's Inside Pitch 12-14-04

The freshest and best info on the Winter Meetings brought to you by faster than it happens. This week we revel in the signings of Glaus and Ortiz, celebrate the return of fan favorite Craig Counsell, and wonder if Shawn Estes and Jeromy Burnitz are on the way.

   Determined to put the embarrassment of their disappointing 2004 season and the failed managerial hiring of Wally Backman behind them, the Diamondbacks set the baseball world on its ear with the surprise signings of free agents Troy Glaus and Russ Ortiz to a pair of four-year contracts totaling $78 million.
   While it could be said the two are merely replacements for Richie Sexson and Randy Johnson, the additions pack a lot more punch than Arizona's two biggest free-agent purchases a year ago, starting pitcher Shane Reynolds and second baseman Roberto Alomar, both of whom turned out to be busts in the desert.
   Though Sexson was expected to sign elsewhere and Johnson still seemed intent on ultimately forcing a trade, the Diamondbacks are intent on making the industry take notice that they plan on returning to past glory as quickly as possible. Until the signings of Glaus, a power-hitting third baseman, and Ortiz, who has won at least 14 games and pitched 195 innings in each of the last six seasons, many in the business were skeptical.
   "Well, probably the reason that they're skeptical is they don't know what we're doing, and maybe when they begin to see announcements like this, the skepticism might change," Ken Kendrick, one of the team's four general partners, said. "And actually, it's kind of fun to be under the radar."
   A day after the signing of Glaus lured Ortiz to choose the D-backs, CEO-elect Jeff Moorad had to refine Kendrick's comments.
   "We had an opportunity to operate under the radar," Moorad said. "That door now swings shut."
   Glaus, a three-time All-Star with the Anaheim Angels who won World Series MVP honors with the team in 2002, said he wasn't scared off by Arizona's 51-111 record last season because club officials promised him they had grand plans to compete immediately for a fourth National League West title.
   "I didn't come here to lose," he said. "I didn't come here to be on a team that's going to be in that 95-to 100-loss area. If I believed that would be the case then I wouldn't be sitting here right now. They've been honest with me all the way through from the first day we ever sat down and talked. This organization is moving forward, I wanted to be a part of it and now I am."
   Ortiz, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., during the offseason, said he is convinced the Diamondbacks are reloading, not rebuilding.
   "I want to be a part of what they're trying to accomplish," said Ortiz, who won 15 games for Atlanta last season and has never been on the disabled list. "Especially seeing they signed Troy really helped because they were serious about what they were trying to accomplish."
   New manager Bob Melvin was waiting on other additions before discussing his lineup in any depth, but he is eager for the start of spring training, knowing he will inherit a club with more useful tools.
   "I'm ecstatic," Melvin said. "It not only shows our fans and our players, but it shows the baseball world that we're serious about getting back to where we've been."
   --LHP Randy Johnson apparently wasn't overly impressed with the signings of Troy Glaus and Russ Ortiz, because after the two free agents were inked to separate four-year deals, one of Johnson's agents said the Big Unit still prefers to pitch elsewhere in 2005.
   "Randy has a very positive outlook -- he just feels determined he needs to be elsewhere," Alan Nero said.
   The Diamondbacks had been willing to sit down and discuss a possible contract extension with Johnson, but the overall sense in the organization seems to be if Johnson doesn't want to pitch in Arizona, the club will attempt to facilitate a trade. The New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Anaheim Angels figure to be Johnson's most likely destinations, but he won't come cheap.
   Diamondbacks officials were huddled in extensive discussions with Johnson's representatives over the weekend.
   --1B Richie Sexson was the only player among 11 free agents on the team to be offered salary arbitration, but Sexson was expected to decline it and sign elsewhere. Seattle, Baltimore, the New York Mets and at least two other clubs were seeking his services.
   The club decline arbitration offers to pitchers Matt Mantei (who signed with Boston), Steve Sparks, Shane Reynolds, Mike Fetters, Jeff Fassero and Scott Service; infielders Greg Colbrunn and Carlos Baerga; and outfielders Danny Bautista and Quinton McCracken.
   McCracken, however, agreed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training and a chance to make the 25-man active roster.
   --Though the Diamondbacks were intent on adding injury-related clauses to any and all contract offers previously made to 1B Richie Sexson because of fears about the slugger possible re-injuring his left shoulder, the club guaranteed all $45 million to new 3B Troy Glaus, who underwent a similar operation on his right shoulder last season.
   Arizona's medical staff performed extensive physical examinations on Glaus three days before he came to terms on a deal that will pay him $8.25 million in 2004 (not including a $4 million bonus), $9.25 million in 2006, $10.75 million in 2007 and $12.75 million in 2008.
   BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Diamondbacks' longest winning streak in 2004.
   14 -- Diamondbacks' longest losing streak, overall, in 2004.
   11 -- Diamondbacks' longest losing streak, home, in 2004.
   9 -- Diamondbacks' longest losing streak, road, in 2004.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "Today is a very special day for the Arizona Diamondbacks. It is, in my view, the first day of the new Diamondbacks. We have told you over the last couple of months repeatedly that our intent is to not rebuild, but to reload. We are reloading. We told you that our intent is to be competitive and we're going to be." -- Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick, announcing the signing of free-agent 3B Troy Glaus to a four-year, $45 million contract on Dec. 9. A day later, the team signed starting pitcher Russ Ortiz to a four-year, $33 million deal.
   The remaking of the Diamondbacks -- team officials are calling it "reloading" -- has begun. 3B Troy Glaus was signed to be the team's everyday starter at third, and RHP Russ Ortiz will help anchor a starting rotation that may or may not include ace LHP Randy Johnson. OF Quinton McCracken agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.
   ARRIVALS: 3B Troy Glaus (free agent from Anaheim). RHP Russ Ortiz (free agent from Atlanta).
   DEPARTURES: RHP Shane Reynolds (released), RHP Matt Mantei (free agent, signed with Boston).
   BIGGEST NEEDS: Arizona's starting rotation still is in flux, depending on what happens with LHP Randy Johnson. The addition of RHP Russ Ortiz is a good start, but the team can't stop there.
   FREE AGENTS: RHPs Shane Reynolds, Steve Sparks, Mike Fetters and Scott Service; LHP Jeff Fassero; INFs Greg Colbrunn and Carlos Baerga; and OF Danny Bautista were not offered salary arbitration.
   The Diamondbacks offered arbitration to 1B Richie Sexson, but he isn't likely to return.
   ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: 1B Richie Sexson, LHP Randy Choate, LHP Casey Fossum, 1B Shea Hillenbrand, RHP Mike Koplove, RHP Brandon Lyon.
   Hillenbrand's situation will become more clearly defined once Arizona knows its status with Sexson. Koplove was one of the mainstays to a rather unpredictable bullpen even though he didn't have his greatest season. He will be back, however, as a setup man.
   IN LIMBO: LHP Randy Johnson, 1B Richie Sexson, 1B Shea Hillenbrand, SS Alex Cintron, 3B Chad Tracy.
   Johnson might force the Diamondbacks to trade him to a contender (the Yankees top the list), which would free up $17 million (including a $1 million personal services contract). But Arizona must get fair market value for the Big Unit, which could make things tricky. With Glaus joining the lineup, Tracy could become an outfielder. He also could play first if both Sexson and Hillenbrand leave. SS Alex Cintron spent the last six weeks of the season at second base, and Arizona has eyes on bringing in a veteran (Royce Clayton, Rich Aurilia) to play short.
   MEDICAL WATCH: Arizona's medical department is predicting there is at least a 10 percent chance of 1B Richie Sexson suffering the same injury that wrecked his 2004 season -- a left shoulder subluxation and torn labrum. LF Luis Gonzalez, who underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right throwing elbow, will begin throwing around Christmas to test his rebuilt arm. C/INF Robby Hammock was scheduled to meet with surgeons who operated on his left knee in spring training to see if another surgery is necessary.

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