Diamondbacks Eye Winn

Diamondbacks Eye Winn

Despite having Eric Byrnes on their roster as an $11 million fourth outfielder, the Arizona Diamondbacks are pursuing 35-year old free agent Randy Winn as another addition to a crowded outfield situation. Winn made $8.25 million himself in 2009 and was nearly as unproductive as Byrnes was.

The Diamondbacks have made contact with free agent Randy Winn about a 2010 contract, but they made it clear in their proposal that they would be looking at Winn as a fourth outfielder.

That leaves Winn, 35, to decide if he is ready to accept that role or if he would like to continue to explore the market for a starting spot. Early in the free agent process, it appears that only Kansas City and perhaps Atlanta have a regular position available, although things could change as deals are made.

Winn, a switch hitter, had the least productive season of his career with San Francisco in 2009, when he hit .262 with a career-low two home runs and 51 RBI while stealing 16 bases in 18 attempts. It might not be a reach for him to conclude that there would be a chance for consistent playing time in Arizona, however, in a park where he excels.

The D-backs expect open the season with Justin Upton in right field, Chris Young in centerfield, and a combination of right-handed-hitting Conor Jackson and left-handed-hitting Gerardo Parra in left field. Young is coming off a year in which he hit only .212 with 15 homers and 42 RBI and  returned to the minor leagues for three weeks in August, and Jackson may spend a majority of his time at first base. Parra hit .310 and had all 34 of his extra-base hits against right-handers last season, as he hit only .220 against lefties.

Winn made $8.25 million in 2009, concluding a three-year, $23.25 million contract extension he signed with San Francisco in February of 2006. He is career .335 hitter at Chase Field, and has nine homers in 155 career at-bats there. His former teammate on the Santa Clara University basketball team, Steve Nash, plays with the Phoenix Suns.

The D-backs also appear to be interested in right-hander Matt Capps and second baseman Kelly Johnson, both of whom recently became free agents when they were non-tendered by their former teams. Johnson hit .224 with eight homers and 29 RBI with Atlanta last year, the least productive season in his four-year major league career. Johnson hit .276 with 16 homers and 68 RBI in 2007, his first season as the Braves' regular second baseman, and followed that by hitting .287 with 12 homers, 69 RBIs and 39 doubles in 2008.

But after a slow start in 2009, Johnson lost playing time to Martin Prado. The D-backs have had interest in Johnson before, once discussing a trade package involving Jackson. Johnson hits left-handed, the side on which the D-backs are shy.

Capps, Pittsburgh's closer the past two seasons, was 2-3 with 21 saves and a 3.02 ERA in 2008 but slipped to 4-8 with 27 saves and a 5.80 ERA last year. He made $2,425,000 last season and has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining.

SNAKE BYTES

--RHP Edwin Jackson and RHP Ian Kennedy appear to be the final pieces of the rotation, leaving the Diamondbacks without a left-hander. Asked if he is done shopping for starting pitching, general manager Josh Byrnes replied, "probably, but you never know." That leaves Jackson as the No. 3 starter, Kennedy at No. 4, and RHP Billy Buckner as the front-runner for No. 5, with RHP Kevin Mulvey, RHP Bryan Augenstein, and RHP Cesar Valdez as possible spring training challengers. LHP Doug Davis left via free agency after three years in the rotation.

--SS Augie Ojeda signed a one-year, $825,000 contract to avoid arbitration for the third consecutive season. Ojeda, considered a plus defender at second base, shortstop and third base, hit .246 with one home run and 16 RBI in a career-high 264 at-bats last season. He also set career highs with 17 doubles, 32 walks, and three stolen bases. A valuable reserve, Ojeda is considered the principle backup at second base, shortstop and third base. He played for $712,500 last year.

--RHP Blaine Boyer signed a one-year, $725,000 million contract with the D-backs to avoid arbitration in his first year of eligibility. Boyer, acquired by the D-backs off waivers from St. Louis last June 8, went 0-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 30 relief appearances in Arizona while being used mostly in the sixth inning or as a long man. He was 0-2 with a 4.12 ERA overall in 2009, including three appearances with Atlanta and 15 with the Cardinals. Boyer played for $432,500 last season.

--As part of normal procedure, the D-backs offered contracts to all six of their unsigned players who were eligible for arbitration -- SS Stephen Drew, RHP Aaron Heilman, 1B/OF Conor Jackson, RHP Edwin Jackson, C Miguel Montero, and RHP Chad Qualls. Expect all the cases to be settled -- the D-backs have yet to go through arbitration in any of general manager Josh Byrnes' previous four years. Newcomer Edwin Jackson made $2.2 million in 2009, his first season of arbitration eligibility with the Tigers last year, and newcomer Heilman made $1,625,000 in his second year of arbitration last season with the Cubs.

--1B Josh Whitesell, given the chance to be the regular last season after injuries to 1B/3B Chad Tracy and 1B Tony Clark, struggled in the major leagues and was not tendered a contract by the December deadline, making him a free agent. Whitesell hit .194 with one home run and 14 RBI in three stints covering 108 at-bats with the D-backs in 2009. He had a breakthrough season at Class AAA Tucson in 2008, his first season in the organization after being acquired from Washington.  He hit .328 with 26 homers and 110 RBI that year, but he was never able to show that consistency at the major league level.

--OF Gerardo Parra's leg injury suffered in winter ball in Venezuela is not believed to be serious. The D-backs are calling it a quad strain, and while the injury is expected to keep him from returning to Aguilas del Zulia for the rest of the winter season, it should have no long-term effects. Parra, who had been hitting .338 with 12 RBI in 71 at-bats in Venezuela, suffered the injury Dec. 8 and was flown to Phoenix to be examined by team doctors.

--RHP Rodrigo Lopez signed a minor league contract December 16 and was invited to major league spring training. Lopez is 66-68 with a 4.82 ERA in parts of eight seasons with San Diego, Baltimore, Colorado, and Philadelphia. He went 3-1 with a 5.70 ERA in seven games with the Phillies last season.

--RHP T.J. Beam, OF Drew Macias, and C Carlos Corporan have signed minor league contracts and will be non-roster invitees to the Diamondbacks' major league camp.

DIAMOND STAT: 0 -- Left-handed pitchers in the Diamondbacks' 2010 rotation.

QUOTABLE: "I haven't had an at-bat since high school, so it's going to be a little challenging for me." -- RHP Ian Kennedy, who will make his National League debut as a pitcher -- and hitter -- this season after being acquired from the Yankees.


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