Starting pitching’s better, bullpen’s better, character I think will be better, experience is better, versatility is better, less power... If you look at our run differential, we were above-average in offense. They scored too many runs on us... I don’t see us being at the bottom of the division next year.
-- Kevin Towers
The winter meetings have come and gone, and with them, a lot of changes on the Diamondbacks roster. Gone are Mark Reynolds and Rusty Ryal, while the new arrivals include J.J. Putz and Melvin Mora. The results are part of a wholesale change in the fabric of the team. Never mind Inception, perhaps the film title most appropriate to the team is The Departed. For, of the 25 players who were present on our 2010 Opening Day roster, less than half are still with the franchise, barely eight months later. It's quite possible Opening Day 2011 will see more than two-thirds of the team having changed - as well as, of course, the manager, General Manager and most of the coaching staff.
Follow the link for a list of the ex-Dbacks, along with our predictions as to who'll be present for the 2011 version.
First of all, those no longer with us. Here's last year's roster for the first game: those no longer with us, are in bold.
- Pitchers: , , , Aaron Heilman, Bobby Howry, , , , Jordan Norberto, , and .
- Infielders: , , , , , Mark Reynolds and Rusty Ryal.
- Outfielders: , , and Chris Young.
- Catchers: and
That's 13 down, with a mere dozen left - and not all the ones that remain are guaranteed roster spots for 2011 either. Norberto nor Vasquez are far from locks for the bullpen, Ryal could go to Japan, and Gerardo Parra is reported to be getting trade interest. I'm trying to think of a previous season where there was so much turnover in the team, year to year - and I'm coming up short. I am on board with this: clearly, last year's team which stumbled to a record of 65-97, was not working, and could not be fixed by a couple of tweaks here and there. Are the changes for the better? Only time will tell, but here's what the Opening Day roster for next season might look like.
Starting Position Players
- C. Miguel Montero
- 1B. Juan Miranda
- 2B. Kelly Johnson
- SS. Stephen Drew
- 3B. Melvin Mora
- LF. Brandon Allen
- CF. Chris Young
- RF. Justin Upton
The two positions which seem still in a state of flux, to some degree, are first-base and left-field. However, comments in Florida by GM Kevin Towers suggest he is leaning towards giving Miranda a shot, with the team having failed to lure Paul Konerko back to the valley. "Miranda needs an opportunity. If he gets the opportunity, he can do some good things," said Towers, and unless a bigger name is signed over the winter, it appears that 2011 may be that chance for the former Yankees prospects. As well as the SnakePit headline writers, who are salivating over the possibilities of "Miranda Rights", etc.
Left-field still sees some scope for change, with the team apparently still looking for a right-handed bat, ideally one that can play both there and at first -Allen, Parra and Miranda are all left-handers, so a bit of balance in this area would be helpful [especially with Montero, Johnson and Drew being southpaws too]. Someone like Xavier Nady is a possibility, and the team does seem to have enough left in the coffers to sign him - Nady earned $3.3 million with the Cubs last season, and after an OPS+ of 72, is not likely to get more.
- Backup C: TBA, Henry Blanco most likely at this point
- Backup IF: Tony Abreu
- Backup IF: Geoff Blum
- Backup OF: Gerardo Parra
- 25th man: Ryan Roberts
There's a likely ripple effect here. If we sign someone for left-field, then Allen could move down to replace Parra or Roberts here - assuming neither he nor Parra are traded. The last report I heard there, was from Nick Piecoro, who said there had been some interest in Parra from the Reds. We were looking to do a swap of outfielder, our left-hander for their right, Chris Heisey, but it appears Cincinnati didn't regard that as fair. I imagine we'll keep kicking the tires, in an effort to skew our line-up and roster somewhat less southpaw.
We're still also waiting to hear from Blanco, though Jack Magruder tweeted on Friday that the Diamondbacks would "move on if price is wrong." But it's likely Towers will going after a right-handed, probably veteran catcher, to back up Montero. If they were to go internal, Konrad Schmidt would likely be the favored candidate by the new front-office, his defensive abilities being seen as balancing a low offensive upside. However, at this point, they seem to be looking outside the club for a candidate there.
- Ian Kennedy
- Daniel Hudson
- Joe Saunders
- Zach Duke
- Barry Enright
This appears to have been sorted before we went to Florida, with the acquisition of Duke from the Pirates, and there was no change there. The only rumor to circulate in this area recently, had us kicking the tires on Rich Harden, but it's not clear if he would be seen as part of the rotation or another bullpen arm. While not an awful rotation in itself, I don't like the apparent lack of depth - something I think tends to be forgotten, is how many starts a year end up getting thrown by pitchers outside the Opening Day five. For us, i any of those five go down, and Jarrod Parker is not ready, who steps up to replace them?
- Closer: J.J. Putz
- Set-up: Juan Gutierrez
- Set-up: David Hernandez
- MR: Sam Demel
- MR: Kam Mickolio
- MR: Brian Sweeney or Mike Hampton
- LOOGY: Joe Patterson
Amazing how we went to Orlando with just Gutierrez and Demel sure of spots, and came back from Florida, with what appears to be a complete bullpen - including an experienced closer, with over 100 career saves, in Putz. That said, I recall at this time last year feeling....well, if not necessarily supremely confident in our bullpen, unaware of the vortex of gurgling suckage which would engulf them for much of 2010. It looks solid on paper, is all I'm going to say, with a lot of K-potential. With luck, it'll be our bullpen, rather than our hitters, who lead the league in strikeouts at the end of next season.
Was amused to hear we had to hold off on signing Hampton, because he'd have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Dunno how true that is. It's not clear whether he'll be part of the bullpen on Opening Day: Gibson may want to go with two left-handers, but that will probably depend on performances in spring training. Of course, we could always use Hampton as a bat off the bench. Since 2004, his line as a hitter is .291/.326/.407, a .733 OPS, which compares favorably with Geoff Blum (.676) and Melvin Mora (.767) over the same time...
Still to be done
Nick Piecoro says we currently have "at least another $8 million to spend." The spots left to fill are a) the backup catcher, b) a right-handed LF, and c) possibly someone at 1B. I'm a bit ambivalent on further moves: with $2-3 million at each spot, will we be able to get anyone who is a clear improvement over the options in-house? It certainly seems the flexibility will be one of the tenets of the Towers regime, and we may also see a lot more platooning than we did previously, with almost all the spots potentially having a left-handed and right-handed option depending on how the remaining money is used.