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The New AZ Kids Arrive, D-backs Rumor Central (and not the Prospect Report)

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No prospect report today, as finals and other pressures on time have left Zephon and IHSB short on a chance to get the scheduled installment quite completed in time. That'll therefore be held over until next week, and instead gives me a chance to throw up some random links and other stuff of potential interest. However, I'm pretty much phoning this one in though, since I got my HDMI cables, and so have been happily plugging them into anything within reach. The dogs have learned to stay away.

Let's start with the conference pictured above, where new Arizona starters Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy were introduced to the press at Chase Field yesterday. The pair spoke about their pitching arsenal and what they need to do to be successful. For Jackson, "It's big for me to come out throwing strikes early, set the tone early with the fastball. That way I can mix my offspeed into the equation to keep them off balance and help put them away." Kennedy's approach was a little different: "I have to throw a lot of strikes... I'm still going to throw a lot of fastballs even at 90, and I'm incorporating my two-seamer a lot more and try to keep you off balance mainly."

With both starters coming from the American League, they're going to have to get used to taking their hacks at the plate. Jackson - originally drafted as an outfielder - seemed to be looking forward to that a good deal more, saying "They've kind of thrown that on me that I had better be able to hit. It's a lot of fun being able to help yourself out." Contrast Kennedy's reaction: "I haven't gotten an at-bat since high school, so it's going to be a little challenging for me." Jackson has had only ten major-league at-bats since leaving Los Angeles in 2005, but in 2004 went 8-for-21 with three home-runs for Triple-A Las Vegas. Kennedy is right: he has yet to go to the plate in pro ball, so I wouldn't be expecting too much there.

Josh Byrnes made it clear that keeping a solid rotation was an important priority. Said Byrnes, "It's been a strength of ours. We've been among the leaders in major league baseball in innings and ERA from our rotation for several years running, so with Brandon Webb returning to health and the excellence of Dan Haren, we felt like we needed to keep paying attention to it." Byrnes feels that Webb's performance will be key. "If we're going to be good enough to win 90 games and make the playoffs like we did a couple of years ago, probably a few things are going to have to happen in 2010 that didn't happen in 2009. The first item is probably Brandon Webb returning to be an effective starting pitcher. I don't think there's any scenario where it doesn't go well for him and we're able to overcome that." Fox Sports Arizona also has interviews with both Jackson and Kennedy.

Over the weekend, Ken Kendrick discussed the 2010 budget for the team, which is currently sitting around the $70 million mark, depending on exactly what happens with regard to the arbitration-eligible players. The estimated salary available is around the mid-70's, but Kendrick said, "The number is not a hard number. There's not $10 million more. But $2 million to $3 million above our baseline to do something that we really find attractive? We could probably do that." There's still no certainty where the remaining budget might go: Nick Piecoro reports we asked about Jose Valverde, but his demands were too high. Kelly Johnson seems to be the main focus of attention: reliever Matt Capps is another possibility, but with half the teams in the majors interested, seems less likely.

Steve Gilbert mentions that outfielder Randy Winn "definitely is a guy on the Arizona radar," which seems somewhat perplexing to me. Sure, Winn can play all three outfield positions, but it seems difficult to work out how he could be fitted on to the roster while Eric Byrnes remains with the team. Certainly, Winn will not be expecting to get paid anything like the $9.6 million he earned from the Giants last year, and he has monster numbers at Chase, but one does wonder what exactly he would bring to the team. Gilbert says, "One of the pieces the D-backs were looking for this offseason was a veteran player, who could provide some leadership in the clubhouse."

What, is Tony Clark not available? Oops. Did I say that out loud? The reason for such cynicism is that of late, "veteran presence" has become a synonym in Arizona for "geriatric suck". In the past four seasons, the Diamondbacks has given 50+ at-bats to eight position players aged 34 or older: the mean OPS+ produced by these veterans is only 80.6. Admittedly, four of those were from Tony Clark, who has likely done more to damage the reputation of senior citizens in the state, than anyone not named Joe Arpaio. As a fan, it's far preferable to have a young player failing, since there's always the hope they'll improve down the road. In their mid-30s...not so much.

Random link dump paragraph. In the absence of a prospect report, here an independent evaluation of the Diamondbacks' prospects. Be interested to see what our resident gurus think of the rankings - such as the evaluation of Pedro Ciriaco as only a grade C prospect. Meanwhile, over at Bleacher Report, Joel Reuter posted his list of the top ten players in D-backs franchise history: plenty of food for thought there [does Eric Byrnes really merit an honorable mention?]. And to follow up on the Yanks/salary cap piece, Andrew Marks has a new project relating the Yanks to Veruca Salt:

I was sorry to hear of the demise of the MVN network of blogs, which was home to the worthy Baby Backs: The Next Generation and Out in the Desert Arizona sites. I've removed them off the side-bar: let's have a moment of silence as the herd of Diamondbacks sites is thinned. Oh, and finally, if you want to get in early on those personalized jerseys Steve Gilbert tweets the following numbers for the new arrivals on the team: Jackson #36, Heilman #48, Abreu #13, Kennedy #31.