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Decisions knocking on D-backs' door

Decisions knocking on D-backs' door

PHOENIX -- The D-backs went into the offseason last year looking only to make a few minor tweaks around the edges of a team that had won the 2007 National League West and came within a few games of doing so again in 2008.

After a last-place campaign in 2009, it seems, almost everything is up for discussion this offseason.

So will the D-backs be looking to improve the offense? Maybe the starting rotation? How about the bullpen?

The answers are yes, yes and yes.

"I think unlike previous offseasons, when you look at starting pitchers, relief pitcher, position players, I think there's a chance we're going to try and improve all three areas," said D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes.

The D-backs' biggest decision will also be the first one they have to make. Ace Brandon Webb has an $8.5 million contract option that the team must exercise or pay him a $2 million buyout within five days of the conclusion of the World Series. The right-hander underwent shoulder surgery in August, and will not be throwing off a mound by the time the team must decide on the option.

Whether they exercise the option on Webb, the D-backs will need to find at least one starter on the trade or free-agent markets.

While the team has a core of position players that it has been loyal to for the past few seasons, it, too, will be looked at.

"The way this season has gone and the way last season ended we're open-minded to as much competition as we can put on the roster," Byrnes said.

There could be competition in the outfield if Conor Jackson returns from his bout with Valley Fever. Chris Young's season-long struggles were a mystery and the emergence of Gerardo Parra this year along with a healthy Byrnes could give manager A.J. Hinch some options out there next season.

Several Arizona players posted good numbers both at the plate -- for example, Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds and Miguel Montero -- as well as on the mound, like Dan Haren, Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez. Yet the team as a whole came up far short of expectations.

"There are a lot of issues that can get a team sidetracked from the issue of winning, and I think we need to get that mind-set of every day showing up to win a game," Byrnes said. "I can't imagine 2009 doesn't anger you, doesn't frustrate you -- it should. We need to go into next year and compete with some determination. We've got to find a way to not give away runs defensively, retire guys in big spots, get the big hits and make the kind of plays that we need to win games."

Contract issues
Free agents: Doug Davis, LHP; Scott Schoeneweis, LHP.
Eligible for arbitration: Blaine Boyer, RHP; Daniel Cabrera, RHP; Stephen Drew, SS; Conor Jackson, OF; Miguel Montero, C; Augie Ojeda, INF; Chad Qualls, RHP.
Player options: None.
Club options: Chad Tracy, INF, $7 million ($1 million buyout); Brandon Webb, RHP, $8.5 million ($2 million buyout).
Non-tender possibilities: Daniel Cabrera, Augie Ojeda.

Catchers
• Miguel Montero, .294 BA, 16 HRs, 59 RBIs
• Chris Snyder, .200 BA, 6 HRs, 22 RBIs
• Luke Carlin, .167 BA, 0 HRs, 1 RBI
• John Hester, .250 BA, 1 HR, 4 RBIs

Montero asserted himself as the starter when Snyder went down with a back injury and will be the starter headed into Spring Training. The team could look to deal Snyder, but he will likely need to prove he is healthy following September back surgery.

First base
• Brandon Allen, .202 BA, 4 HRs, 14 RBIs
• Conor Jackson, .182 BA, 1 HR, 14 RBIs

Allen will play in the Arizona Fall League, and the team considers him as its first baseman of the future. Jackson could see some time there next year against tough lefties.

Second base
• Ryan Roberts, .279 BA, 7 HRs, 25 RBIs
• Rusty Ryal, .271 BA, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs

Roberts played better than expected on an everyday basis after the trade of Felipe Lopez to the Brewers. Another player to consider here is the Dodgers' Tony Abreu, whom the D-backs are expected to receive as the player to be named in the Jon Garland trade. Roberts and Ryal both can play a number of positions in the infield and outfield, which make them valuable on an NL roster.

Shortstop
• Stephen Drew, .261 BA, 12 HRs, 64 RBIs
• Pedro Ciriaco (Triple-A), .296 BA, 4 HRs, 54 RBIs

Drew had a disappointing year after playing well in 2008. The D-backs will hope for a bounceback year from him as they don't have any other internal options.

Third base
• Mark Reynolds, .260 BA, 44 HRs, 102 RBIs
• Rusty Ryal, .271 BA, 3 HRs, 9 RBIs
• Ryan Roberts, .279 BA, 7 HRs, 25 RBIs

Reynolds had an outstanding year at the plate and showed improvement defensively, cutting down on his errors and showing his athleticism. Though his strikeout total is still too high, his production was among the best in the NL.

Outfield
• Conor Jackson, .182 BA, 1 HR, 14 RBIs
• Justin Upton, .300 BA, 26 HRs, 86 RBIs
• Chris Young, .212 BA, 15 HRs, 42X RBIs
• Gerardo Parra, .290 BA, 5 HRs, 60 RBIs
• Eric Byrnes, .226 BA, 8 HRs, 31 RBIs
• Trent Oeltjen, .243 BA, 3 HRs, 4 RBIs

While Upton took another step forward in his development, Young went in the opposite direction. Parra showed this year that at worst he's an excellent fourth outfielder, but he could push for playing time. The team will have to decide what to do about Byrnes, who has been a major disappointment since signing his three-year, $30 million extension two years ago.

Rotation
• Brandon Webb, 0-0, 13.50 ERA, 4 innings
• Dan Haren, 14-10, 3.14 ERA, 229.1 innings
• Max Scherzer, 9-11, 4.12 ERA, 170.1 innings

A strength of the club the past few seasons, the rotation is a question mark heading into the offseason. The team holds an option on Webb, and if it exercises it, there are still two spots in the rotation that must be filled. There are a host of internal candidates like Billy Buckner, Kevin Mulvey, Yusmeiro Petit and Bryan Augenstein, but the team will almost certainly need to fill one of the spots via free agency or trade. If Webb's option is not picked up, the club will need to find two starters on the market.

Bullpen
• Chad Qualls, 2-2, 3.63 ERA, 52 innings
• Juan Gutierrez, 4-3, 4.06 ERA, 71 innings
• Esmerling Vasquez, 3-3, 4.42 ERA, 53 innings
• Clay Zavada, 3-3, 3.35 ERA, 51 innings
• Daniel Schlereth, 1-4, 5.89 ERA, 18.1 innings

Qualls established himself as the closer before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Gutierrez was tremendous as a setup man, while Vasquez showed some potential before struggling down the stretch. The club has a good pair of lefties in Zavada and Schlereth, and both seem capable of also getting righties out, which is a plus. The team will look to add an arm through the trade or free-agent markets.

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

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