News! Actual information! Facts! Well, probably... Nick Piecoro reports that "Talks between the Diamondbacks and infielder Mark Loretta have advanced in recent days, with the club having extended an offer to the 37-year-old free agent. “They have made a significant overture,” Loretta’s agent, Bob Garber, said Monday morning." This is interestingly at odds with another report which says Loretta and Damion Easley are "too expensive" for Arizona, and the team is expected to have to fend off Pittsburgh, also reported as interested in the free-agent.
It seems very likely Loretta would be part of a platoon, taking on the left-handed pitching side of the equation. His career OPS is 66 points better against LHP, but that has ballooned to 122 and 274 points over the past couple of seasons, albeit in limited playing time [barely 200 at-bats against southpaws]. That said, he has a career .361 OBP, and even though he's 37, still seems capable of getting on base at a decent clip. He doesn't have much in the way of power - he hasn't had more than five homers in a season since 2004 - but still made the All-Star game in 2006, when with Boston, despite an OPS at the break of only .738.
His defense also looks to be pretty solid. He played all four infield positions for Houston last year, but it was mostly at second, and he made just one error in 46 games and 368 innings there. His Range Factor at the position was 4.99 and he had a Zone Rating of .823. To put that into comparison, O-Dawg's stats in the same metrics were 4.82 and .790, so it looks like Loretta could well be a defensive improvement over Hudson, despite his age.
Update: Steve Gilbert says we made Loretta a one-year offer, but with no details beyond that. He also dismisses thoughts that the departure of Brandon Lyon and his $4m is allowing the team to make a run at Randy Johnson. According to RJ's agent, there's been no further contact between the two teams at this point.
That comes in response to Nick P busting out of hibernation, with a series of articles on his blog as he heads to the winter meetings [I wonder if he gets to stay at the Bellagio, or is shuffled down the strip to Circus Circus?] In particular this piece, speculating on whether the money saved on draft picks and Brandon Lyon might get funneled into a revised offer for Johnson. He also says the Dunn offer was more of a vaguely exploratory one, that Nick Punto is on the list of potential second-base platoon candidates [though a 99 OPS+ from a 74 OPS+ career hitter means he will be overpaid by someone], while Arthur Rhodes is another lefty relief pitcher at whom we're looking.
And in other news, Eric Byrnes - despite what he may think - is going to have to earn any playing time this season. Josh Byrnes says, "He had a good two years for us. [Well, if you class the 96 OPS+ he posted in 2006 as "good," I guess...] I think to get the playing time this year that he had those two years, he will have to earn it with performance rather than on being the incumbent." Bob Melvin concurs, though in a more up-beat fashion: "Essentially, we've got three guys for two spots... I told him he's done it before, so go out there and earn your playing time." This is refreshingly candid, and I was also impressed by Eric's response:
I understand the situation I am in. It doesn't bother me. You always have to earn things. There is always someone waiting to take your job. I'm going to work hard and play hard like I always do. If I am healthy and play the way I am capable, things will take care of themselves.
Just what we want to hear. I'm pulling hard for Byrnes to have a great season, but playing time needs to be based entirely on production, not salary or who has a TV show. I'd like to see Bob Melvin presented with a scenario whereby he has to choose between three players, all of whom are hitting well, not suffering from injury, and giving it everything they've got.