D-backs in search of arms at Meetings
GM Byrnes has surplus of outfielders to offer for pitching
PHOENIX -- Josh Byrnes knows what he'll be looking for when the Winter Meetings begin Monday in Nashville, Tenn.
Whether the D-backs general manager is able to find it or not remains to be seen.
"Our focus is starting pitching," Byrnes said.
Unfortunately for the D-backs, there will be many teams looking for the same thing, which could make for a tough market.
As has been the case in the past, the D-backs will look to fill their rotation hole via trade rather than the free-agent market. In acquiring Livan Hernandez in August 2006 and Doug Davis last offseason, Arizona revealed its philosophy of acquiring pitchers in trades that give the team at least another year of club control.
Hernandez gave the D-backs a solid year and a half of production, but he is a free agent and looks to be out of Arizona's price range, which means the rotation returns just two veterans in Brandon Webb and Doug Davis. You can add Randy Johnson to that list it if the left-hander is able to recover from his second back surgery in as many years.
That leaves Arizona with two spots to fill and Micah Owings, who showed promise during his rookie season, as a front-runner to nab one of those.
"We've had discussions about starting pitching pretty much from all ends -- younger guys we like as well as more experienced ones," Byrnes said. "We feel like we've made some progress, so we'll see what happens."
There will be plenty of names thrown out during the Meetings about what players Arizona might be targeting, but in the past the D-backs have done a good job of keeping their trade talks private. There was little, if any, speculation before the Hernandez and Davis deals.
"The public likes the speculation because it's interesting, but we keep things quiet for a couple of reasons," Byrnes said. "One, players are human, they don't deserve to hear they're being shopped. Secondly, it doesn't help negotiations with other teams when talks become public."
To reel in a starter, the D-backs would likely be willing to part with outfielders Carlos Quentin and Carlos Gonzalez.
Quentin entered Spring Training last year as the club's starting right fielder, but a shoulder injury derailed his red-hot spring, and he struggled to find his rhythm when he returned in April. A hamstring injury sidelined him in early August, and he was supplanted in the lineup by uber-prospect Justin Upton.
Quentin had shoulder surgery in October, but since it was on his non-throwing shoulder, the D-backs don't expect it to diminish his value much. Gonzalez, meanwhile, put together a very good season for Double-A Mobile, hitting .286 with 33 doubles, 16 homers and 75 RBIs before a late-season promotion to Triple-A.
The D-backs are not expected to be players in the free-agent market. One addition they could make that way is veteran first baseman Mark Sweeney, whom they have targeted as a replacement in case they are unable to re-sign Tony Clark.
Other than the rotation, the D-backs don't have any obvious holes to fill. Their starting lineup appears to be set and they return their entire bullpen from 2007.
"I think we have both depth and quality in the bullpen," Byrnes said.
They hope to say the same thing about their rotation come Spring Training.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.