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TV dinners, anyone?

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Not much free time this week, mostly because of TV-related reasons. The second series of Sleeper Cell has started: and there's none of this wussy, "one episode per week" nonsense offered by lesser shows. No, sir: how about eight consecutive nights? That's fine, but I think by Sunday night, I'll have had enough Islamic terror for a bit. You can't even skip a night and think, "I'll tape it and watch it tomorrow," since that just means you will have to pull a double-shift. How people can get into soap operas, which are on every day for months or years at a time, beats me.

Sleeper Cell also clashes with The Lost Room, the SciFi channel miniseries which is on for two hours a night, Monday through Wednesday. That one's being recorded though, for viewing over the weekend, and that way we don't have to sit through all the commercials. And toss in the final two eps of Dexter, last Sunday and this, and it seems to be a bit of a golden era for the boob-tube. Though after this weekend, I think we'll head back to the DVD pile for our entertainment through the festive season.

Fortunately, still not much going on for the Diamondbacks: thus far, it's been the dullest off-season I can remember. We made our offer to Mulder, but it won't be enough. His agent did apparently describe it as "strong", but that's exactly what any agent worth his salt would do, to drive up the bids from other teams, and so is effectively meaningless. Given how far off the pace we were in the bidding for the Japanese pitchers, you know someone is going to offer much more for Mulder than us. The Tribune says the deal was option-based, "with provisions that could increase the base salary, and at least two team options."

That's interesting, since it's generally thought that the team had a policy against incentives in contracts, after they caused problems with Hernandez 1.0. However, they would seem almost essential here: without them, you're either going to offer a contract that's so short to be uncompetitive, or are in danger of locking someone up for a long time, without knowing if they're ever going to pitch effectively again. As a general guideline, it makes sense, but every rule has its exceptions, and inflexibility is in no-one's interest. Otherwise, pretty much our only hope is if Mulder (or any other free-agent, for that matter) decides the intangibles of playing in Arizona merit some kind of hometown discount.

Miguel Batista clearly didn't think so, opting to sign with the Mariners instead, for $24m or thereabouts over 3 years. Well done, Miggy: you deserve a decent payday, just in case the writing thing doesn't take off. That pretty much sums up the market, especially for starting pitching, this winter. Someone with an ERA of more than 4.50 (admittedly in a hitters' park, but he's still only a Type-B free-agent), gets a three-year deal for eight million per season. And that seems reasonable beside some of the contracts that have been waved around - cough, Gil Meche, cough. [I'm still in shock that a man who hasn't posted an ERA+ of 100 since 2000, is getting $11m/year for the next five] No wonder the Diamondbacks opted to sit this one out, and use other routes to bolster their rotation.

One potential candidate there was crossed off the list, with Jason Jennings getting traded to the Astros. The Rockies got quite a haul in return: pitcher Jason Hirsh is the jewel in the deal, and is viewed as a serious future prospect. Given Jennings will be a free-agent after 2007, it's a hefty price for one year of service. I'm not sure if Arizona was in the bidding for Jennings - I'd like to think we would be, for just about any pitcher on the block - but the Rockies got a lot for him, and we'd have been hard pushed to match it. Something like Jennings for Byrnes, Owings and Cruz would perhaps be the equivalent. And that's too much, I'd say.

Especially, since I doubt many pitchers will be looking to sign any contract extensions in 2007, having seen the bonanza this year. That could spell trouble for Arizona, since both Davis and Hernandez 2.0 can walk at the end of the season, leaving our starting rotation once again looking perilously thin between Webb and the back-end. I like to think we'll sort out a couple of decent pitchers from the EdGon, Nippert, Owings, etc. shoal, but in the absence of any further moves, we'll be in the same, or possibly an even worse, situation than we are at the moment. Not necessarily a cause for panic as yet, but it's something to be aware of going forward.

The departure of Batista just leaves Zito left in our free-agent pick contest, and Ben is now guaranteed the title. He's two points clear, but both he and the only challenger within striking distance, johngordonma, picked the same destination for Zito (Yankees), so that one's a wash. Seems less likely that will happen, given the other pitchers they picked up in the Bronx since the end of last season. The current uncertainy over Matsuzaka may be why Zito is holding on before making a decision: if the Red Sox can't close the deal, I've little doubt they would want to enter the Barry bidding.

Going to put up the first part of the '10 Questions' series tomorrow, in which Nick Piecoro and Jack Magruder tackle some of the weighty issues the Diamondbacks face this off-season. [If we wait any longer for the third response, it'll end up being "a look back at what we should have done during the hot-stove sessions." :-)] And, hooray! The SBNation has finally added another Phoenix blogger to the ranks, with Dan Hilton, who'll be covering our next-door neighbors, over at Bright Side of the Sun. It's great to have another AZ blogger, even though I, to be perfectly honest, can't stand basketball! Still, no doubt the Suns are storming right now, posting 11 straight wins, so go check out the blog and give Dan some love.