Webb to the Nationals?

Webb to the Nationals?

Brandon Webb is a free agent and most likely will not return to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He may, however, reunite with Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, the man who drafted Webb ten years ago.

Brandon Webb was among the five Diamondbacks who became free agents following the conclusion of the World Series, and he has likely thrown his last pitch in Arizona. The D-backs have not contacted Webb's camp about having him returning, and they are not expected to.

Webb, who followed Randy Johnson in the line of NL Cy Young winners and D-backs aces, did not pitch in 2010 after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair labrum and rotator cuff damage in August 2009. He started on Opening Day in 2009, but he spoke of shoulder pain after that outing and did not pitch again that season.

"Brandon was one of the elite pitchers in the National League and a leader on D-backs' pitching staffs until suffering the injury two years ago,"  D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said in a statement. "We wish him continued success as he goes through this (free agent) process."

Webb's most likely destination is Washington.  Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was the Diamondbacks' director of scouting in 2000 when the team selected Webb in the 8th round, so he is obviously a big fan of the former Cy Young winner.  Moreover, if Webb does regain his old form, it likely won't happen until late 2011 or even 2012.  Since the Nationals will be without phenom Stephen Strasburg for the 2011 season, 2012 is a more realistic year for them to compete.  They might be more willing to sign Webb to a multiyear deal and suffer through his probable ups and downs in 2011 than a team expecting to contend next season.

"[W]e have not entirely closed the door on Brandon returning to the D-backs next season," hedged Towers in his statement.

Webb, second to Johnson in virtually all franchise career pitching categories, won the NL Cy Young Award in 2006 and finished second in 2007 and 2008, extending the tradition of excellence started by Johnson, who won the NL Cy Young from 1999-2002. Webb led the NL with 16 victories in 2006 and 22 in 2008, and he was 87-62 with a 3.27 ERA in seven seasons.

"I certainly understand Brandon's decision to test the free agent market, and I wish him well," D-backs' president/CEO Derrick Hall said. "He has meant so much to this franchise and provided this team and our fans with magical memories. His contributions both on and off the field are greatly appreciated and should be recognized."

The D-backs and Webb had agreed to a four-year, $54 million contract extension midway through the 2008 season, but the D-backs could not find an insurance company willing to underwrite the deal after a physical exam showed shoulder wear. Dan Haren was signed to a long-term deal shortly thereafter.

Webb reported to spring training on time in 2010 but suffered a setback and did not get into a game until throwing three times in the fall Instructional League, the last occurring October 7 at Chase Field. Scouts clocked Webb's fastball at 82-83 mph, 6 mph lower than in his prime.

SNAKE BYTES

--1B Adam LaRoche was given a $1.5 million buyout when the D-backs declined his $7.5 million option for 2011 the day after the World Series concluded. LaRoche set a franchise record for a first baseman with 100 RBI while hitting .261 with 25 home runs in his first season with the D-backs. "We plan to allocate some of those dollars to other areas," GM Kevin Towers said.

--1B/LF Brandon Allen is the only starting first base candidate on the 40-man roster, "but that doesn't mean we aren't going after other first basemen in free agents or trades," GM Kevin Towers said. "That's usually an area with some depth in the market." Home town product 1B Paul Konerko is a free agent, although he appears to be too pricey for the D-backs. Allen is considered a first baseman first, although he played mostly left field after being promoted from Triple-A Reno on September 1.

--RHP Leo Rosales and LHP Clay Zavada were outrighted off the 40-man roster November 6.  The two relievers are now free agents.  Arizona has already begun trying to bring back Zavada on a minor league deal, but they reportedly are no longer interested in Rosales, whom GM Kevin Towers traded to Arizona back in 2007 after behavioral issues.  Both Zavada and Rosales were injured for most of 2010, with Zavada missing the entire regular season after Tommy John surgery.

--RHP Brian Sweeney was claimed off waivers from Seattle on November 2. Sweeney, 36, went 1-2 with a 3.16 ERA 24 relief appearances for the Mariners this year after spending the previous three seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Pacific League. He was 23-21 in 93 starts for the Fighters in 2007-09 and has been a starter most of his minor league career before pitching exclusively in relief last season. He spent 2004-06 in the San Diego organization when new Arizona GM Kevin Towers was the Padres' general manager.

--LHP Mike Hampton, RHP Aaron Heilman, RHP Rodrigo Lopez, and RHP Kris Benson became free agents, and the D-backs appear to have interest only in Hampton, who made 10 scoreless appearances in a specialist's role after his contract was purchased from Class AAA Reno on September 3. Heilman likely will be too pricey for the D-backs. Lopez, who gave up a major league-high 37 home runs in his first full season back from 2007 Tommy John surgery, is considered a bad fit at hitter-friendly Chase Field, where balls carry.

DIAMOND STAT: 135-189; Arizona's record over the past two seasons, during which time Webb only made one start.

QUOTABLE: "We need a front-of-the-rotation guy to put everybody in their proper places in the rotation.  That's the number one priority going into the offseason." —Nationals GM Mike Rizzo.


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