D-backs Could Grab Gordon in a Flash

The Diamondbacks are nearing a deal with 41-year old reliever Tom Gordon, a move that would bolster a bullpen that took an offseason hit and could give the D-backs a fallback closer candidate. If the deal is consummated, Gordon would take the final spot on the 40-man roster.

The D-backs lost two quality free agent relievers, Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz, in the offseason, and while neither has signed with a new team, the D-backs consider both to be out of their price range.

Tom Gordon spent the last three seasons in Philadelphia but missed the Phillies' run to the 2008 World Series title after undergoing ulnar nerve decompression surgery in early July. He spent the rest of the season on the disabled list.

Gordon, 41, is 138-125 with 158 saves and a 3.94 ERA in 20 major league seasons. He was a starter the first half of his career but was converted to closing in Boston in the second half of 1997.   Gordon has had six double-digit save seasons, including a career-high 46 saves in 1998 and 34 saves in 2006, his first season with the Phillies.

He would be penciled in as a setup man behind closer Chad Qualls.  Qualls enters spring training with the closer's job after converting all seven save opportunities he had in the 2008 stretch run after replacing Brandon Lyon last September.  Scott Schoeneweis already has been added to serve as a left-handed specialist in a bullpen that also includes right-handers Tony Pena and Jon Rauch, both of whom also have closing experience.


--RHP Jon Garland is expected to be the No. 4 starter in the D-backs' rotation after signing a one-year, $6.25 million contract with a 2010 option that includes a $1 million buyout clause. Garland, 14-8 with a 4.90 ERA with the Angels last season, likely will slot in between LHP Doug Davis, the only lefty in the rotation, and RHP Max Scherzer. RHP Brandon Webb and RHP Dan Haren will be the first two. The D-backs committed at least $7.25 million to Garland -- but they will owe him an additional $1.5 million if they choose not to exercise the 2010 option.

--3B Chad Tracy has been working out strenuously in the offseason to rebuild the strength in his right knee. He was delayed out of spring training last season after microfracture surgery in September of 2007 and probably pushed himself to return too quickly. He expanded the workout room in his suburban Phoenix home to facilitate the process.

--3B Agustin Murillo, 26, played himself into consideration for the MVP award in the Mexican winter league, hitting .345 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI at Obregon. He led the league with 87 hits, 30 doubles, and 150 total bases, plus had an OPS of 1.031. He is expected to open 2009 at Class AAA Reno after spending most of the previous two minor league seasons in his native Mexico.

DIAMOND STAT: 1.51 -- Jon Garland's ratio of hits and walks per innings pitched with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which tied for 77th among the 87 starters who qualified for the 2008 ERA title in either league.

QUOTABLE: "We've built this team primarily around our starting pitching. We realize that championship teams have good starting pitching, and Jon will fit right in." -- D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes


The Diamondbacks will continue building around their top starting pitching and a young nucleus of position players. Most of their key players are either under contract or under control, so there has not been much major offseason movement.

ARRIVALS: C James Skelton (Rule 5 selection from Tigers), 2B Felipe Lopez (free agent from Cardinals), LHP Scott Schoeneweis (trade with Mets), RHP Jon Garland (free agent from Angels).

DEPARTURES: LHP Randy Johnson (free agent, signed with Giants), 2B/SS David Eckstein (free agent, signed with Padres), RHP Brandon Lyon (free agent, signed with Tigers).

FREE AGENTS: 1B/OF Adam Dunn, RHP Juan Cruz, 2B Orlando Hudson.

The D-backs did not offer arbitration to Dunn or LHP Randy Johnson, both Type A free agents, fearing that if either accepted, it would blow their 2009 budget, which stands at about $70-72 million. Johnson then signed with San Francisco. They offered arbitration to Hudson (Type A), Lyon (Type B), and Cruz (Type A).


Jackson will have his arbitration case heard in February as the first D-backs player in the Josh Byrnes era headed to salary arbitration. 

MEDICAL WATCH:  OF Eric Byrnes (torn right hamstring) was working out at Chase Field in December after being cleared to run. He opted against surgery to repair a small tear and expects to be full strength by spring training.

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