Kendrick pleased by D-backs' moves
In competitive NL West, owner says club stacks up well
PHOENIX -- D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick always looks forward to baseball season.
But after spending the winter watching his general manager, Josh Byrnes, retool a team that finished in last place in the National League West, Kendrick can hardly wait to get a look at his team on the field.
"I'm personally very enthused by what happened, and really excited for Spring Training to start, because I think we have a team that can really compete," Kendrick said.
Byrnes revamped the rotation with the additions of Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, bolstered the bullpen with veterans Aaron Heilman and Bob Howry, and addressed the lineup by signing Kelly Johnson after the second baseman was non-tendered by the Braves.
Those moves put the D-backs' commitments near their $75 million budget.
"We had started out with a roughly mid-70s number that we wanted to work with, but recognized that the economy would probably put stress on the market," Kendrick said. "And if there was a significant piece or significant opportunity that would come along in an area where we had a need, that Josh could feel free, and come back and let us know."
Byrnes did just that when one player the D-backs had kept an eye on -- first baseman Adam LaRoche -- was still on the market in mid-January.
The signing of LaRoche to a one-year, $4.5 million deal, with a $7.5 million mutual option for 2011, will allow the D-backs to be patient with young first baseman Brandon Allen, who struggled in a late-season callup and in the Arizona Fall League. It also will let the team play Conor Jackson in left field, where he is more comfortable, and shift Gerardo Parra to the fourth outfield spot, where he seems to be best suited right now.
"We thought it was worth making the stretch and spending the extra money," Kendrick said. "There were a couple of other possibilities, and we were going to be able to do one of them. The LaRoche thing came, and we liked it, and Josh wanted to do it, so we did. We have competition in the outfield now. Their performance will be a factor in who plays and against whom."
Depth is something that is difficult for mid- to small-market teams to achieve. That was evident last year when the D-backs were without ace Brandon Webb and Conor Jackson for much, if not all, of the year. Although not the only reason for their 70-92 record, the injuries did make competing for a playoff spot improbable.
"We don't have depth that can overcome key injuries, as last year showed," Kendrick said. "I've told people that the best thing about the offseason has been the big-time free agents that we've signed. When they say, what do I mean? I say, well, Conor Jackson and Brandon Webb. You add those two to the ones that we did acquire, that really changes the character of the team. And hopefully for the better."
Kendrick said he was also impressed with Byrnes' work compared with the rest of the NL West, which projects to be a very competitive division without a clear front-runner.
"Not that there's been no activity, but it's been limited," Kendrick said of the rest of the division's offseason transactions. "Maybe some of them have less need to make changes, and it's not over yet. There are still guys to be signed, but we think our moves, and comparing them to how we stack up against our rivals, we feel better about our chances than even we did this time a year ago. I think we have a better competitive opportunity in our division than we had a year ago."
The final payroll number will not be known until the club reaches an agreement with Edwin Jackson or has an arbitration panel do it for them. The team has not had a player go to an arbitration hearing under Byrnes, and Kendrick said the team is open to the possibility of avoiding the process in the future by signing key players to multiyear deals.
One candidate is third baseman Mark Reynolds, who fell just a few days short of qualifying for arbitration this year.
"We will continue to look at all our core guys," Kendrick said. "Under the right circumstances, and it takes both sides, there are four or five guys, and Mark is one of them, that are core guys that we would like to not have to go through year-by-year arbitration with, if we can agree on a multiyear deal. I think the time to have those conversations is before Spring Training is completed. I think probably you draw a line in the sand, because I think both sides would say it's not in their interests to be talking deals into the season. I would more prefer the start of Spring Training, but at the outside, the end of Spring Training. That will happen if both sides are interested, but that's Josh's area."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.