to hit 40 doubles, 10 triples and 20 home runs in the same season when he batted .291 with 44 doubles, 11 triples, and 21 homers in 2008, although he slumped to .261 and 26, 12, and 12 after a slow start in 2009.
--The D-backs and Colorado broke ground November 16 on their two-team spring training facility that will open in 2011. The new spring stadium, built on land owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, will cost about $100 million and will be located about 10 miles north and slightly east of the Scottsdale facility that currently hosts the San Francisco Giants.
--RHP Bryan Augenstein, a dark horse candidate for a spot in the 2010 rotation behind RHP Billy Buckner, had a strong finish in the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League. Augenstein went 1-4 with a 4.16 ERA in six AFL starts, but he gave up only four earned runs over 15 2/3 innings (2.30 ERA) in his final five outings. Augenstein threw only 5 2/3 innings in the final six weeks of the regular season while in the D-backs bullpen as a September call-up. He struck out 15 and walked four in 17 1/3 AFL innings.
--C John Hester, who homered in his first major league plate appearance August 28, was named the catcher on the Class AAA All-Star team chosen by Topps. Hester, 26, hit .328 with nine home runs and 66 RBIs in 92 games at Reno. He threw out 30 percent of the runners attempting to steal on him. Hester, 26, was a 13th-round draft pick out of Stanford in 2006 and is in line to become the D-backs' backup catcher in 2010 should they work a deal for C Chris Snyder.
--Gil Heredia, a 10-year major league veteran, was named the pitching coach at rookie-league Missoula to replace Steve Merriman, who took a job with the Major League Scouting Bureau. Heredia worked with the staff at short-season Yakima in his first season in the system. The right-hander won 13 games for Oakland in 1999 and 15 in 2000 and was 57-51 with a 4.46 ERA in a career that began with San Francisco and included stops in Montreal, Texas and Oakland.
DIAMOND STAT: $20 million -- The amount of money, give or take, the D-backs have to spend this offseason to add free agents or veteran contracts in 2010.
QUOTABLE: "We will look at pitching free agents for both the rotation and the bullpen, as well as a veteran for the bench. Most of what we do may have to come through trades, however. There are not many holes to fill. We just need to get off to a better start and to hope for better health. Last season was a strange one where anything and everything that could go wrong did." -- President/CEO Derrick Hall, on the D-backs' offseason shopping list.
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