Commentary

D-backs confident young outfielders will emerge

Originally Published: November 5, 2007
By John Shea | Special to ESPN.com

Under manager Bob Melvin, the Diamondbacks won the National League West despite getting outscored 732-712. It helped that they led the majors with 32 one-run victories.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Diamondbacks GM: Josh Byrnes
Manager: Bob Melvin
'07 record: 90-72, 1st NL West
'07 payroll: $52.1M, 26th MLB
Runs scored: 712, 14th NL
Runs allowed: 732, 5th NL
OPS: .734, 13th NL
ERA: 4.13, 4th NL
Fielding percentage: .983, T-8th NL
Brandon Webb pitched 42 straight scoreless innings, closer Jose Valverde led the league with 47 saves and a flock of homegrown talent emerged.

Primary needs

The focus is starting pitching -- someone to accompany Webb, the staff ace, and lefty Doug Davis and someone at the back end as insurance for Randy Johnson, who's 44 and coming off back surgery. Another hitter would help, but the Diamondbacks are confident with the development of Chris Young and Justin Upton and await a healthy Orlando Hudson, who had thumb surgery in September.

Livan Hernandez

Hernandez

Free agents

RHP Livan Hernandez, 1B Tony Clark, 3B Jeff Cirillo and RHP Bob Wickman.

Eric Byrnes avoided free agency by signing a three-year, $30 million contract extension in August. Hernandez won't be back because he wants more than the Diamondbacks will pay him, and it's no secret he wants to play with his half-brother, Orlando. Clark has been offered a two-year deal. Wickman appears set to retire.

Trade bait

With the Diamondbacks' outfield set, five-tool prospect Carlos Gonzalez is expected to be shopped. That would have been the same case with another outfielder named Carlos (Quentin), but he underwent rotator cuff surgery in October.

Conor Jackson

Jackson

After Mark Reynolds emerged at third base, Chad Tracy is expendable, but he is coming off September knee surgery. Conor Jackson could be shopped, as well.

Farm aid

Young was the first rookie in history to hit at least 30 homers and steal at least 25 bases, and Upton arrived as a talented teenager. The next wave includes Gonzalez, second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and pitchers Greg Smith and Max Scherzer, though their influence isn't expected to be as immediate.

Outlook

The Diamondbacks don't expect to be last in the league in batting average and on-base percentage again; the thinking is their offense will improve next year after several young players gained experience.

The payroll was in the mid-$50 million range -- nearly $70 million when counting Russ Ortiz's and Shawn Green's contracts -- and it'll increase slightly.

GM Josh Byrnes, since his 2005 arrival, has kept the payroll manageable while taking advantage of a deep farm system, and it's not expected to change in 2008.

John Shea is the national baseball writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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