LOS ANGELES DODGERS INSIDE PITCH The 2004 season was not a good one for the players considered the top prospects in the Dodgers' system at the start of the year.
RHP Edwin Jackson was supposed to break into the starting rotation and was even picked by some as a preseason favorite to be the NL Rookie of the Year. He instead spent a wasted year shuttling between Triple-A, spot starts in the majors and the disabled list, performing erratically when he did pitch.
Other top pitching prospects -- LHP Greg Miller and RHP Joel Hanrahan -- didn't shine, either. Miller underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a bursa sac in his pitching shoulder and never pitched in 2004. Hanrahan moved to Triple-A and took his lumps in the hitter-friendly parks of the Pacific Coast League.
Two of the Dodgers' thin group of position prospects were traded by new GM Paul DePodesta -- OF Franklyn Gutierrez (to the Indians in the deal for OF Milton Bradley) and C Koyie Hill (to the Diamondbacks in the deal for OF Steve Finley).
1B James Loney struggled at Double-A, set back by a finger injury early in the season. Loney, who's just 20 years old, bounced back and re-established himself with a .327 average during the Arizona Fall League.
Two other position players used the AFL's mini-season to improve their standing in the Dodgers' system. With Hill gone, Russell Martin has emerged as the Dodgers' top catching prospect. Martin, 21, hit .250 with a league-leading 71 walks at Class A Vero Beach and was a Florida State League All-Star. The Dodgers' 17th-round choice in the 2002 draft, Martin hit .296 with a .452 on-base percentage in 17 AFL games.
Meanwhile, OF Jason Repko capped off an outstanding 2004 by tying for the AFL lead with eight home runs while hitting .291 with 25 RBIs and 20 runs scored in 31 games. The Dodgers' first-round pick in 1999, Repko was converted from shortstop to center field last season and progressed to Triple-A for the first time. He hit .303 with 13 home runs, 81 runs scored, 60 driven in and 23 stolen bases in 121 combined games at Double-A and Triple-A.
--The Dodgers hired former ESPN anchor Charley Steiner to be their new play-by-play man. Steiner, 55, replaces Ross Porter, who was not offered a contract for the 2005 season after 28 years with the team. Steiner has spent the last three seasons as part of the New York Yankees' radio broadcast team. Before that, he worked for ESPN for 14 years.
--The Dodgers purchased the contract of seven of their own minor leaguers and added them to their 40-man roster. The players protected were RHP Franquelis Osoria, LHPs Ryan Ketchner and Derek Thompson, C Russell Martin, INF Brian Myrow, 2B Delwyn Young and OF Jason Repko.
Ketchner and Myrow were acquired in trades by first-year GM Paul DePodesta last season (Ketchner from the Mariners for INF Jolbert Cabrera and Myrow from the Yankees for RHP Tanyon Sturtze). Ketchner and Thompson were Double-A Southern League All-Stars. The stock of Martin and Repko rose after their play in the Arizona Fall League. Young led the Class A Florida State League in extra-base hits (61 -- 22 home runs, 3 triples and 36 doubles) while batting .281 with 85 RBIs.
--Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta said he was in contact with agent Scott Boras on an almost daily basis -- even during the holiday weekend -- to talk about various players represented by Boras. Boras' most important client as far as the Dodgers are concerned is free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre. DePodesta said he has yet to make a contract offer to Boras for Beltre but is "at a point where we'd like to put a little more definition to the process."
BY THE NUMBERS: .435 -- Percentage of the Dodgers' 2004 runs that scored via home runs, third in the majors behind the Chicago Cubs (.456) and Chicago White Sox (.444).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The first day Dodger fans hear me on the radio from Vero Beach they'll think, 'Oh no.' You hope the second day, it's, 'Oh, he's not so bad.' Slowly but surely you become part of the fabric." -- Dodgers' new play-by-play man, Charley Steiner, who will replace Ross Porter. The latter was let go after 28 seasons with the club.
The success or failure of GM Paul DePodesta's efforts to upgrade the 2004 NL West champions in his first offseason with the team might hinge on one player -- free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre. DePodesta has said re-signing Beltre is his top priority, but he will have to deal with high-powered agent Scott Boras in order to get it done. Boras is not likely to make it easy (or cheap) for the Dodgers to retain Beltre, which means the negotiations might drag on deep into the winter. DePodesta has said he won't let that hinder his attempts to address the Dodgers' other areas of need -- mainly, starting pitching and a new catcher.
DEPARTURES: INF Robin Ventura (retired).
BIGGEST NEEDS: While free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre is the most crucial individual in the Dodgers' offseason, starting pitching and a catcher rank as their greatest needs heading into 2005. The Dodgers' rotation all but collapsed in the final two months of the 2004 season, and only RHP Jose Lima acquitted himself well in the team's brief playoff cameo. Brad Penny (biceps nerve irritation) will enter 2005 with health questions to answer. Other than that, the Dodgers' rotation projects to be filled out by Jeff Weaver, Kazuhisa Ishii and unproven Edwin Jackson. Look for DePodesta to attempt to add two new names to that list. Catching, meanwhile, became a black hole after the midseason trade of Paul Lo Duca left it in the hands of David Ross and Brent Mayne. That must be addressed for 2005.
FREE AGENTS: 3B Adrian Beltre, LHP Odalis Perez, OF Steve Finley, RHP Hideo Nomo, RHP Jose Lima, INF Jose Hernandez, RHP Paul Shuey, C Brent Mayne, LHP Wilson Alvarez, C Todd Hundley, RHP Elmer Dessens.
Re-signing Beltre is the Dodgers' top offseason priority, GM Paul DePodesta has said. It will cost them after his MVP-caliber season, but they are helped by the fact that most teams willing to spend big money are not in the market for a third baseman this winter. OF Steve Finley becomes a high priority only if Beltre leaves and the Dodgers need to make up the lost offense throughout their lineup. The Dodgers are also likely to retain relatively inexpensive pitchers Jose Lima and Wilson Alvarez. Odalis Perez seems intent on leaving. The rest of the players on this list are of little interest to the Dodgers (or most other teams).
ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: RHP Eric Gagne, RHP Brad Penny, OF Milton Bradley, INF Olmedo Saenz, 2B Alex Cora, SS Cesar Izturis, RHP Giovanni Carrara.
Gagne was an angry man last winter when he lost his arbitration case despite having just won the Cy Young Award. He would like the Dodgers to come to him with a multiyear contract offer but has little or no leverage to make that happen. It ranks fairly low on the Dodgers' offseason priorities, and if they're not willing to do it for Gagne, none of the other players on this list should hold their breath for more than a modest one-year offer to avoid arbitration. Saenz, however, is the only one who should worry about non-tender status.
IN LIMBO: 1B-RF Shawn Green, LHP Kazuhisa Ishii.
Green is entering the final year of a six-year deal that will pay him $16 million in 2005. Green's production (particularly his power numbers and clutch hitting) has dropped off in the last two seasons, leaving him seriously overpaid. The Dodgers would love to get out from under the last year of that contract, but Green has no-trade rights. In Ishii's case, the Dodgers have tired of the erratic left-hander's inconsistency and would gladly move him. But Ishii can veto trades to a list of 10 teams and might have limited market value.
MEDICAL WATCH: 3B Adrian Beltre (recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs from left ankle, should be ready for spring training), OF Jayson Werth (strained tendon in right elbow, hoping to rehabilitate without surgery), C Todd Hundley (recovering from hip and back surgeries, didn't play in 2004 and not likely to play in 2005), RHP Darren Dreifort (recovering from hip and knee surgeries, not likely to play in 2005), RHP Paul Shuey (recovering from hip surgery, not likely to play in 2005).
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
The Giants are in the football business, too.
Always seeking ways to pay down their ballpark mortgage, the Giants play host to an annual college football game. The third edition of the Emerald Bowl will be Dec. 30. The first two years, it was known as the Diamond Walnut Bowl.
Pat Gallagher, a longtime Giants executive, is one of the overseers of the event. Last year, it was played on New Year's Eve.
In exchange for guaranteeing to back any bowl losses, the Giants get a fee (a little more than $100,000) for the use of the stadium and the promotional value of a non-baseball event.
"The Bay Area is an entertainment market," Gallagher said. "If something is considered good entertainment, people will come, and price won't keep people away."
Navy will play in this year's bowl. It could have instead played in the Liberty Bowl, Houston Bowl, Motor City Bowl or Tangerine Bowl.
Navy's 8-2 going into its finale against Army and will be matched against a Mountain West team, probably Wyoming or New Mexico.
--Former Giants catcher and general manager Tom Haller died Friday (Nov. 26) after a lengthy illness. He was 67. Haller was the team's catcher from 1961-1967 and its general manager from 1981-86.
--The Giants' spring-training schedule has been announced, and 29 of their 33 games will be played in Arizona. Three will be in San Francisco (two against the A's, one against the Rangers), and one will be in Oakland.
The Giants set a Scottsdale Stadium attendance record with 152,185 fans in 2004.
The opener is Thursday, March 3, a road contest against the AL West champion Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The Giants will play host to the Padres in a split-squad game for the Scottsdale Stadium opener on Saturday, March 5.
--The Giants added five players to their 40-man roster: outfielder Frederick Lewis (Class A San Jose), left-handed pitcher Brian Burres (San Jose), right-handed pitcher Scott Munter (Triple-A Fresno), lefty Erick Threets (Class A Augusta) and outfielder Daniel Ortmeier (Double-A Norwich)
--In order to make room on the 40-man roster for the five additions, the Giants outrighted infielders Jamie Athas and Brian Dallimore and outfielder Carlos Valderrama to Fresno.
BY THE NUMBERS: 101 -- Giants' error total in 2004, leaving them with a .984 fielding percentage, ranking eighth in the NL.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're more focused on a closer and fixing the bullpen than we are on adding an outfielder right now. If we go into camp right now, we're fine with the outfield we've got, with (Barry) Bonds in left, (Marquis) Grissom in center and a combination of Michael Tucker and Dustan Mohr in right, and Pedro Feliz might get some time out in right field as well." -- Assistant GM Ned Colletti on the Giants' pursuit of a closer, whether it's incumbent Dustin Hermanson (a free agent) or someone with more experience.
The Giants were in contention until they were eliminated on the final Saturday of the season, and that surprised many fans who didn't think the roster was capable of staying in the race. With many of the same faces back, the Giants think they can be a force again in 2005. But to convince their fans they're the real deal, they must add a big bat to the lineup.
ARRIVALS: SS Omar Vizquel (free agent from Cleveland).
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Giants need someone to protect Barry Bonds ... have you heard that one before? Bonds will continue to walk at a record rate unless the Giants finally find him some support, and Edgardo Alfonzo isn't the answer. Vizquel provides the defense the Giants needed at shortstop, and they also are in the market for a center fielder and need to beef up the bullpen.
FREE AGENTS: RHP Dustin Hermanson, LHP Jason Christiansen, RHP Dave Burba, RHP Robb Nen, OF Ricky Ledee.
It's not an attractive list, and the Giants wouldn't be interested in Hermanson if they can acquire an experienced closer. However, it appears they will stick with Hermanson if they can agree on contract terms.
Christiansen, coming off a three-year contract, was a bust, and Burba was a September acquisition who could return with a small contract. Nen hasn't pitched since the 2002 World Series and might sign a minor league contract.
ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: C A.J. Pierzynski, INF Pedro Feliz, C Yorvit Torrealba, OF Dustan Mohr.
Pierzynski probably won't return after beating the Giants in arbitration last spring and not living up to expectations, especially early in the season when he struggled at the plate and was criticized by pitchers on his own staff. The Giants are more focused on bringing back Feliz and Torrealba, and Mohr is expected to return because he'll be cheap.
IN LIMBO: The Giants would love to shed the salaries of infielders Edgardo Alfonzo and Ray Durham, but it'll be tough to trade players on the downside of their careers whose bodies aren't exactly durable.
MEDICAL WATCH: LF Barry Bonds (left knee surgery) is expected to be fully recovered by spring training after undergoing surgery Oct. 12. His rehab was to be three to six weeks. RHP Robb Nen (right shoulder tendinitis) is coming off three shoulder surgeries, and his career might be over. OF Dustan Mohr (bruised kneecap) was hurt in the final week, though it wasn't as serious as expected and he played in the final game. RHP Jim Brower (tight elbow) appeared in eight straight games down the stretch but was unavailable the final weekend.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
First baseman Phil Nevin has supplied the Padres with the list of eight teams to which he cannot be traded.
Padres general manager Kevin Towers has said more is being made of the list than reasonable since the Padres would have to receive quite an offer to trade their four-time RBI leader.
But if the Padres are to trade Nevin, now might be the right time. Less than two months into the 2005 season, Nevin qualifies as a 10-and-5 player -- meaning the first baseman will regain the no-trade powers he lost at the end of the 2004 season.
The Nevin situation is complicated because Ryan Klesko has a full no-trade provision in his contract. Because Klesko is better suited to playing first base rather than left field -- where he was stationed last season -- Nevin and Klesko are essentially the same player.
The Padres could free up a road block and improve their outfield defense -- in spacious Petco Park -- simply by trading one of the two. And not only does Klesko have a full no-trade provision, he is coming off a poor season.
Clearly, Nevin's stock is higher right now than Klesko's.
--RHP Rudy Seanez was signed to a one-year contract. It will be his third tour of duty with the Padres.
--Last August, the Padres claimed SS Ferdin Tejada out of the Yankees farm system to fill a hole at Class A Lake Elsinore. Ferdin went 9-for-35 with four RBI with the Storm. But the Padres last week lost the 22-year-old back to the Yankees on a waiver claim.
--Padres general manager Kevin Towers said he plans to soon discuss a contract extension with manager Bruce Bochy, who has managed the Padres since 1995, His contract expires at the end of the 2005 season.
--Padres pitchers and catchers will report to Peoria, Ariz., on Feb. 18 with the position players reporting on Feb. 23.
--The Padres will cut short their Arizona exhibition season to return to San Diego for a split-squad, March 30 exhibition against San Diego State at Petco Park. The Padres will hold a full-squad workout at Petco Park on April 1 and play an exhibition against Lake Elsinore at their Class A affiliate's home park on April 2. The Padres will travel to Colorado on April 3 and open the season the following day at Coors Field.
BY THE NUMBERS: 37 -- Players on the Padres' 40-man roster with the signing of RHP Rudy Seanez. 6 -- Free agent minor league signees already invited to spring training.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think we need to make that many changes to be a contender next season." -- General manager Kevin Towers on the state of the Padres.
The first item on the Padres' to-do list is re-signing LHP David Wells. They would like to trade either LF Ryan Klesko or 1B Phil Nevin and acquire a genuine center fielder.
ARRIVALS: LHP Darrell May and RHP Ryan Bukvich (acquired in trade from Kansas City), RHP Rudy Seanez (free agent).
DEPARTURES: OF Terrence Long and RHP Dennis Tankersley (traded to Kansas City for May and Bukvich); RHP Ricky Stone (free agent, signed with Cincinnati); RHP Jay Witasick, RHP Marty McLeary and OF Kerry Robinson (released).
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Padres need to re-sign Wells for their rotation. Trading either Ryan Klesko or Phil Nevin would leave the Padres with one true first baseman and address the defensive problems that go with Klesko playing in left. The club also needs at least two relief pitchers and a true center fielder, but don't look for the Padres to be able to sign free agent Steve Finley.
FREE AGENTS: RHP Andy Ashby, INF Rich Aurilia, SS Alex Gonzalez, INF Robert Fick, INF Dave Hansen, RHP Antonio Osuna, LHP David Wells.
The Padres have made re-signing Wells their No. 1 priority. Osuna probably will not be re-signed now that they have Seanez. Aurilia has told the Padres he wants to compete for a starting spot, which is not likely to be the case with the Padres, so their interest is minimal. No interest in re-signing Hansen or Fick. Ashby rehabbing following surgery and will be given minor league offer. Mild interest in Gonzalez.
ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: INF Ramon Vazquez.
Padres want to retain utilityman and will have deal done before deadline. Highly unlikely to go to arbitration with him.
IN LIMBO: 1B Phil Nevin will be more attractive to other teams than LF Ryan Klesko. But the Padres might have to throw in another player to trade either one.
MEDICAL WATCH: 3B Sean Burroughs is expected to be ready for the opening of spring training after having season-ending surgery to his right knee. The second phase of his rehab had begun. SS Khalil Greene is not expected to have any carry-over with the damaged ring finger on his throwing hand. RHP Andy Ashby has had further surgery on his reconstructed right shoulder and won't be ready to pitch until April or May.
The Rockies and their fans need to keep things in perspective.
They were 68-94 last year. All that stood between them and last place in the NL West was Arizona.
That, however, doesn't keep the fans and media from whining over decisions with veteran players.
During the 2003 season, the Rockies said they were going to take a step back in hopes of moving forward. They said they had to clear out bad contracts that had hamstrung the team's finances. And they said they were going to build off a scouting department and farm system that was neglected for nearly a decade but in the last few years has begun to open eyes of the rest of baseball.
And two years later, the Rockies are sticking to a game plan, finally.
It has been a challenge to push aside emotions, and never was it more challenging than when Vinny Castilla left town for a second time, signing a two-year deal with Washington that guarantees him $6.2 million.
The Rockies were willing to rework the mutual option in Castilla's contract and would have pushed his upfront guarantee for 2005 to $2.4 million, but when the final decision came down to money as opposed to playing at home, the Rockies bid Castilla adieu.
Ditto Jeromy Burnitz, who at midseason lobbied with those associated with the team to get ownership to exercise his $3 million option for 2005, saying he'd take that without hesitation and stay in Colorado. Once general manager Dan O'Dowd got ownership to agree to the option, however, Burnitz hesitated, his agent coming back with a two-year, $13 million deal that shot to $18 million if Burnitz had 500 plate appearances each year.
The Rockies also passed on even getting involved in serious negotiations with lefty Shawn Estes and shortstop Royce Clayton.
The bottom line is all four players came to the Rockies at bargain prices a year ago, the team hoping the four could be stopgaps for a year and the players hoping they could turn an opportunity for regular work into a resurrection of their careers.
It worked. The Rockies got productive seasons from all four, who re-established their market values.
Now it's time to move on, building off what they accomplished in the last season.
--2B Jayson Nix not only hit .191 for the Mesa Solar Sox, he struck out 23 times in 89 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. Corey Slavik, added to the Mesa roster when Jeff Baker went home after three games because of recurring wrist problems, hit .214. Outfielder Cory Sullivan, beginning his comeback from shoulder surgery that sidelined him in 2004, hit .203. RHP Ryan Speier's solid fall disappeared when he gave up eight runs in a game and finished with a 7.27 ERA. Zack Parker was 1-4 with a 4.67 ERA in eight starts, and Zach McClelland, who worked as a starter and reliever, was 1-0 with a 5.00 ERA.
--INF Luis Gonzalez is continuing to show versatility in his native Venezuela this winter. Playing for Oriente, Gonzalez hit .329 in his first 19 games and had started at first, second, third, short and the outfield.
--Third base coach Sandy Alomar resigned to become bench coach for manager Willie Randolph with the New York Mets. Roving infield instructor Mike Gallego, Double-A Tulsa manager Tommy Runnells, Class A Visalia manager Stu Coles and special assignment coach Walt Weiss are candidates to replace him on the coaching staff.
BY THE NUMBERS: 34 -- Blown saves for the Rockies bullpen, a major league record.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They are the type of pitchers a team would take, nurse along at the big-league level for a year and then send back to the minor leagues." -- Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd on the decision to protect RHPs Juan Morillo and Ubaldo Jimenez, who have yet to pitch above Class A.
The Rockies are looking to beef up their bullpen with power arms to work the late innings. They are committed to getting younger in 2005 -- besides inserting J.D. Closser at catcher and Clint Barmes at shortstop, they are considering Garrett Atkins at third base if they can't re-sign Vinny Castilla and will give Brad Hawpe, Cory Sullivan and Choo Freeman opportunities in the outfield.
DEPARTURES: 3B Vinny Castilla (free agent, signed with Washington), RHP Tim Harikkala (claimed on waivers by Oakland), OF Rene Reyes (refused minor league assignment), RHP Adam Bernero (refused minor league assignment), RHP Denny Stark (refused minor league assignment).
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Rockies need to beef up their bullpen. They will return lefties Brian Fuentes and Javier Lopez and are looking for help from their farm system with RHPs Scott Dohmann, Chin-hui Tsao and Allan Simpson.
FREE AGENTS: 3B Vinny Castilla, OF Jeromy Burnitz, OF Mark Sweeney, SS Royce Clayton, C Todd Greene, RHP Steve Reed, RHP Jamey Wright.
They hope to re-sign Greene and Sweeney for depth and would like to bring back Castilla, but he is looking initially for more than $3 million. Wright could return.
ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE: RHP Shawn Chacon, RHP Jason Jennings, LHP Joe Kennedy.
The Rockies will retain Jennings and Kennedy and will approach Jennings about a multiyear deal. Chacon is being shopped because of concerns about what he could be awarded in arbitration.
IN LIMBO: In addition to Chacon, the Rockies are trying to move veterans C Charles Johnson ($9 million guarantee in 2005) and LHP Denny Neagle ($11 million guarantee in 2005 and $9 million buyout on option for 2006). The Rockies know they will have to either take bad contracts in return for Johnson and Neagle or eat the bulk of the salaries.
MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Aaron Cook (surgery to remove upper right rib to alleviate problems that caused blood clots in lungs), LHP Denny Neagle (midseason surgery on his left labrum), OF Preston Wilson (rehabbing from two surgeries in 2004 on his left knee). All three are expected to be healthy by spring training.
When everything seemed its bleakest, from the Wally Backman fiasco to mounting speculation about the departures of stars Richie Sexson and Randy Johnson, and with the memories of an embarrassing 51-111 record still putridly fresh in their minds, it only got worse for the Diamondbacks when Sandy Johnson decided to leave the franchise.
Johnson, the club's vice president and senior assistant to GM Joe Garagiola Jr., was a rock of experience and an invaluable source of confidence and trust in the Diamondbacks' front office. When he decided to join the New York Mets as an advisor to rookie GM Omar Minaya, the Diamondbacks were in a quandary.
"You just don't lose somebody like Sandy Johnson and expect to replace him," one Diamondbacks official said following Johnson's departure.
The Diamondbacks, though, believe they may have done just that with the hiring of fellow longtime baseball man Bob Gebhard, who left his post as an assistant to St. Louis Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty to become Garagiola's top assistant and senior advisor in Arizona.
Gebhard, 61, helped build the Colorado Rockies, for whom he served as general manager for their first eight years, providing a blueprint the Diamondbacks tried to emulate when they began play six years later.
"This guy has done it all in the game of baseball, and I'm confident we found the best possible candidate to join our baseball operations department," Garagiola said of Gebhard, who followed an 11-year playing career by serving in various on-field and front-office positions with Montreal and Minnesota. He spent the last five seasons with the Cardinals, who reached the World Series this year.
Gebhard was offered a pay raise to remain in St. Louis but opted to join the Diamondbacks despite only the guarantee of a one-year contract.
"It's fine. It really is," Gebhard said. "I'm sure everyone involved in the decision-making, if they feel they want to do something beyond that, then in time, they will."
Gebhard will be heavily involved in all decision-making done by the front office as it relates to major league talent, and one of his immediate tasks will be helping Garagiola pinpoint and execute strategy in strengthening the 2005 roster with free-agent help in various areas.
Gebhard was to begin his duties Tuesday (Nov. 30).
"I felt this was a bigger challenge and something I really wanted to do," he said. "I'm going to try to help Joe bring this ballclub back to being a competitive team. The Diamondbacks were really torn apart with so many injuries to key players last year, and it seemed like everything bad that could happen, happened.
"Now we have to step back, evaluate what's in the (minor league) system, what we have at the major league club and try to move forward the best we can and stay within the budget that's been given us."
The Diamondbacks' payroll in 2004 was $77 million but could be smaller next season, depending on what happens with Randy Johnson and Richie Sexson. Combined, they made nearly $25 million last season, and although Arizona would love to keep them in the fold, both might end up playing elsewhere.
--1B Richie Sexson received what might have been the Diamondbacks' final contract proposal to him when they offered the free-agent first baseman two separate deals. One was a three-year package, the other a four- to five-year offer, and both included some injury provisions should Sexson re-injure his left shoulder.
The Diamondbacks were still awaiting a response from Sexson's agent, Casey Close, although it is widely expected Sexson will continue to shop the market and wait to get multiple offers from other clubs before making any decisions about the Diamondbacks.
Sexson is also drawing interest from the New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners.
--The Diamondbacks put the finishing touches on new manager Bob Melvin's coaching staff by hiring Brett Butler as the new first base coach. Butler, who will be making his major leaue coaching debut after spending the past two seasons working in the New York Mets' minor league system, figures to be immensely beneficial tutoring baserunning and bunting techniques, which were the staples of his major league career.
BY THE NUMBERS: 39.6 -- Average number of home runs hit by Richie Sexson during his final three seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers (2001-03) before coming to Arizona and injuring his shoulder. Sexson managed to hit nine homers for the D-backs before his 2004 season was cut short after just 23 games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Some of the smaller-market clubs have smaller budgets than we're going to have, and those clubs did outstanding jobs." -- New Diamondbacks assistant general manager Bob Gebhard on the club's 2005 payroll, expected to be at or lower than last season's budget of about $77 million.
The Diamondbacks haven't made their projected payroll in 2005 public information, but it isn't expected to be higher than last year's $77 million budget, and yet the club has multiple holes to fill. The D-backs could free up as much as $26 million by trading ace pitcher Randy Johnson and losing power-hitting first baseman Richie Sexson to free agency, but then they would need at least two quality starting pitchers, a new shortstop, and at least two outfielders in center and right.
DEPARTURES: RHP Shane Reynolds (released), RHP Matt Mantei (free agent likely won't be back), RHP Steve Sparks (free agent).
BIGGEST NEEDS: Arizona has almost too many to mention, but it starts with the starting rotation, which is hanging by a thread if Randy Johnson were to be dealt, as he seems to wish. Brandon Webb isn't ready to anchor the staff. The Diamondbacks need reliable veteran help and have isolated some key free agents, namely Shawn Estes, Russ Ortiz and Matt Clement, though they might end up with none of those arms.
FREE AGENTS: 2B Carlos Baerga, RF Danny Bautista, 1B Greg Sexson, RHP Steve Sparks, 1B Alan Zinter.
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