Steve, considering the D-backs' winter moves, what positions do you think they need to fill the most, and have you heard any rumors? -- Ralph F., Surprise, Ariz.
Ralph, I think they would like to add an experienced starter to the rotation. If you saw Arizona CEO Jeff Moorad's chat the other day, you might have found it interesting that when asked who the No. 5 starter would be he said "Max Scherzer," and when asked about the No. 4 slot he said "a player to be named."
The club is probably waiting for the price of one of the starting pitchers on the market to fall to where they think they can get them for the $2.5 million or what they were willing to pay Randy Johnson. I think they are certainly better off with Scherzer in the fifth spot of the rotation rather than the fourth. He would not be counted on as heavily in the five spot, which is a good thing for a young pitcher, and the club could also skip him at times to limit his innings pitched.
I've read about rumors that involve Eric Byrnes possibly going to the Red Sox and Boston hoping to get Miguel Montero included as well by eating the rest of Byrnes' contract. If that were to happen, would that at all give any shot for the D-backs to sign Johnson back?
-- Jeremiah J., Litchfield Park, Ariz.
That rumor seemed to make more sense before the D-backs signed Felipe Lopez to play second base, because that's where they probably would have put Lugo. Getting Byrnes' salary of $11 million in each of the next two seasons off the books would certainly help Arizona's financial situation, but, keep in mind, Lugo's contract calls for him to make $9 million per year through 2010 with a vesting option based on plate appearances for 2011. Unless the Red Sox were kicking in significant money to cover Lugo's salary, I'm not sure what the value to a deal at this point is with Lopez already signed for $3.5 million for next year.
If we think [Adam] Dunn will accept, then why not sign him for that one year and $15 million, and everyone knows that the Braves would love to get their hands on Conor Jackson. Or, get rid of Chad Tracy and Byrnes. Then maybe next year we could lock Dunn and Brandon Webb both up long term to keep us contending year in and out?
-- Dan L., Carmel, Penn.
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Trading Tracy and Byrnes at this point is not easy as we've talked about before, so the idea that Arizona would be able to trade both of them is a stretch. I know that everyone is anxious to trade Tracy, but let's not forget what a productive player he was a couple of years ago when he was healthy. The last two years for him have been essentially lost because of his injured knee. If he is fully recovered from the knee surgery of a little more than a year ago, I would not bet against him regaining the form he displayed in 2005 and 2006. Last year he didn't say much about it, but his knee was not 100 percent and you could see it when he played more than a couple of games in a row.
What do you think of this idea to unload Byrnes' $11 million contract? Trade Byrnes, Tracy's $4.75 million and Snyder's $2 million-plus to the Astros for Carlos Lee and his $18 million contract. The money is a wash. Astros get three players for one player's salary, i.e. get the catcher, plus the third baseman they seek, and a replacement in left field for Lee. The D-backs shift Conor Jackson back to first, don't increase payroll, but get the big RBI bat for the middle of the batting order.
-- Larry P., Mauston, Wis.
I admire the creativity, Larry, but that's not going to happen. First, I'm not sure the Astros would want to make that deal and Lee does have a full no-trade clause through 2010. You are right that essentially the money is a wash next year, but keep in mind that Lee is owed $18.5 million per year through 2012 and that is too much for the D-backs to take on at this point.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.