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.

Dodgers upset with Héctor Neris after Thursday’s game

Hunter Martin/Getty Images
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July hasn’t treated Phillies closer Héctor Neris well. Entering Thursday, he had allowed runs in three of his last four appearances, blowing two saves in the process. His struggles continued as he allowed a two-out solo home run to Alex Verdugo in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday afternoon, closing the deficit to 7-6. Thankfully for the Phillies, he was able to get the final out, getting Justin Turner to fly out to right field. An excited Neris looked into the Dodgers’ dugout and yelled an expletive.

The four-game series between the Dodgers and Phillies had quite some drama. After Matt Beaty hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning on Tuesday, Neris threw a pitch at the next batter, David Freese, seemingly in frustration. Neris was suspended three games. He appealed his punishment, which is why he’s been allowed to pitch. In the fourth inning of Thursday’s game, Max Muncy and Beaty stepped on first baseman Rhys Hoskins‘ ankle on consecutive plays. That, along with his own struggles, explains why Neris might’ve been amped up after closing out the ballgame.

The Dodgers were, understandably, not happy about Neris yelling at them. Several players shouted back, including Clayton Kershaw and Russell Martin. An unamused Muncy glared at Neris. Martin suggested to Neris that they meet in the hallway.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after the game, “I think we played this series the right way, played it straight. To look in our dugout and to taunt in any way, I think it’s unacceptable. Look in your own dugout.”

Muncy said, “He’s blown about eight saves against us over the last two years. I guess he was finally excited he got one. Whatever.”

Neris attributed his outburst to emotions, saying, “It’s a great win for my team and just I let my emotion get out.”

In baseball, everyone is pro-showing-emotion when it’s himself and his teammates, and against when it’s players on the other team. Muncy got into a back-and-forth with Giants starter Madison Bumgarner after flipping his bat and watching his long home run at Oracle Park last month. Bumgarner jawed at him and Muncy said, “I just told him if he doesn’t want me to watch the ball, go get it out of the ocean.”

Neris, however, is the last guy on the Phillies who should be antagonizing the Dodgers after his terrible decision to throw at Freese, not to mention his overall poor performance against them. The Phillies were pigs in mud who wanted to wrestle and the Dodgers jumped in with them for some reason. Thankfully, the two teams are done playing each other for the rest of the regular season.