Diamondbacks brass keeping options open (cont.)
Cash is another major issue as Phoenix, which surprisingly enough has the lowest per-capita income of any major-league city to begin with, has been hit as hard as any major city by the economy and the team also carries the burden of beloved former owner Jerry Colangelo's extreme excesses (to win a world championship in just the D-backs' fourth year of existence, between operating loss and debt Colangelo is said to have run up a near half-billion deficit). At the moment, even a below-average $78-million payroll in a top-six market may seem a bit high to the bosses, considering the team's record.
If nothing drastic is done, one possibility might be to spice up a clubhouse that just might be a little too easy going. They have a lot of No. 1 picks on their roster who are used to being stars wherever they've played, and one scout said that only Reynolds, a late-round draft choice, seems to play with a chip on his shoulder. Another competing exec said, "It's not the most dynamic group.'' When Josh Byrnes took over as GM after the 2005 season one of the first things he did was add Orlando Hudson and Eric Byrnes (who in the words of one competing manager "played like his hair was on fire''), two so-called clubhouse guys who added spice to the mix. Both of those players have since moved on, and while the D-backs have nice guys in the clubhouse now they are perhaps a little short on personality. If Byrnes can fend off calls for Hinch's head, they may try clubhouse adjustments to solve their woes.
Struggling right-hander Jeff Suppan, who had been released by the Brewers, made sense as a cheap signing for the Cardinals, who sought a quick fix. And if Suppan does well for the Cardinals, supreme pitching coach Dave Duncan's resume gets that much better. Suppan had the most success of his career while pitching for the Duncan and the Cardinals from 2004-06, winning 16 games each of the first two seasons and being named NLCS MVP in his third.
But if Suppan doesn't pitch well, Houston's Roy Oswalt seems like a nice fit for the Cardinals. One issue would be the $30 million remaining on Oswalt's contract since the Cards are saving up to keep Albert Pujols, baseball's best player, who will be a free agent after the 2011 season.
Jacoby Ellsbury deserves plaudits for trying to power through his ribcage injury. But new MRIs revealed a bigger issue, and he will miss at least another two weeks, probably more, after getting a second opinion.
Unintentionally omitted from the list of 30 free-agent bargains on Wednesday were three very good ones this winter: Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo, Indians outfielder Austin Kearns and Braves extra Eric Hinske.
The Red Sox seem to have really scored with their draft choices, with slugging Middle Tennessee St. outfielder Bryce Brentz and talented LSU right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, both of whom were taken in the sandwich round, seen as real steals. Though, neither is expected to come cheap.
The Yankees people seem to like speedster Mason Williams, their fourth-round pick.
Alex Gordon "can hit,'' said a scout. He's got a 1.171 OPS in the minors. Maybe it's time or him to come back up to the Royals soon.
It's going to be great to see Indians top catching prospect Carlos Santana. He's expected to be a hitter at least on the level of Victor Martinez, which is pretty darned good. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has taken hits for trading him to Cleveland in 2008 in a deal that brought Los Angeles Casey Blake, but Blake helped the Dodgers get to two straight NLCS so that criticism isn't fair. Good trade all around.
What a year it's been for rookies all around, probably the best ever. In addition to players like Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg, Giants' catcher Buster Posey quietly is off to a huge start, as well, batting .444 in his first 12 games. And according to one scout, "He looks good behind the plate.'' His throw to second base was timed in 1.9, which is very good indeed.
Bobby Valentine is reportedly going to interview Friday with the Orioles. But one competing executive said, "How's he going to work for Peter Angelos?'' That's an excellent question for a lot of folks. Joe Girardi turned them down last time. It might be hard to land the right manager. But it's pretty clear at this point interim Juan Samuel isn't being given much of a chance.
The Mets' clubhouse is much improved from last year, according to insiders. It probably doesn't hurt that Mike Pelfrey is having an All-Star caliber season and Ike Davis is emerging as a force, either.
Stephen Strasburg's debut drew 41,000 fans, or about 28,000 more than the Nats' average. Between the extra broadcast ratings and all the attention he's been getting, that record $15.067-million signing bonus Strasburg signed may turn out to be one of the greatest bargains in sports.
Good for Nats manager Jim Riggleman for being careful and removing Strasburg after 94 pitches in his debut on Tuesday. All this recent talk about pitching counts not mattering is nice for the macho set, but Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty is a living, breathing example of the need for pitch counts, having been overused by Billy Martin as an A's youngster and winding up having a painfully short career.
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