Retooling D-backs set for Meetings
Fourth starter remains at top of club's wish list
PHOENIX -- Baseball's annual Winter Meetings will take place Dec. 7-10 in Indianapolis, but for the D-backs front office, the work of retooling a 70-92 team has been ongoing for some time now.
"Teams have been busy now for several weeks," Arizona GM Josh Byrnes said. "There's a lot of fluidity to it. The Winter Meetings are important because there is the face-to-face meetings, but it doesn't mean that deals either happen there or don't at all."
In fact, most of the D-backs' bigger trades or free-agent signings since Byrnes took over in 2005 have happened before or after the Meetings. For instance, negotiations on the blockbuster deal that netted Dan Haren in 2007 began before that year's Meetings, continued during them and was consummated in the weeks that followed.
Last season, the D-backs made an offer to free-agent infielder Mark Loretta at the Meetings, were turned down, and began discussions with second baseman Felipe Lopez which resulted in his signing the following week.
This year, it seems the groundwork has already been laid for some possible deals.
"I think we're deep enough into the offseason where that's already happened," Byrnes said. "Maybe at the Meetings there will be some deals where you fish or cut bait."
The D-backs are looking for a fourth starter to replace free agent Doug Davis, whom the club is not interested in retaining, some depth in the bullpen and possibly a veteran hitter that could play multiple positions including first base.
The D-backs have been down the starting pitcher road before as recently as last year when it took until January to ink right-hander Jon Garland. The team initially made an offer to Randy Wolf, which he turned down, and did likewise with Garland only to be rebuffed the first time around.
The same cast of characters from last year -- Wolf, Garland, Braden Looper, Brad Penny -- are out there again, as are Jarrod Washburn and Joel Pineiro.
The club took a step toward filling its need in the bullpen when it acquired Aaron Heilman from the Cubs a couple of weeks ago, but it certainly could use more help, and Byrnes did not rule out acquiring another reliever.
"As I said we may do more in the bullpen, but this is a move that made sense at this point in the offseason for us," he said on the day the team acquired Heilman. "It's still early in the offseason, and we'll continue to look at all possibilities for improving our club."
The D-backs thought they had acquired a first baseman in Lyle Overbay, but the Blue Jays backed out of the deal that would have sent catcher Chris Snyder to Toronto.
Snyder remains the team's primary trading chip. The veteran lost his starting job to Miguel Montero last season and had back surgery in September. He is said to be on schedule with his recovery, which would allow him to be ready in time for Spring Training.
While free agency officially got underway a couple of weeks ago, the D-backs' trade discussions with teams have been ongoing since the end of the season.
"If nothing else in those attempts we have a better idea of the market place and more realistic scenario," Byrnes said. "We're encouraged and we're on the trail of some guys."
In addition to the economy, another reason the Winter Meetings might not be extremely active is because of the large number of players expected to be non-tendered contracts this year. Players not eligible for free agency must be offered contracts by their teams by 9:59 p.m. MST or they will become free agents.
With that in mind, some teams may wait to see what additional players become available before making a move.
"We'll see," Byrnes said when asked if the team might be interested in those players. "There are some guys we're watching."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.