Diamondbacks Off Season Report Card

Coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in franchise history, the Arizona Diamondbacks have made a serious commitment to fielding a young team.  This is something of a shock for a franchise that won a World Series with each member of their starting lineup having been over thirty years old.  But most of the Diamondbacks' moves this off season have involved trading proven stars for younger, less certain quantities.  Here's how they've done so far:

Read more from Keith Glab at www.BaseballEvolution.com

Trade: Javier Vazquez for Orlando Hernandez, Luis Vizcaino, and Chris Young


When a player demands to be traded, he doesn't give his team an awful lot of bargaining leverage.  When you take that into account, this doesn't look like such a bad deal.  Chris Young was the best of a glut of Sox outfield prospects, and should be ready to start by 2007.  Luis Vizcaino will definitely help solidify the Arizona bullpen.  El Duque is something of a wild card.  He was enjoying his finest season ever in 2004 before injuries sidelined him, and pitched an heroic three innings of relief in Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS.  But no one knows just how old he really is, and he's been injured and inconsistent over the past few years.


It's going to be very difficult for the D'back rotation to recover from the loss of an arm like Vazquez, and the fact that the Diamondbacks had to include cash in the deal is disheartening.  But the club did all right in a very difficult situation, and fans should be more upset with the result of the deal than the fact that Chicago really isn't all that closer to Javier's home in Puerto Rico than Arizona is…





Trade: Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos for Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson   


Many fans are justifiably concerned about having traded one of the best offensive third basemen in baseball and a shortstop often compared to Alex Rodriguez for seemingly little value.  However, the team had a logjam at corner infield, and this move allows Chad Tracy to move his .911 OPS back to third base, where it would have ranked 5th among MLB third baseman (just ahead of Glaus).  The club also has mega-prospect Stephen Drew poised to take over at shortstop by next year, making Santos somewhat expendable in the way that Chris Young was for Chicago.


And GM Josh Byrnes did get two useful players in return.  Diamondback fans know just how valuable Batista, who pitches as well starting games as he does relieving them, can be.  And Orlando Hudson is one of baseball's best kept secrets: he's easily the best defensive second baseman in the game today.  Destined to become ground ball maven Brandon Webb's best friend, Hudson is a career .270 hitter and will develop 20-HR power in Arizona.





Trade: Oscar Villarreal and Lance Cormier for Johnny Estrada


In Johnny Estrada, the Diamondbacks have acquired a cheap switch-hitting catcher who should temporarily halt the revolving backstop door that has been spinning out of control ever since Damian Miller left.  Although he's 29 years old, he has only caught a total of 350 Major League games, and should be pretty fresh and healthy for a catcher of his age.


The drawbacks include his throwing out only about one in four base stealers over his career, slightly below what Chris Snyder averages.  Also, Estrada's batting average dropped 53 points from his 2004 mark, and since he's not a patient hitter and does not hit for much power, his offensive value was next to nothing last year.  But since Arizona gave up next to nothing in order to get him, the chance of him reverting to his 2004 numbers makes this a good deal for Byrnes.





Signing: Eric Byrnes, 1-year $2.25 Million


Byrnes is basically a placeholder, ensuring that the club won't need to rush Chris Young to the bigs.  The nice thing about Byrnes is that he has played extensively at all three outfield slots, and will make a quality fourth outfielder once Young is in fact ready.


But even in today's market, $2.25 Million seems like a fairly steep price for a placeholder who slumped badly in the second half of 2005 and turns 30 before the season begins.  Even though Luis Terrero wasn't offensively impressive last year, it might make more sense to give him one last shot or at least showcase him as trade bait before handing the job to Young.







Trying for a youth movement is difficult with a fan base used to winning fast.  Remember, this franchise won 100 games in its second year of existence and won a World Series in year four, unparalleled success for an expansion team.  That along with a historically weak NL West last year has prompted the organization to keep veterans around to ensure that the Diamondbacks are at least competitive in 2006.


But really watch out for 2007.  The Diamondbacks should have one of the most exciting young infields in the game, With Conor Jackson, Orlando Hudson, Stephen Drew, Chad Tracy, and Chris Snyder all likely coming into their own at the same time.  It would have been nice to have Vazquez play out his contract and anchor the staff in 2007, but as it is, the Diamondbacks still need to work on their starting rotation both for now and for the future.



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