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Single digits...

Nine days till pitchers and catchers report, though it seems like it'll be closer to nine months, the way the days are creeping past. And even when they do, it'll still be the best part of three weeks before there's any games or public action on which to report. Can't come soon enough, though at least we've put the misery which was the freezing, wet January behind us, and normal "winter" weather for Arizona (warm and pleasant) has returned. Enjoy it while it lasts, folks - won't be long before the nuclear testing resumes. At least the SuperBowl is now over, so that's one less competitor for time on SportsCenter...

As William K noted, 17 non-roster invitees are coming to Spring Training:

  • Pitchers:: Jeff Bajenaru, Adam Bass, D.J. Carrasco, Matt Elliott, Chad Harville, Micah Owings, Bill Murphy, Greg Smith
  • Catchers: Wilkin Castillo, Josh Ford, Mark Johnson
  • Infielders: Chris Carter, Augie Ojeda, Mark Reynolds
  • Outfielders: Dee Brown, Rich Thompson, Justin Upton

These almost all seem more like nods of acknowledgement, aimed at giving them a taste of hanging with the big boys. Owings is probably the only one who has any shot at making the Opening Day roster, as one of the contenders for the fifth spot in the rotation. Be interesting to see how Reynolds does this year, after his breakout season in 2006, and maybe we'll be showcasing the enigma which is Chris Carter, with view to a trade?

In other news, former Yankees pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre, has joined the Diamondbacks as a special instructor. This continues the family connection: obviously, Todd used to pitch here, and Mel Jr. is currently our pitching co-ordinator. Hard to say what impact this will have: must admit, I don't tend to think of the Yankees as the model for developing young pitching. In fact, before Wang, I'd be hard pushed to say who was the last starter who came up through their organization.

No doubting his experience though, and if this is the worst bit of "veteran presence" signed between now and the start of the season. I'll be happy. Believe this is mostly a spring training thing; seems he may "do some work with the club's pitchers during the season." Jay Bell is also back for spring training, joining Matt Williams and Will Clark. Jay clearly has decided that family life, like the one he quit his bench job for, is vastly over-rated. ;-) I wouldn't blame him if that were the case, and suspect that quitting full-time baseball is probably harder than kicking a heroin habit.

Hell, over the weekend, I found myself watching the Caribbean World Series, listening to commentators I couldn't understand, and watching players I'd never heard of, simply as a quick fix. And the baseball game on my mobile phone has also been getting heavily used, even if the lineup construction is...somewhat weird and very dated. It keeps insisting on putting Damion Easley at 2B over Alex Cintron, Luis Terrero is playing CF, and Chad Tracy is in RF. Oddly, no sign of Shawn Green at all on the roster. Russ Ortiz has easily got the worst ratings of any pitcher, I'm pleased to see, and has largely been consigned to mop-up duty...

Some nice questions on Steve Gilbert's mailbag, including his patient explanation of the arbitration process to an Eric Byrnes fan [pause for Ben's head to explode!]. Some good insight into why we only signed Hudson to a one-year deal:

Generally, for a team to decide to lock up a player long term while it still has that player under control (through his first six years service time), the club usually needs to feel it's getting somewhat of a discount. Otherwise, there's no reason to do it. The benefit of a long-term deal to a player is obviously the security, while for the club it is cost certainty and maybe a small discount.

So, aside from security, Hudson stands to make more if he keeps improving each year as he has and if the market continues to climb. I'm sure the D-backs would like to lock him up long term, but I don't know that Hudson and his agent see that as the best way to maximize his earning potential. You can't blame them for that. The fact that fellow second baseman Chase Utley recently signed a seven-year, $85 million contract certainly just made Hudson's price tag even higher.

Well, I wouldn't quite put Hudson in the same park as Utley, who over the past two seasons has averaged over .300 with 30 homers and 100+ RBI. O-Dawg, on the other hand: about .280, 13 HR and 65 RBI. But there's no doubt that mad contracts such as the $50m one awarded to Gary Matthews Jr., a 96 OPS+ hitter in his eight-season career, will have made it more likely players will want to test the free agent market. I'd also be keen to see which version of the 2006 Hudson - first- or second-half? - turns up in the coming season, before making a long-term commitment. If all goes well, I imagine we'll be happy to get his signature, but only at the right price, and the presence of Alberto Callaspo would seem a solid alternative.