On the heels of landing free agents Troy Glaus and Russ Ortiz, the Diamondbacks also signed shortstop Royce Clayton and second baseman Craig Counsell to free-agent contracts and, while waiting for the Johnson trade to be completed, were still pursuing left-handed starting pitcher Shawn Estes.
If signed, Estes would join a reconfigured rotation that would include Ortiz, Brandon Webb and Brad Penny, who was to be one of three players the Diamondbacks would receive from the Dodgers along with right fielder Shawn Green and reliever Yhency Brazoban in the three-team Johnson trade with the New York Yankees.
Though Arizona's rotation may not match up to that of the Atlanta Braves, the Diamondbacks would be significantly upgraded, albeit without the anchor of Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner, as their ace. Last season, Johnson was virtually the only dependable starter on a team that stumbled to a 51-111 record.
The additions of Clayton and Counsell to help shore up the infield are expected to only further aid the pitching staff, which suffered because of a club-record 139 errors, the most in the National League. Clayton had nine errors in 144 games last season with Colorado. Alex Cintron, Arizona's starter for much of 2004 at short, committed 15 errors there in 133 games.
"It's my infield," Clayton said. "I take a lot of pride in that. If anything goes astray or wrong, it's my responsibility."
Cintron was expected to get a shot to compete for the starting job at second base after switching positions during the final two months of the season, but with Counsell's signing and Matt Kata still in the mix, Cintron could be trade bait. Ditto with first baseman Shea Hillenbrand, who was Arizona's most consistent offensive performer in 2004 but might now be expendable. The Diamondbacks could move Chad Tracy to first from third, where Glaus will now play.
Assuming the Johnson trade goes down and Arizona gets Green, Penny and Brazoban, the Diamondbacks will have upgraded themselves offensively in right field, a position where they needed more power. Arizona chose not to re-sign free-agent Danny Bautista and had been pursuing free-agent Jeromy Burnitz until Green became available. Green can also play first, which gives Arizona multiple options with some other younger players in the system.
--C Kelly Stinnett, who played with the Diamondbacks during their inaugural season in 1998 and stayed through the 2000 season, agreed to a minor-league contract with the club and will provide a veteran presence during spring training for young catchers Chris Snyder and Koyie Hill.
--The Diamondbacks selected pitcher Angel Garcia from Minnesota with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft for $50,000 and traded him to Tampa Bay in a deal that could net them $150,000.
--RHP Andrew Good was released and LHP Shane Nance was designated for assignment.
--2B Craig Counsell signed a two-year deal to rejoin the Diamondbacks after playing last season in Milwaukee.
--Advance scout Mike Paul left the organization to join the Washington Nationals franchise.
BY THE NUMBERS: 75 -- Percent of season-ticket renewals from the Diamondbacks' 19,000 season-ticket holders BEFORE the signings of free agents Troy Glaus, Russ Ortiz, Royce Clayton and Craig Counsell.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If your pitching is going to be good, your defense has to be good. Up the middle is where you start. We're thrilled to have both Royce and Craig here, and I know our pitchers are as thrilled as I am." -- Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin on the free-agent additions of SS Royce Clayton and 2B Craig Counsell.
SS Royce Clayton signed a one-year deal worth $1.28 million and will be Arizona's everyday starter in 2005. 2B Craig Counsell signed a two-year deal worth $3.1 million and is expected to be the club's starting second baseman next season. C Kelly Stinnett agreed to a minor-league contract. RHP Andrew Good was released. LHP Shane Nance was designated for assignment. 1B Richie Sexson signed with Seattle as a free agent.
ARRIVALS: 3B Troy Glaus (free agent from Anaheim). RHP Russ Ortiz (free agent from Atlanta), SS Royce Clayton (free agent from Colorado), INF Craig Counsell (free agent from Milwaukee), C Kelly Stinnett (free agent from Kansas City).
DEPARTURES: 1B Richie Sexson (free agent, signed with Seattle), RHP Shane Reynolds (released), RHP Matt Mantei (free agent, signed with Boston), RHP Andrew Good (released).
BIGGEST NEEDS: Arizona's starting rotation still is in flux, depending on what happens with the proposed deal that would send LHP Randy Johnson to the Yankees and bring RHP Brad Penny to the Diamondbacks. The addition of RHP Russ Ortiz is a good start, but the team can't stop there. The team was angling for another veteran starter, LHP Shawn Estes.
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 left as a free agent and signed with Seattle.
ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: LHP Randy Choate, LHP Casey Fossum, 1B Shea Hillenbrand, RHP Mike Koplove, RHP Brandon Lyon.
The arrival of Glaus could make Hillenbrand trade bait. 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 Shea Hillenbrand, SS Alex Cintron.
Arizona had to make sure it gets fair market value for the Big Unit, which has made things tricky. But getting Brad Penny, Shawn Green and Yhency Brazoban would be a good return. With Glaus joining the lineup, Hillenbrand could be dealt. Cintron spent the last six weeks of the season at second base and will compete with Counsell there now that Clayton has been signed to play short.
MEDICAL WATCH: 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.