December 2009

Thoughts on Kelly Johnson signing

A couple of notes on the D-backs signing of Kelly Johnson today and what it could mean going forward:

– D-backs manager A.J. Hinch had lunch with Johnson on Wednesday and is optimistic about Johnson rebounding from a sub-par 2009.

“He’s a nice addition for us,” Hinch said. “He knows how to put together an at-bat. He’s a high character guy and a good worker.”

Johnson was 7-for-9 in the stolen base department last year and Hinch could see that total increasing.

“He wants to run a little bit more,” Hinch said. “He’s a good base runner and could be a better base stealer. It’s something he’s going to work hard on.”

– As to what the signing means for other infielders on the roster I think some have been a little quick to say that Augie Ojeda is certain to be traded.

The team signed Johnson with the idea that he is going to be the starter at second so that would push Tony Abreu into a backup role, which in fact could make Ojeda the odd man out. It’s also possible that the team could keep Ojeda and give Abreu some additional time in Triple-A.

Hanging onto Ojeda at least during the spring would make sense. The D-backs learned the hard way last year that a perceived surplus at a position can disappear in a hurry. Remember when we talked last spring about how Bob Melvin was going to find playing time for all his outfielders?

As for Ryan Roberts, he’ll still get a chance to earn some at-bats both at second and in left field. If Conor Jackson ends up playing a lot of first base, Gerardo Parra and Roberts could be a good combination in left.

– As far as whether the D-backs are done with their winter moves, it’s hard to say. They are almost right at their budget for 2010, but they could end up spending a little more than they planned if a quality free agent is still sitting there in late-January/early-February and is willing to sign for a big discount.

The team could also have some money to spend if it deals catcher Chris Snyder and the $4.75 million he is owed next season.

– The addition of Johnson along with a return to health of Conor Jackson should help lengthen the D-backs’ lineup. Both are players that know how to put together good at-bats and work deep counts.

D-backs not done yet

The D-backs have solidified their bullpen and given their starting rotation a new look this offseason.

Their work, however, is not done yet.

With about $3 million left in their budget, the D-backs have an offer out to free agent Kelly Johnson and expect to hear in the next couple of days whether the former Braves’ second baseman will accept it.

Johnson is a player the D-backs have long liked. Though he has played some outfield, Arizona appear to be interested in Johnson as a second baseman.

If Johnson were to accept their offer and get the starting nod at second, the D-backs could shift Tony Abreu into a utility infield role. That would make infielder Augie Ojeda expendable. The team learned during the Winter Meetings that there is interest in Ojeda so moving him would probably not be a problem.

The D-backs could also elect to keep Ojeda initially and give Abreu more seasoning at the Triple-A level.

Even though signing Johnson would put them at their budget, the D-backs could wind up with some wiggle room if they were able to trade Chris Snyder and the $4.75 million he is owed next season. The D-backs had agreed to trade Snyder to Toronto earlier during the offseason in exchange for first baseman Lyle Overbay, but the Blue Jays backed out of the deal due to concerns about Snyder’s surgically repaired back.

The D-backs will also continue to monitor the free agent market to see if one of the prices fall for some players as Spring Training approaches.

Follow me on Twitter: @dbackswriter

Hinch to hold meeting with coaches

A.J. Hinch is wasting little time in turning the calendar to 2010.

The D-backs manager will hold a meeting with his coaching staff Jan. 8-10 in Phoenix to go over Spring Training schedules and plans for the upcoming season.

“It’s a way to kick start Spring Training a little bit,” Hinch said. “It’s the first time we’ve been together as a group and I want to make sure we are all on the same page.”

It’s the initial meeting for the group because there have been staff changes since the end of last year.

Gone are base coaches Chip Hale and Lorenzo Bundy. Bo Porter will take over for Hale at third while Matt Williams will be at first in place of Bundy.

The rest of the staff includes Mel Stottlemyre Jr. (pitching), Glenn Sherlock (bullpen), Jack Howell (hitting) and Kirk Gibson (bench).

D-backs interested in Kelly Johnson

The players non-tendered this past weekend has expanded the pool of players available in the free agent market, a good thing for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“It just presents more choices,” D-backs GM Josh Byrnes said. “We’ll certainly factor a few of these guys in as we continue to put together our team.”

 Byrnes declined to get into specifics as to which players were of interest to the D-backs, but here’s a look at the four that likely will draw their attention:

Kelly Johnson, 2B
Johnson is a guy that the D-backs have had on-again, off-again discussions with the Braves about since Byrnes has been the GM. Of all the players available is the best fit for the D-backs and is the guy they likely have the most interest in.

A left-handed hitter, Johnson has actually hit better against lefties than he has against righties in his career. He did not post great numbers last year, but if you look at some advanced metrics like batting average on balls put in play, there is some reason to believe he is an excellent candidate for a rebound season.

Johnson is not great defensively at second lacking in range, but if he does indeed bounce back offensively he could make up for that. He could also play the corner outfield positions if need be so he adds some flexibility.

IHe’s a guy the D-backs will aggressively pursue. If they get him, he could wind up supplanting Tony Abreu at second and they could end up dealing Augie Ojeda. The club found out during the Winter Meetings that there is plenty of interest in Ojeda. It’s also possible they could hang onto Ojeda initially and start Abreu in Triple-A.

Randy Winn, OF
One of the pieces the D-backs were looking for this offseason was a veteran player, who could provide some leadership in the clubhouse. Winn fits that bill. He also is a switch-hitter, who would give the D-backs an option in left should Conor Jackson play mostly at first base.

Again, Winn brings versatility to the roster in that he can play all three outfield positions, plus he also adds some athleticism.

Winn is likely looking for a place where he can start so that might not make it a good fit, but he definitely is a guy on the Arizona radar.

Matt Capps, RHP
Any team looking for bullpen help is likely to be interested in Capps. Just how interested Arizona will be remains to be seen.

The D-backs are content with Chad Qualls as their closer and I’m not sure that Capps would be considered a big enough upgrade to disrupt that. It would seem the price would have to be very favorable to have that happen.

Ryan Church, OF
Not sure the level of interest here, but he’s a guy that plays all three outfield positions and again is a veteran type who would be valuable coming off the bench, but also could play left if Jackson has to play a lot of first.

I think he would be down on the list, certainly behind Winn, but he’s a guy the D-backs are keeping an eye on.

As for others like Chien-Ming Wang, D.J. Carrasco or Ryan Garko, I do not think the D-backs would have any interest.

Whichever way they decide to go, there should be some movement in the market sooner rather than later now that the big fish on the pitching market — John Lackey and Roy Halladay — have found homes and the non-tenders have been, well non-tendered.

“I think the pace will probably quicken here in the next couple of weeks,” Byrnes said.

(follow me on Twitter: @dbackswriter)

Jackson and Kennedy to be introduced Tuesday

The D-backs announced that RHPs Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy will be introduced to the media at a press conference at Chase Field at 1:30 p.m. MST on Tuesday.

The pair were acquired in last week’s three-team trade at the Winter Meetings.

Both are familiar with the area. Jackson made his big league debut at Chase when he was just 20 years old and pitching for the Dodgers.

Kennedy, meanwhile, pitched a few months ago in the Arizona Fall League and joked with reporters after the trade was made that he would have done some house hunting while he was out here if he’d known he was going to get dealt here.

MLB.com will carry the press conference live.
 

About Whitesell non-tendering decision

Some of you may be confused about how 1B Josh Whitesell was non-tendered even though he was not eligible for salary arbitration.

Let me re-post something I wrote on this blog a week ago about the “Non-Tender Date”.

Teams must offer contracts to its unsigned players by 9:59 p.m.
(Arizona Time) on Dec. 12 otherwise those players become free agents.

Note that it is “unsigned players” not just those that are eligible for arbitration. All players on the 40-man roster that are not free agents (i.e. unsigned) must be tendered contracts.

Again, it gets confusing because a lot of people and even some writers think that it’s just salary arbitration eligible players that must be tendered.

The D-backs clearly did not have plans for Whitesell on the roster and were unsuccessful in their attempts to sell his rights to team in Japan so they went ahead and got him off their roster.

Best of luck to Josh, who is a wonderful person.

Parra leg injury not serious

D-backs’ outfielder Gerardo Parra saw team physician Michael Lee on Friday and was diagnosed with a left quad strain.

That’s good news for the D-backs, who were not sure what to expect after they were told Parra injured himself running down the first base line the other night in a Venezuelan Winter League game.

Parra should be ready for Spring Training and will not play winter ball any more this year.

That’s a wrap

Hurrying to catch a flight home where I can thaw out after four days in this winter wonderland called Indianapolis.

My wrap up story on the meetings should be going up shortly and I’ll put together a longer blog post later today or tomorrow to sum it all up.

I appreciate those of you who have read the blog this week or followed me on Twitter (@dbackswriter). Keep the emails and comments coming.

Howry next up for D-backs?

The D-backs are still searching for a right-handed reliever and after losing out on LaTroy Hawkins, they may turn their attention to Bobby Howry.

Howry, 36, was 2-6 with a 3.39 ERA in 63 games for the Giants last year. He is an Arizona resident, who might find staying at home enticing.

D-backs trade complete

The three-team trade between the D-backs, Tigers and Yankees has officially been completed.

An announcement is expected at 4:30 p.m. EST.

The trade sends Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson to New York, Tigers right-hander Edwin Jackson and Yankees right-hander Ian Kennedy to Arizona, and D-backs pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth — along with Yankees prospect Austin Jackson and lefty Phil Coke — to Detroit.

The deal was completed Tuesday pending a review of medical files, which was completed Wednesday.

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