Well, we may have lost half of our World Series punch, but is there a possibility we could get back the other one? Tyler Bassett of 620 KTAR reports, "After missing the entire 2008 season, Curt Schilling is attempting to come back from surgery and has said in the past that he may be able to pitch this season. The Diamondbacks are interested in the right-hander and may end up signing the one time Diamondback." This is something we floated more than two months ago, and Schilling did say on KTAR that "
The traditional problem remains - the team's refusal to offer contractsd containing incentive-based clauses, something almost certainly necessary to compete for Schilling's services. However, last Friday, Nick Piecoro wrote that this might not be such a dogmatic part of philosophy as was previously the case, with "some indications the team might be willing to relax its policy." In particular, while "It’s doubtful that they would do deals that include bonuses for things like innings pitched or games finished or home runs, but they might do a deal that would pay a player as long as he’s on the active roster.while not being able to do contracts for innings pitched, etc."
Actually, part of the problem is they can't offer contracts based on home-runs or similar metrics - it's forbidden. Major league rule 3(b)(5) says: "No Major League Uniform Player's Contract or Minor League Uniform Player Contract shall be approved if it contains a bonus for playing, pitching or batting skill or if it provides for the payment of a bonus contingent on the standing of the signing Club at the end of the championship season." The reason for this will be familiar if you've seen Eight Men Out, where the White Sox owner screwed Eddie Cicotte out of a bonus, by stopping him from reaching the 30-win target. So, you can have an incentive based on the number of innings pitched or games finished, but not ERA or Saves.
Piecoro points out that Jeff DaVanon's contract, signed in February 2006, had incentive-based aspects. It's probably worth filling in the details: he had a conditional player option for 2007, whose value was determined by the number of days he spent on the major league roster in 2006. It was worth $700K for 90 active days; $900K for 120 days; $1.1m for 150 days; and $1.25m if he reached 180 active days. His 2006 season ended when he hit the 15-day DL on August 12: to me, that would seem to put him in the 900K range, but it looks like the fine print excluded only DL time "for an injury related to a pre-existing right shoulder injury." As the August injury was to his ankle, it seems DaVanon got the full $1.25m in 2007.
In the comments, 'hacks makes a couple of interesting and, I suspect, accurate observations - I'll reverse the order of them. Firstly, if this is the case, why wasn't such a contract offered to RJ, "an injury risk / high potential poster boy for this very approach." I think his other point answers this: I doubt it's a coincidence that this apparent shift in policy happens only a few days after the announcement that Jeff Moorad will be leaving the organization. I definitely think a degree of flexibility is a good thing: sure, make it a general rule not to offer such contracts, but there are times when the benefit will outweigh the cost uncertainty which is an inevitable part of them.
Bassett and Piecoro each also provide their own lists of likely other candidates, after whom the Diamondbacks might go. The former is a great deal less ambitious: "Paul Byrd, Jason Jennings, Braden Looper, and Randy Wolf," while Piecoro still mentions Ben Sheets, Pedro Martinex and Jason Jennings. One name we can cross off is Jon Garland who apparently rejected Arizona's offer, though there's no details of what that was or whether Garland has signed anywhere else. The story echoes Bassett's mention of Braden Looper, though as he earned $5.5m last year in St. Louis, I'm forced to wonder if we'd have enough in the budget to make a run at him, even if Looper is now 34.
Kris Benson is another name mentioned in connection with the Diamondbacks - and the source in this case is... Kris Benson. In an interview with MASN, "mentioned the Diamondbacks and Rangers among a handful of clubs that could decide to sign him." Benson is perhaps better known for his wife, Anna who once famously went on the Howard Stern show, when he played for the Mets, and said she'd have sex with every member of the organization (including the grounds crew), if she ever learned her husband had been unfaithful. Given Anna was named baseball's hottest wife in 2004, one would trust that circumstance should be unlikely.
Couple of other things to mention, before I head off to write an article on narwhals. Our colleagues at Beyond the Box Score have just launched a community effort to project team performance in 2009, on a player-by-player level. They're looking for one person per team to head up the projection effort. Eventually they plan to have a community projection of expected standings, the best lineup, the best rotation, league MVPs, Cy Youngs, and the most productive players at each position. Having just finished the defensive stats epic, I don't really feel up to taking part, but if you are interested, check out this post and leave your team, website, and email address in the comments.
If you've got a spare moment or two, SnakePit Jr. [above] now has a blog of his own - the professional baseball thing never quite worked out, and he's now (more than a decade after the above picture was taken, I should add) intent on becoming a writer for The Colbert Show. So please swing and feel free to leave comments: it'd be nice if someone other than his mother did so. :-)