Stick a fork in 'em – The 2009 Diamondbacks

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While they have a slightly better record than the Indians, the
Diamondbacks are the second team we’re declaring dead for 2009.
Wednesday’s loss dropped them 18 1/2 games back in the NL West. Even
the lowly Nationals, the recipient of the first fork of the year, are a mere 17 1/2 games in the NL East.

So, let’s examine what the D’backs can look forward to in 2010.

The 2010 depth chart

Catcher: Chris Snyder, Miguel Montero (Arb.), Orlando Mercado, James Skelton

If they hadn’t been so stubborn about holding out for Michael Bowden,
the Diamondbacks very likely could have had Daniel Bard from the Red
Sox for Montero over the winter. Unfortunately, they probably wouldn’t
do so well now. Montero hasn’t progressed in an expanded role first
brought upon by the managerial switch to A.J. Hinch and then enhanced
further by Snyder’s recent DL stint.

The team could instead opt to move Snyder, who will make $10.5 million
between 2010 and 2011, but they’d be fortunate to receive more than a
couple of B prospects back. Since there aren’t any assurances that
Montero will be a quality regular and none of the team’s prospects
project as starters, standing pat may well be the best strategy.

First base: Conor Jackson (Arb.), Mark Reynolds, Josh Whitesell

Whitesell is a quad-A player and Chad Tracy is a free agent, so the
Diamondbacks could either turn Reynolds into a first baseman or look
outside of the organization for a solution this winter. My guess is
that they’ll leave Reynolds at third, given that he has the range for
the position and he’s been even more error-prone than usual while
playing first base this year. Jackson has appeared to be more valuable
defensively in left field than he was at first base. More on him below.

Second base: Ryan Roberts, Augie Ojeda (Arb.), Rusty Ryal, Ruben Gotay, Mark Hallberg, James Skelton

Yes, it’s that bleak. Ryan, a 26-year-old hitting .286/.345/.500 in
the PCL, figures to get a look at second base if the Diamondbacks trade
free-agent-to-be Felipe Lopez. However, he should be nothing more than
a fallback option again in 2009. Since Hallberg hasn’t hit in Double-A,
the Diamondbacks should be in the market for a veteran second baseman
for the second year in a row. Fortunately, decent ones are usually
pretty easy to find.

Third base: Mark Reynolds, Augie Ojeda (Arb.), Ryan Roberts

If the Diamondbacks did move Reynolds across the diamond, they’d
just have to go after a replacement at third instead. The club did
draft third basemen with the 16th and 35th selections in the 2009 draft
(Bobby Borchering and Matt Davidson), but both were high school players
and neither will move quickly.

Shortstop: Stephen Drew (Arb.), Augie Ojeda, Pedro Ciriaco

One of the few positives for the Diamondbacks this year is that
Drew’s fielding numbers have been considerably better than they were
last year. I could see an argument for moving Drew to third and
Reynolds to first, but it’s not something with any chance of happening
in the near future. Besides, the Diamondbacks don’t have a Elvis Andrus
to break in at short.

Left field: Conor Jackson (Arb.), Gerardo Parra, Eric Byrnes, Trent Oeltjen, Cyle Hankerd, Collin Cowgill

Center field: Chris Young, Gerardo Parra, Eric Byrnes

Right field: Justin Upton, Gerardo Parra, Eric Byrnes

We know Upton is a fixture in right. The Diamondbacks will have to
decide whether it’s worth trading Young or moving Jackson back to first
base to make room for Parra in the 2010 outfield. The 22-year-old Parra
got off to a very nice start after coming up as Jackson’s replacement
this year, but he’s now sporting a .259/.302/.400 line and given that
he’s never played in Triple-A, he still might need some additional
seasoning.

Complicating things is that both Young and Jackson have lost a great
deal of trade value. Young showed clear signs of bouncing back from a
horrendous start last month, but he’ll have to keep it up if the
Diamondbacks are going to get fair value for him this season.
Unfortunately, it looks like Jackson’s season has been completely
ruined by his case of valley fever, but at least that means he’s not
going to receive much of a raise from his current $3 million salary.

The Diamondbacks are almost certainly stuck with Byrnes, who figures to remain an $11 million fourth outfielder.

I think a Jackson-Young-Upton outfield will be the best option at
the beginning of 2010. However, Parra would likely guarantee himself a
spot with a strong second half.

Rotation: Brandon Webb (option), Dan Haren, Max Scherzer, Jon
Garland (option), Jarrod Parker, Yusmeiro Petit, Esmerling Vasquez,
Cesar Valdez, Billy Buckner, Bryan Augenstein, Barry Enright

If Webb can come back from his shoulder problems in September, then the
$6 million decision on his 2010 option will remain an easy call. Still,
it’s not like the Diamondbacks will be able to pencil him in for 220
innings next year.

The uncertainty around Webb is probably the one thing that could
cause the Diamondbacks to listen to offers for Haren. A team with a
Webb-Haren-Scherzer front three should be capable of competing next
year. However, if the Diamondbacks suddenly learned that Webb needed
surgery that would cost him at least part of next year, they’d have to
give serious thought to cashing in Haren for the huge return he’d bring
in. He’s under control through 2013 at fairly reasonable terms.

The Diamondbacks, though, won’t really know about Webb’s health
until the final month, making a Haren deadline deal awfully unlikely.

Doug Davis is a free agent and is likely to be traded. Garland is on
a mutual option, making it unlikely that he’ll be back. Ideally, the
Diamondbacks will replace him with a similar fourth-starter type and
then get by with a Petit or Valdez in the fifth spot until Parker
arrives. He could be next year’s Tommy Hanson.

Bullpen: Chad Qualls, Tony Pena (Arb.), Jon Rauch, Juan Gutierrez,
Daniel Schlereth, Clay Zavada, Esmerling Vasquez, Billy Buckner,
Yusmeiro Petit, Blaine Boyer (Arb.), Daniel Strange, Bobby Korecky,
Doug Slaten, Leo Rosales, Jose Marte, Kyler Newby

Qualls is only under control through 2010 and could receive a raise to
$4.5 million-$5 million in arbitration after spending a full year as a
closer, so he might be the Diamondback most likely to go in a deadline
deal. Rauch, now that he’s past his early-season woes, is next in line.
That would potential leave Pena as the Diamondbacks’ closer, though he
hasn’t made a particularly strong case for the role while posting a
4.36 ERA this season. Gutierrez would be another option. Schlereth, a
left-hander picked in the first round last year, is the best bet for
the long-term. If the Diamondbacks do move Qualls, they’ll probably
look for a cheap veteran to serve as a stopgap closer next year.

Time for a best guess:

Arizona’s 2010 roster

Lineup

2B Free agent

SS Stephen Drew

RF Justin Upton

3B Mark Reynolds

1B Free agent

LF Conor Jackson

CF Chris Young

C Chris Snyder

Bench: OF Eric Byrnes, C Miguel Montero, INF Augie Ojeda, INF Ryan Roberts, OF Free agent

Rotation

Dan Haren

Brandon Webb

Max Scherzer

Free agent

Cesar Valdez

Bullpen

Free agent

Tony Pena

Juan Gutierrez

Clay Zavada

Free agent

Esmerling Vasquez

Billy Buckner

Ideally, the Diamondbacks will get their answer at first, second or
in the rotation in return for Davis later this month. Qualls could also
bring back someone capable of playing an important role on the 2010
club. There probably won’t be a whole lot of money available after
raises for Drew, Young, Haren and Snyder kick in. One huge factor in
how much flexibility the Diamondbacks will have is whether Reynolds
qualifies as a super-two player. He’ll have two years and 138 days of
service time at season’s end. Last year, Taylor Buchholz was the last
player to qualify as a super two and he had two years, 140 days. With
the season Reynolds is having, it could be a $5 million swing for the
Diamondbacks.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.