D-backs pull off six-player swap

D-backs pull off six-player swap

PHOENIX -- Heading into the offseason, D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes knew that the free agent market for pitchers was likely going to be like the NASDAQ Composite Index in the late 1990s: priced high with plenty of risk involved.

So, Byrnes set about exploring the trade route to bolster his team's starting rotation and the result was a six-player deal with the Brewers that brought pitchers Doug Davis and Dana Eveland along with outfielder Dave Krynzel to Arizona on Saturday in exchange for catcher Johnny Estrada and pitchers Claudio Vargas and Greg Aquino.

Davis, a 31-year-old left-hander, was 11-11 with a 4.91 ERA in 2006, the third straight season in which he worked more than 200 innings. He figures to fill in the rotation behind National League Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb and veteran Livan Hernandez.

"Davis is a guy who is an innings-eater, who is left-handed, which is something we've been looking for," said manager Bob Melvin, who did not have a left-hander in the rotation last year. "Along with Webby and Livan, he gives us another proven guy who should provide innings."

Davis just finished a two-year contract that he signed midway through the 2004 season and said at the end of this past season that he was looking for a three-year deal with Milwaukee. A Valley resident, Davis is eligible for salary arbitration this year and free agency after the 2007.

"I'm going to miss Milwaukee, but I'm definitely happy about the opportunity," said Davis, who was on a fishing trip. "It will be nice to stay home during the season, and from what I know, [the D-backs] have a real good team and I'm hoping to help them out. I don't really know any of the coaches there, so I'm going to have to put on a happy face and just adjust as best I can."

Davis had already received a call from Byrnes and is still hoping for that multi-year contract.

"He didn't say much about it -- just, 'We'll talk,'" Davis said. "I'm hoping it will happen. I'd like to stay."

Over the past three seasons, Davis is second only to Hernandez in starts with 103. Having Webb, Hernandez and now Davis at the top of the rotation should provide enough consistency to help offset the rest of the rotation, which is likely to come from a group of young players like Edgar Gonzalez, Enrique Gonzalez, Dustin Nippert, Ross Ohlendorf, Micah Owings, Eveland and Evan MacLane among others and a veteran like Juan Cruz.

"If three starting pitchers can pitch nearly half our innings, it makes it easier on the other pitchers to do their jobs," Byrnes said. "We have a chance to have that happen. That's a good way for us to build our rotation, particularly with six, seven young guys behind them to compete for jobs."

Davis' walks, hits and ERA totals have risen over the past two seasons, but the D-backs are counting on him returning to his 2004 form.

"Nothing about last year that would deter us from acquiring him," Byrnes said. "I think we expect the same kind of Doug Davis season and maybe with a little better luck, a better defense behind him, the ERA drops down a little bit."

Eveland, 23, was the Brewers' 16th round selection in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. The left-hander, who will compete for a rotation spot, appeared in nine games (five starts) for the Brewers last season and was 0-3 with an 8.13 ERA.

"I thought he had a good arm," said a scout who saw Eveland pitch near the end of 2005. "Four-pitch guy with a slider, changeup and curve. I had him at 90-92 mph with his fastball."

Last year in Triple-A, Eveland was 6-5 with a 2.74 ERA and the year before he was 10-4 with a 2.72 ERA in Double-A.

"He's a high profile draft and follow and he's had a sub-3 ERA at every level in the Minors and he's gone pretty quickly through the Minors," Byrnes said. "A good solid pitching prospect who just had a dominant year in Triple-A and goes into next spring as a 23-year-old."

Krynzel, 25, was Milwaukee's first pick (11th overall) in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft. The center fielder hit .231 with 17 doubles last season in Triple-A. He is well-regarded defensively and has tremendous speed.

The past year has not been a good one all the way around for him as he was slowed at the beginning of Spring Training due to a motorcycle accident in November 2005.

Krynzel sought private medical care for the accident and did not inform the Brewers of his condition until two months later when the bone did not heal.

"I think he's a guy that could really benefit from a change of scenery," a scout said. "Sometimes you take a chance that you can salvage a guy who's a good athlete, but for whatever reason hasn't reached his potential in an organization."

"[Last season] was kind of a lost year, but a guy who was the 11th pick coming out of high school and a guy that got to Triple-A as a 22-year-old and has kind of not gotten over the hump there," Byrnes said. "We're hopeful that he can get over the hump with us. He's an athletic guy who can hit a little bit. Hopefully this is the spark he needs to get out of the Triple-A rut."

Estrada's time with the D-backs lasted less than a year. Acquired from the Braves during the Winter Meetings last year, Estrada hit .302 with 26 doubles, 11 homers and 71 RBIs, but he had fallen out of favor with the organization as the season wore on.

Aquino was originally signed by the D-backs as a 16-year-old shortstop in 1995 before being converted to the mound, while Vargas was claimed off waivers from the Nationals in June 2005.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter Adam McCalvy contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.