The winter meetings ended in Nashville, without further action on the part of Josh Byrnes and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hard to say exactly how close we came to pulling off a trade: Steve Gilbert says "they were close on a few things at the Meetings, including a three-team deal that included the Rays," but there's no details on what that might have been, what players were involved on either side, or who the third team was. So, as rumors go, I think it's safe to say that this leaves a little to be desired.
On the Kuroda front, it appears the team have increased their offer from the $27m/three years originally tabled - more dollars, but not more years. Whether that will be enough to beat out the Mariners and Dodgers - the former are reported to be contemplating extending an additional year on their Kuroda offer, though that has also been denied - remains to be seen. The story in the previous sentence says, "Kuroda's choice of team will reportedly have more to do with personal preference and less to do with the length of the deal." However, it appears he has scrapped his plan to visit some of the teams interested in his services this week, so you can put away those "Please come to Phoenix, Kuroda-San!" signs. And that story basically elimates AZ from contention and says it's most likely the Dodgers. In more general news, Nick Piecoro describes the team's increasing forays into the Japanese market, with Mack Hayashi signing on to be the director of Pacific Rim operations, presumably with the particular intent of targetting the Japanese leagues for resources. Let's hope for better results than these rumors indicate.
Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal describes Arizona and Cleveland as being "in the best position to make a deal" for Danny Haren. and says our offer includes CarGon, Bonifacio and AA pitcher Brett Anderson "among others". How many players are we sending to Billy Beane? The Tribune reports, however, that Max Scherzer is not part of the package being offered, and also points out that Carlos Gonzalez has not played for a week in the Venezuelan Winter League. One potential trading partner dropped out of the running, with the news that the Brewers have signed Eric Gagne to a one-year contract as their closer, removing any chance of us swapping Jose Valverde for one of their starters. Do have to say, ponying up $10m for Gagne is a risk, since he blew chunks in his stint with Boston, posting a 6.75 ERA in twenty games. Perhaps a return to his traditional closer's role will help, since he was fine earlier on in the year with Texas. Still, not our problem. :-)
On the plus side, we did re-sign the Littlest Ballplayer, Augie Ojeda, to a one-year, $550K contract. Given that kind of sum would not fund Livan Hernandez's buffet for the season, it's a decent investment. Even if he's not in the starting lineup, we can always use his arm out of the bullpen. That would seem likely to leave Alberto Callaspo back down in Tucson, if he doesn't get traded by Opening Day: and even in Triple-A, he might find himself being pushed for playing time by Bonifacio. Speaking of Tucson, it seems likely the team will continue its affiliation with the team, even after it packs up and moves to Reno, beginning in the 2009 season. Said Josh Byrnes, "It’s good to have Triple-A clubs close, just for roster moves." And, to no-one's surprise, Livan Hernandez declined our offer of arbitration. We'll get a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the 2008 draft if, as appears likely, he signs with someone else.
The Rule 5 draft came and went; we didn't lose anyone, and actually picked up somebody with the penultimate pick of the day, taking first-baseman Balthazar Lopez up from the Angels. According to Piecoro, "I asked two Diamondbacks executives about Lopez and neither knew a thing about him. Still trying to figure out whose idea it was to pick him." Lopez spent 2007 with Tuneros de San Luis of the Mexican League, where he hit .296, and turned 24 at the end of last month. Perhaps also worth noting, Lopez received a 15-day suspension in April 2005 after a positive drug test. I'm presuming that, since Lopez was chosen in the Double-A portion of the draft (and so, only cost us $4,000), he does not have to stick on the major-league roster all year.
Baseball America released their list of our Top 10 Prospects, which has Carlos Gonzalez at #1. The question of how long he will remain a Diamondback prospect, remains to be seen. It's an interesting piece, not least for the predicted 2011 lineup - which looks, basically, exactly the same as the 2008 one, except for CarGon replacing Eric Byrnes. Mind you, they also list their picks for us over the last decade, which starts with Travis Lee, and includes such stellar names as Alex Cintron and Luis Terrero. There is no-one on the list who made any meaningful impact with the team at all. Indeed, only the 2006 and 2007 candidates - Drew and Upton respectively - are still with the organization.