Chad Tracy had been offered to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the Winter Meetings, and has more recently been dangled in front of the Pirates in an attempt to lure reliever Mike Gonzalez to the desert.
The former 7th-round pick has enormous trade value right now, despite a 2006 season that saw his strikeout rate soar and his power numbers slide. He signed an extension before the baseball market exploded in a flurry of mediocre pitchers signing contracts for $9 million a year. Meanwhile, Tracy's bargain-basement contract also contains a $7 million club option for the 2010 season.
What Byrnes hopes to get in return for Tracy is pitching, pitching, and more pitching. As ridiculous as hitters' contracts have been this season, the pitchers are getting overpaid by millions of dollars more. In addition, the Diamondbacks' farm system is still hitter-heavy, particularly in the upper levels. So a talented young major league pitcher with a controllable contract (such as Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, or Mike Gonzalez) along with one or two pitching prospects should be adequate return value for Tracy.
If such a deal occurs, what options does this leave for third base?
The Diamondbacks' front office (as well as anyone else who's paying attention) is really high on Mark Reynolds after his breakout 2006 season. He went from a role-player with some pop to an offensive dynamo who is versatile on defense. The departure of Tracy would clear a spot in the infield suited to Reynolds' skills, as his range probably isn't good enough to be an everyday major league shortstop.
Jaime D'Antona rebounded from an awful 2005 season to perform extremely well in 2006, but he was primarily used at first base, then tried out at catcher towards the end of the season. He did not play any third base in the AFL. Certainly, he could be plugged back in there if push came to shove, but it would not appear that Jaime is being groomed as a possible replacement for Tracy.
Brian Barden has put up solid offensive numbers at high minor league levels for years now. But if he were the heir apparent to Chad Tracy, he would have gotten a September callup last season for sure.
Whichever of these three would take over full-time third base duties in our hypothetical scenario, super-sub Alberto Callaspo will be there ably spelling him with days off. Callaspo has the ability to play there as a starter, but his speed is more suited for one of the middle infield positions.
While there is no obvious replacement for Tracy if he is traded, there are enough talented position players who are nearly major league-ready in the Arizona farm system for Josh Byrnes to feel comfortable making such a move. But it's only a move he'll make if an unbelievable deal is out there. You don't trade a player in his prime who is one of the best bargains in baseball simply on a whim.
Read more from Keith Glab at BaseballEvolution.com