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You are the GM - Part 1: The Infield

The announcement of the arbitration - or not - offers seems like a good point to get down to brass tacks, and start discussing the 2009 Arizona Diamondbacks, You are Josh Byrnes. You have a total of $10m in addition to spend, over the entire roster. You have the following infielders under contract for the 2009 season.
  C. Chris Snyder
  C. Miguel Montero
1B/LF. Conor Jackson
1B/3B. Chad Tracy
 SS. Stephen Drew
 3B.  Mark Reynolds

What do you do? Here are a few important questions to bear in mind:

  1. Who plays second base?
  2. Are you going to put Jackson at first? If not, who?
  3. Is Chad Tracy capable of playing third?
  4. Is Chad Tracy capable of hitting RHP?
  5. Who do we have on the bench?
  6. Should we be looking to trade Montero? If so, who becomes our backup catcher?
  7. Do we need to address the enormous right-handed bias of our roster?

Any players you sign should include a contract offer - if longer than one year, include the term and total amount. I will be keeping notes, so don't expect to spend that $10 million here, and then again when we look at the bullpen! Trade suggestions have to remain somewhat realistic: there should be no swapping of Miguel Montero for Johan Santana and cash. ;-) I'll go first...

Recent moves have done a number on my originally-conceived master-plan for the coming season. In particular, handing Jamie D'Antona off on a freebie to the Yakult Swallows, ruined a perfectly good scheme which had Reynolds moving to second, and D'Antona taking over third. After all, he only hit .365/.405/.604 for Tucson - that's about what Scott Hairston hit at the same age there. Mind you, defensively, this would likely have been a disaster, D'Antona started 72 games and made 17 errors, which would be enough to make us yearn for the golden glove of Reynolds.

That's all water under the bridge now. Instead, I would be looking to get Chad Tracy's bat into the lineup against righhanders, as much as possible. Reynolds and Jackson both hit RHP about the same [.774 career OPS for CoJack .764 for Special K], so if Tracy's knee is now fully recovered and up to playing at third, he can spell both of them, Failing that, pop him at first, and I'd rather see Jackson in LF than Byrnes (career .729 OPS vs. RHP).

Drew at shortstop, it goes without saying - the question is, whether we can make offers to one, or possibly two players in platoon on the other side of the infield, We may actually have a partial solution relatively close to home, though people may not like it much. Dare I suggest, it might be worth looking at resigning Chris Burke as one half of the platoon? I sense a mob with torches forming at the mere suggestion, However, there is evidence that his dreadful stats last season were the result of some bad luck: his BA on Balls in Play was just .226. No-one with a hundred or more PAs on the team had anything lower, and the team average was .299.

Assume Burke's BABIP returns to normal next year, chuck seventy points onto his BA, and - especially since he is going to be near-zero cost - he might not be a bad pick-up. Even after a dreadful 2008, he still has a career line vs. LHP of .274/.347/400, so would seem a credible alternative to someone like Damion Easley. Being the right side of 30 helps there too, which is partly why I have qualms about Augie Ojeda, who'll turn 34 this side of Christmas. Nice though Augie's .343 OBP was, and while his smooth defense certainly helps, he remains someone with a career .310 SLG, who posted a 67 OPS+ for us last season, and that's better than his average.

Filling the gap on the other side of the plate, we should look to a trade, since the free-agent market for left-handed second-basemen is thin. Maybe someone like Chris Getz, a White Sox prospect who batted .302 for their Triple-A affiliate? [Though he may well be their starting 2B next year, and there are concerns he might struggle initially against big-league pitching] It would certainly need to be someone who was basically major-league ready, and would probably mean us saying farewell to Miguel Montero, as one of the few trading chips available,

That, in itself, might not be a disaster, as Chis Snyder showed himself - unfortunate accidents involving his family jewels permitting - of becoming the full-time catcher. And, by that, I mean around 140 games behind the plate - not impossible, when the 34-year old Kendall started 149 for the Brewers. We would still need a backup, but that need not be anything too much. Someone like Dave Ross or Henry Blanco would seem to be the kind of thing; it would be nice to pick up another left-handed catcher, but Paul Bako and his career 62 OPS+ is the only option apparently available on the free-agent market there.

I have to say, this exercise proved an awful lot harder than one might think. With the limited resources we have available, there is hardly any way we can plug the hole at second-base, that will come anywhere close to replacing Orlando Hudson offensively. Perhaps the best solution might still be to move Reynolds to second, then put Chad Tracy in at third and hope his bionic knee holds up to the stress of playing there. Then, we need only worry about the backups, with Burke and Ojeda perhaps entirely adequate there. In other words, basically the same as last year, just arranging the pieces into a somewhat different formation.

Suggestions, thoughts, comments and alternatives, as always, welcome, on how to deal with this thorny issue.