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Players past, players present, players future...

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SnakePit Jr. called from his job at Staples yesterday afternoon, saying Randy Johnson was in there. Our son seems to have the knack of bumping into D'backs, having sold Luis Gonzalez cough medicine in his previous employment at Walgreen's, but I guess it makes sense. The shopping center in which both stores are located is on the edge of Paradise Valley - that's where a lot of the multi-million dollar homes, likely to be bought by baseball player, can be found. I should point out that our house is on the other side of the tracks from those mansions. :-)

Meanwhile, I vaguely recall reading Gonzo was signing autographs on Saturday at some sports memorabilia store, for forty bucks a pop: guess he has to make ends meet somehow until signing a new contract, even if it's by wringing a last few bucks from the fans before he becomes one of the enemy. It's strange how quickly my feelings towards Gonzalez have swung from adoration to ambivalence, thanks to the nature of his final season, departure from the Diamondbacks and subsequent comments. The closest comparison I can think of would be an ex-girlfriend, with whom you had some great times, but the break-up was nasty, leaving you with bitter-sweet feelings about the whole thing. This wasn't even a "we can still be friends" split; this was a "...and never call me again" schism.

Jack Magruder, writing in the Tribune, says that the list of teams after Gonzo is down to five: Dodgers, Giants, Reds, Indians and Rangers. His agent says a multi-year deal very likely, though, I must say, his agent would presumably not be caught admitting anything else. I think talk of a contract past 2007 is pure BS, and perhaps the most pertinent phrase in the story is this one: "Gonzalez is unlikely to sign until free agents Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee pick their teams." That reality check pretty much establishes Gonzalez's rank in the free-agent pecking order: he's a consolation prize if teams don't get who they actually want. As such, whoever gets him will want to try and upgrade at the end of 2007, and not be locked into Gonzo for 2008 as well.

Thanks to shoewizard and VIII for trying to cheer me up about the lack of baseball. I'm slightly intrigued by the idea of ASU ball, suggested by shoe, but all college sports has always seemed like a pretty minor alternative - I've mentioned before that the coverage it gets here seems almost incomprehensible to me, and I think I'd probably rather boot up the Playstation. :-) VIII mentioned free-agents too, but I just don't expect much activity on that front from Arizona. Over at MLB Trade Rumors, they posted their Top 50 Free Agent List with the anticipated destinations - not one was expected to come to the Diamondbacks. The free-agent market this year will probably be something that happens elsewhere, to other people.

That said, you never know what this organization has up its sleeve; previous trades have had a tendency to pop up with almost no warning at all. I still remember the buzz of surprise that went through the crowd at Chase when the Jumbotron announced the deal where we swapped Hernandez 1.0 for Jorge Julio. They'd swapped one of our frontline starting pitchers for a closer and nobody had any idea this was in the pipeline, until it was officially announced. Thus, it wouldn't surprise me if the first thing we heard about any deal or signing was the formal notification. As they say with regard to conspiracy theories, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," but it applies to D'backs personnel changes too.

With Cameron, Easley, Edmonds and Thomas gone from our Free Agent Predicatron, I updated the contest to take them off the list. Most people got a point for keeping the Padres together with Mike Cameron, but Ben was the only person to get Edmonds right, so scores two points for that. VIII did correctly get Easley going to the Mets - an inspired pick - but that was countered by sending Cameron to the Red Sox. The overall scores so far see Ben in the lead with three points, VIII on two, and everyone else (npineda, myself and johngordonma) on one point. Plenty of time for positions to change, as three-quarters of those on our list have yet to be signed.

The same Tribune piece referenced above also discusses the various possible destinations for Johnny Estrada, saying "Philadelphia, Toronto, San Francisco and Colorado appear to be most in need of a catcher." Hmmm. I'm just brain-storming and throwing these out there. Something like Cole Hamels from the Phillies for Estrada and Brian Barden? PHI need 3B help something rotten, with the neither young nor good David Bell posting a .743 OPS there last season. On the other hand, this piece seems to suggest Philadelphia are going in another direction for catching.

For the other teams named, difficult to see us prising the likes of Cain or Lowry from the Giants, but maybe we could swing something with the Rockies? Every game of theirs last year was started by a twenty-something pitcher, so there's no shortage of youth in Denver. They could also use a CF [neither Sullivan nor Freeman reached .730 OPS], so maybe package Estrada and Eric Byrnes together, for Cook, Francis or Jennings and a prospect? Unfortunately, this is derailed by Byrnes' stay with Colorado in 2005, which lasted exactly seventeen days, during which time he hit .189. I doubt they want him back; maybe we could put a false moustache on him, and convince them it was another one of those "Luis Gonzalez" things, where two players share the same name. D'you think they'd notice? ;-)

Of course, there is a decent argument to be made that we would be better not trading for 2007 pitching, but instead someone yet to ripple the major-league waters, who'll be able to make a splash in 2008 and beyond. That kind of trade is a lot harder to work out, because my knowledge of other teams' farm systems is extremely flimsy [hell, my knowledge of Arizona's is not as good as I'd like] so I can't come up with potential names. Against that, by then we should be starting to see the results coming through of recent pitcher-heavy drafts, and I'm optimistic some AZ prospects should be near-ready. I also think Arizona is one good starting pitcher away from serious contention in the NL West next year, between the changes (Quentin for Green, Drew for Counsell) and improvements due to experience (Jackson, Snyder, EdGon). Winning the NL West in 2007, even if we go nowhere in the playoffs, would be a worthwhile goal, not least in resurrecting Valley interest in the team.

On that aspect, it'd help if the Suns, Coyotes and Cardinals continue on their journey, skipping merrily down the yellow-brick road of suckage - they're a combined 10-27 in their seasons thus far, which projects to a 118-loss baseball outfit. [The Cardinals are leading as I write, but I am certainly not counting that as a win until the final whistle] Is it wrong to wish ill upon Phoenix's other franchises, so that it makes the Diamondbacks more appealing to fans? Probably, but as someone who doesn't care about the other three sports at all - combined lifetime total of NFL, NHL and NBA games attended: zero - I find it kinda hard to give a damn...