It's been interesting to read the various predictions regarding who of the Diamondbacks will survive and what will be left of them, by the time the 2013 winter meetings come to an end at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando on Thursday. While there was no absolute consensus, obviously, if I were Tyler Skaggs, Chris Owings or A.J. Pollock, I would probably be paying a lot of attention to Twitter the rest of the week, scanning for signs as to where I might be ending up.
This year, however, the activity appears to have been jump-started, with a lot of moves happening prior to the meetings getting under way. There was the insane burst of activity early last week which, as Jayson Stark points out, saw a full two-thirds of the teams in baseball either involved in a trade or signing a free-agent between Monday afternoon and Tuesday night. A lot of the big names from the latter are already off the market - more than 40% of a certain ESPN pundit's top 50 list, compared to barely 10% at the same stage last season. So, might this week prove somewhat anti-climactic as a result?
The counterargument would be that the Diamondbacks, while among the active teams, have not made any moves which could be regarded as improving them (unless Heath Bell counts as addition by subtraction). Kevin Towers has made no secret of his desire for a front-line starting pitcher and a slugging outfielder, and the specific names to which the team have been connected so far, seem to back that up e.g. David Price and Carlos Beltran. With those needs remaining unfilled -and Towers' job likely dependent on our 2014 performance - it seems highly unlikely the D-backs will stand pat between now and Opening Day.
As Towers has noted, this naturally doesn't mean there has to be a deal in the next 96 hours. But if you had to pick a 96-hour period in which a deal would take place this off-season, now would probably be your best bet. Combine the presence of all 30 GM's in a confined space, with Towers' reputation as a "gunslinger," and a previous track-record of activity during these meetings, and I would put the odds of something going down at a good deal higher than 50%. There is even a very real chance we could see multiple, significant deals, leading to understandable concern among fans, that we may end up selling the future for veterans, and go into full-on "win now" mode.
However, the real - as opposed to mythical - trade history of Towers may be somewhat comforting in this area. There haven't been that many times where the Diamondbacks have dealt players, and become significantly older as a result; dven the Cahill/Parker deal actually involved the exchange of a pair of 23-year-olds. The record seems to indicate, "veteran presence" has arrived more through free-agency than trade. However, as mentioned above, it's one thing to hold on to prospects and take the long-term view when you have some security of tenure and can wait for those prospects to develop. Will Towers maintain that course with his job on the line in 2014?
While attention will naturally be focused on our starting pitching and outfield, we should not forget the other areas of the roster in need of attention. While it appears the bullpen may be more or less set, the bench for Arizona still has some gaps. With the departure of Will Nieces for Philadelphia, the team certainly need a backup catcher, and if Eric Chavez does not accept the offer from the Diamondbacks currently on the table, he needs to be replaced as well. However, these are perhaps more likely to be filled through free-agency rather than trade, there isn't the same impetus for something to happen this week.
It'll certainly be an interesting week, and we'll be keeping a close eye on what goes down in Florida, with daily open threads to discuss all the latest news (D-back and otherwise), as well as details of anything which appears to get beyond the purely speculative stage. I'm loathe to make any specific predictions, but suspect that by the end of the week, we'll probably have a palpably better idea of the shape the Diamondbacks' team will take for 2014.