This is part of a series of posts in which we call out all 30 teams for their wily offseason moves and tragic offseason blunders.
Listening to what D’Backs manager Bob Melvin had to say after the Randy Johnson trade, you’d think his team just pulled a Flordia Marlins or a New York Yankees and signed a bunch of underachieving, overpaid free-agent veterans, so they can win now.
“Being a manager, I’m looking to win and I’m looking to win now.”
But if you look closely, the Diamondbacks purged themselves of expiring veterans in order to allow their upcoming young’uns room to develop. (To top it all off, they decided to ditch the purple, teal and copper in their uniforms for a more desert-friendly Sonoran sand and Sedona red).
Gone is cult-hero Luis Gonzalez to make room for two promising outfielders, Chris Young and Carlos Quentin. With Quentin’s flashy leather, he’ll take over center field, while local spaz Eric Byrnes shifts to left field.
Out is Craig Counsell at short in favor of Stephen Drew.
Same story behind the plate; while Johnny Estrada wasn’t necessarily archaic, the Diamondbacks had enough confidence in Chris Snyder to trade Estrada (along with Claudio Vargas and Greg Aquino) to the Brewers for pitching.
And Snyder has certainly proven he can be the starting catcher for manager Melvin. His average jumped from .202 in 2005 to .277 in 2006, and he hit the same number of home runs in almost half as many ABs.
Snyder’s not a superstar, though, that’s why Melvin and GM Byrnes decided to give the even younger Miguel Montero, who’ll have his first full season this year, significant playing time.
Youth seems to be the keyword for these Diamondbacks; except, of course, in their rotation. Along with Johnson, Doug Davis (31) was acquired in the Milwaukee deal, and both join Livan “One more inning, skip” Hernandez (32). Then again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the D’backs rotation has room to brag, they are the only team in the majors to have four – yes, cuatro – starters that pitched opening day for their former teams last year: Davis in Milwaukee, Johnson in New York, Hernandez for the Nats, and reigning Cy Young winner, Brandon Webb at home in the desert.
These four horses (200+ IP each) make a formidable front-line, giving Melvin the opportunity to let his minor-leaguers fight tooth and nail for that fifth spot.
But let’s not get carried away. The D’backs line-up was a tad above the mean in RBI, Runs, and team average (they ranked 7th), and a tad below in OPS (10th), SLG (9th) and home runs (13th). They’ll need a significant boost from their young bats in order to contend.
And let’s not forget the bullpen. Closer Jose Valverde spent some time in Triple A last year after his stuff went south. The D’backs acquired Jorge Julio from the Mets in the Shawn Green trade, and placed him in the closer’s role for a good part of 2006, but the team’s consensus is that Valverde will be on the mound come the 9th, and what happens then is a matter of how prepared he is.
Yes, they’re young; yes, they have the O-Dog at second and a promising shortstop, not to mention, promising outfielders, but these D’backs are one or two full seasons away from truly measuring up and contending for the NL West crown as previous generations of Snakes did.
Offseason grade: B-
Acquisitions: Randy Johsnon, Doug Davis, Dana Eveland, Dave Krynzel.
Losses: Miguel Batista, Craig Counsell, Damion Easley, Luis Gonzalez, Johnny Estrada, Claudio Vargas, Greg Aquino, Luis Vizcaino.
Projected lineup, rotation and closer:
LF Eric Byrnes – .267 / .313 / .482, 79 RBI
2B Orlando Hudson – .287 / .354 /.454, 67 RBI
3B Chad Tracy – .281 / .343 / .451, 80 RBI
1B Connor Jackson – .291 / .368 / .441, 79 RBI
SS Stephen Drew – .316 / .357 / .517
C Chris Snyder – .277 / .349 / .424
RF Carlos Quentin – .253 / .342 / .530
CF Chris B. Young – .243 / .308 / .386
RHP Brandon Webb – 16-8, 3.10
LHP Randy Johnson – 17-11, 5.00
RHP Livan Hernández – 13-13, 4.83
LHP Doug Davis – 11-11, 4.91
RHP Enrique González – 3-7, 5.67
CL Jose Valverde – 18 SV, 5.84