The Deadline Approaches

With just days to go before the non-waiver trade deadline, the jury's still out on whether the D'Backs will make a move. And if they do make a deal, will they be moving prospects or veterans? And which of these prospects are untouchable? GM Josh Byrnes gives us some of the answers as the tension mounts.

Most everyone would agree that the Diamondbacks need another quality starter if they are going to remain legitimate contenders in the NL West.  Unfortunately, there are also about 15 other teams who feel the same way about the need to add starting pitching.  With the demand so high, asking prices are also, and even teams out of contention may want to hang on to quality starters thinking ahead to next season.

"A lot of the big name pitchers aren't available, some are, but some, like [Dontrelle] Willis definitely are not," explained Josh Byrnes.  "I would like to get another starting pitcher, but we are second in the league in starters ERA in July, so the pitching is starting to improve, it's just a little streaky." 

With streaky pitching as the problem, the solution may be to acquire a veteran innings-eater like Livan Hernandez or Greg Maddux.  While both pitchers also have playoff experience and the ability to remain calm under pressure, they are also in the declining phase of their careers.  Maddux is winless in eight career starts at Chase Field, and Livan's propensity to induce fly balls could hurt him in the dry desert air as well.

In which case, Indians' starter Jake Westbrook may be the answer.  He's among the best in the business at keeping the ball on the ground, also acts as a workhorse (over 425 IP between 2004-2005), and was one of Cleveland's most reliable starters in their September playoff run last year.

Trouble is, the Indians might not want to move him, said Byrnes.

"We've been talking to the Indians, though I do wonder why [Jake] Westbrook has become the name everybody talks about, because I think the Indians like him a lot at five and a half million next year too."

One advantage that the Diamondbacks have in any potential deal is boasting one of the best-stocked farm systems in baseball.  The Diamondbacks have more prospects ranked among the 2006 Top 300 Minor League Player Rankings than any other major league organization.  Even if a team is really high on one of its own pitchers, the temptation of a Carlos Quentin, Stephen Drew, or Carlos Gonzalez could coax a GM into pushing a button that he wouldn't normally press.  That is, if such prospects are even available.

"There is no 'untouchables' list," assured Byrnes. "We will listen to offers for any player, and if we feel it is in the club's best interest, we will make a move.  But we are committed to winning now, and winning in the long term, and I don't want to make a move that will jeopardize either of those things."

The Diamondbacks, then, are neither 'buyers' nor 'sellers' in the traditional trade deadline sense, but rather looking to improve the club holistically.  If Byrnes can indeed maneuver a trade to his organization's advantage, fantastic.  If he can't, it should not be viewed as an unwillingness to risk dealing prospects or spending money.  

"We've talked to more than half the clubs in baseball in the last 48 hours, and we are actively looking to improve the major league club."

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