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Tracy not good enough for the Angels?

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So reports the LA Times, saying "talks broke down when the Diamondbacks asked for Saunders". Excuse me? Does he have some hidden talent of which we are unaware? I'm perhaps wondering if we also asked for a prospect - which would be a typical JB move - and that was actually what broke the deal. Contrary to the official denials from yesterday, however, there does now appear to have been some contact between them, with the Tribune reporting "just brief" conversations with the Angels.

Some more interesting nuggets from that piece, Texas has been asking about Dustin Nippert and Micah Owings, with a trade for relief help the most likely scenario. Ken Kendrick said: "We could probably see finding somebody who is capable of being a closer but who has not earned his spurs as a closer yet." Basically, get a closer, without paying the market rate for one, which would seem to role out Keith Foulke. That kind of move would again seem to foreshadow trading Jorge Julio away; I'm guessing any new arrival would backup Valverde initially, rather than replace him, since I wouldn't be happy with Tony Pena(rio) as our substitute in the role.

Must admit, I have a kneejerk reaction against trading any rotation prospects - something like, "...when you pry them from our cold, dead fingers." I mean, they're kinda thin on the ground: Brandon Webb is the only guy to come up through the farm system, who has started more than twenty games for Arizona [He has 129; EnGon is next, at 18]. But upon further reflection, how many #5 starters do you really need? We certainly seem to have a number of parts, apparently interchangeable for that role, so if we can convert some of them into useful components, let's do it. Otherwise, all we'll have to show for it next year is the best AAA rotation in baseball.

It's also reported by the Tribune that Jeff DaVanon is not expected to be ready when spring training starts, after having had surgery late last season to repair a split tendon in his left ankle. I'm less concerned about that, than whether he'll be ready by Opening Day, but reading between the lines there, I'm guessing that he probably won't be. Maybe that's why we picked up CF Dave Krynzel from the Brewers in the Estrada trade: he's out of options, so would need to be placed on the Opening Day roster, and could be used as a DaVanon replacement.

With Chris Young up in the big-leagues, I'm wondering who'll be patrolling center in Tucson this year. In fact, all the outfield positions for the Sidewinders seem up for grabs, with Young and Quentin definitely up with the big-boys, and very possibly, Scott Hairston too. That really only leaves Jon Weber as a full-time outfielder; Robby Hammock might be useable. And it's not as if there are many immediate contenders for promotion, since none of the outfielders we had down in Tennessee set the world on fire in 2006. The best-hitting one, Alex Frazier, batted a mere .233 in 103 games, so doesn't exactly seem ripe for Triple-A. The next man to move up could be Carlos Gonzalez, but he would seem to need more time there before this would be realistic.

Speaking of CaGon, John Sickels of Minor League Ball is working towards coming up with his top 20 Diamondbacks prospects list, and Ben noted the lengthy debate over the rating for Gonzalez: B+ or A-? It's a fractional difference, but an interesting one - actually, it's one I can relate to, since I use the same letter grades when I'm reviewing films, and there is a significant difference between B+ and A- there too. Any "A"-related grade is given only to a couple of films a year - Borat is the sole one thus far in 2006 - but B+'s are much more common, and so it seems with prospects. B+ seems to equal solid, major-league potential, and a possible All-Star, but A- brings you into the elite, "can't miss" department.

Anyway, the consensus appears to be that CaGon is a B+ prospect, at least until he improves his plate discipline. Last year, between Lancaster (A+) and Tennessee (AA) he struck out 116 times, and walked only 37, and that 3:1 K:BB ratio has been more or less consistent since he started playing minor-league ball as a 17-year old in 2003. Yep, a big plus is that he's still only 21, and will be right the way through next season too - his birthday is in October - which he'll likely start off in Tennessee, so he does have that on his side. He's been playing in the Venezuelan Fall League this winter, and word is that he seems to be addressing the discipline thing, with more walks than strikeouts thus far, but I haven't been able to confirm that independently.

Literally as I posted this piece, I discovered that Sickels has now posted his list of Top 20 Diamondbacks prospects. He still lists Upton as #1. More on that tomorrow, but I'll just note that according to the list, we have four prospects (Upton, Young, CaGon and Montero) rated at B+ or above. Compare that to the Giants, who in Sickel's opinion only have one...

Here's a quick trivia question. Kevin Jarvis, Eric Knott, Shane Reynolds, Oscar Villarreal: what's the common link? Post your guesses in the comments, and I'll give you the answer next time, if no-one works it out before then. A clue is, I stumbled across this connection while writing today's piece...