The Return of the E-Qualls-izer, and other Diamondbacks news

Baseball trades, rumors and blog coverage - SB Nation MLB Hot Stove

The team avoided an arbitration hearing with Chad Qualls, agreeing to a deal worth $2.535m for the man anointed as Opening Day closer in 2009. That's a nice increase over the $1.31m he received in 2008, but it is certainly cheaper than the numbers being bandied around for the man he replaces, Brandon Lyon. Admittedly, the two-year $9m figure comes from Lyon's agent, and it seems high for a man who was unceremoniously dumped from the closer's spot in Arizona, and has a career ERA+ after eight seasons of 104. However, Jeremy Affeldt (career ERA+ 105) got a two-year, $8m deal, and Kyle Farnsworth (career ERA+ 98) a two-year $9.25m contract, so Lyon may be in line for something similar.

That leaves the last man to come to an agreement, first-baseman - or is he an outfielder these days? - Conor Jackson. The difference in figures is $1.2m - Jackson wants $3.65m, the Diamondbacks are offering $2.4m. Negotiation can continue right up until the hearings, which take place next month. At least they'll be in Phoenix, so no-one will have to travel very far, should the need arise. Nick Piecoro reports, "Both sides appear to be monitoring other similar, first-year arbitration players." Levski came up with a good list over on DBBP, providing the numbers for similar players - 1B/OF in their first year of arb I will shamelessly steal the data, and format it up nicely. :-) I will, however, also lob in the players' 2008 OPS+ number. All salary figures are in millions, of course, with the list sorted by descending player valuation.

Name Player Team Difference OPS+
Ryan Ludwick $4.35 $2.80 $1.55 150
Jeff Francoeur $3.95 $2.80 $1.15 72
Mark Teahen $3.85 $3.05 $0.80 91
Corey Hart $3.80 $2.70 $1.10 96
Mike Jacobs $3.80 $2.75 $1.05 109
Andre Ethier $3.75 $2.65 $1.10 130
Conor Jackson $3.65 $2.45 $1.20 110
Josh Willingham $3.60 $2.55 $1.05 118
Casey Kotchman $3.25 $2.475 $0.775 93

To me, it's surprising how little difference there is in the figures submitted by either the player or the team,  despite the wide difference in performance. The Cardinals value Ludwick at the same amount as the Braves do Francoeur, despite the gulf in 2008 output. Overall, the chart seems to suggest Jackson is being undervalued, with the lowest team bid, despite production better than most of his compatriots. Of course, there are other factors - such as defense - to be taken into account, but if I was presiding over the case, personally, I'd be leaning towards Jackson's number [the arbitrator can only choose one figure or the other, there's no 'splitting of the difference' allowed]

Add Randy Wolf to the expanding list of pitchers who have apparently turned down the opportunity to play for Arizona. No details as yet of what our offer entailed, but the story does say our offer to Jon Garland was for one guaranteed season and a couple of offer years. Given Wolf has apparently already "turned down a three-year, $28.5 million offer," I'm not quite sure how Arizona was expecting to compete. On to the next pitcher, I guess: Braden Looper? I do have to wonder what the point is here; it's unquestionably frustrating for us fans and, frankly, embarrassing for the franchise to be spurned by a mediocre (career ERA+ 101) pitcher like Wolf . For the $4-5m we are supposed to have, it's hard to see how we'll get a pitcher significantly better than the replacement ones, which we can pull up from Tucson for league minimum. Maybe we'll get the pitching equivalent of sympathy sex.

Eight Diamondbacks were listed on the provisional rosters for the World Baseball Classic, led as expected, by two on the Australian roster, in the shape of Trent Oeltjen and Travis Blackley, and ex-Dback/expat Brit Phil Stockman. Among other teams, Gerardo Parra is on the Venezuelan list, prospect Agustin Murillo joins Augie Ojeda for Mexico, while Felipe Lopez (Puerto Rico) and Tony Peña (Dominican Rep) are also listed. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Chad Qualls is on the roster for Team USA. It's shaping up as a monstrous bullpen, with four pitchers (Fuentes, Nathan, Ryan and Sherrill) who got 30+ saves last season, then filled out - literally! - with the likes of Broxton. These rosters will be pared down from 45 to 28, so inclusion at this point is a bit like still being with the team midway through Spring Training: it doesn't guarantee you'll go to the big show.

I must confess, it's harder for me to get excited about the WBC this time, with Arizona being passed over entirely for any of the games. I really enjoyed it in 2006 - I'll treasure, in particular, seeing the South Africans nearly pull off a stunning upset, leading Canada after eight innings at Scottsdale Stadium. They've got a phenomenally young team, with five on the provisional roster born in the nineties - Hein Robb won't even turn seventeen until after the tournament is over. I also note, with a smirk, that Andruw Jones couldn't even make the Dutch 45-man roster this time, with the likes of Dirk Van Klooster and Kalian Sams preferred in the outfield to the Dodgers' twenty-two million dollar man. The MLB Network are showing a lot of games, so I'll probably take in a few of those.

Want a job with the Diamondbacks? And, no, I don't mean inhabiting the D.Baxter costume - though one imagines they will be interviewing for that position too, the previous incumbent having been canned for extreme DUI. That certainly explains his habitually-wobbly gait as he staggered along the dugout, fresh from another session of drinking to forget. No, the position I mean is that of an intern for the Diamondbacks. There are various positions now open, in corporate partnerships, community affairs, communications and marketing. It's certainly a great way to get your foot in the door, if you are interested in making your career in the sport. Should you doubt that, you might be interested to learn that Josh Byrnes started off as an intern with the Cleveland Indians in 1994. Eleven years later, he became the Arizona GM. More information on the available openings can be found here.

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