Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
2008 record: 82-80
Finish: Second in NL West
2008 opening-day payroll: $66.2 million
2009 estimated opening-day payroll: $74 million
Seemingly forever balancing the financial sins of their past with the production needs of their present, before a fan base that can't know what to think, the Diamondbacks stayed small this time through.
Basically, that means they won't look much different than the team that led the division for 136 days – from April 6 to Sept. 5 – that tried to win a weak division on the strength of one great month, that lost nine games in the standings in about two weeks in early September and then had a lot to think about while packing the bat bags for a postseason-less winter.
General manager Josh Byrnes bid farewell to the players he had to assume would be out of his price range (Adam Dunn and Orlando Hudson). They don't have jobs yet. He let any interest in Randy Johnson pass. Johnson signed with the Giants.
So, to a young roster still accumulating the plate appearances necessary to avoid the offensive swings of 2008 – 161 runs in April, 90 in June, 133 in August, 96 in September – Byrnes made the major addition of another full season and the very minor addition of second baseman Felipe Lopez.
To the middle of a rotation that lost Johnson to free agency and kicked Micah Owings to the Reds in the Dunn deal, the Diamondbacks insert Jon Garland, a lifelong American Leaguer who'll pitch his 200-ish innings and, they hope, become an 18-game winner again. Nothing like the National League, and the West in particular, to straighten out a pitching career.
They would have loved to straighten out a bullpen that had some really ugly moments down the stretch, but that hasn't happened just yet, other than allowing Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz to walk. It looks like Chad Qualls gets the ninth inning and Jon Rauch and Tony Pena set up. Scott Schoeneweis, acquired in the mid-December trade with the Mets, works in there somewhere, primarily against lefties.
Given their rotation – Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Garland, Doug Davis, Max Scherzer – and the potential for offense, the Diamondbacks, in the days before Manny Ramirez signed in Los Angeles or San Francisco, stood as the favorites in what should be another lukewarm year in the West. While it's kind of like being the thinnest guy on the fat farm, it counts as something, as the Dodgers proved last October.
Still, the difficulty is putting numbers and expectations on a lineup that isn't yet all grown up.
Will third baseman Mark Reynolds manage his natural power stroke? Or will he strike out 200 times again? Or both?
Has Justin Upton been rushed to the big leagues? Is he talented and dedicated enough so that it doesn't matter?
Does Chris Young's second half (.278 batting average, .343 on-base percentage) tell us his first half (.228 batting average, .296 on-base percentage) won't ever happen again?
Will Stephen Drew's power and plate discipline keep coming?
To their credit, the Diamondbacks went young and stuck with it. They played around some injuries (Eric Byrnes' hamstrings, Chad Tracy's knee) that haven't helped, and those need to be resolved in spring. They've rued the occasional catastrophe (Carlos Quentin to the White Sox, $30 million to Eric Byrnes).
But mostly, they've turned a bunch of 20-somethings into an athletic roster that, with a little time and a lot of bullpen help, can be a handful in the West.
Of course, that all changes if Manny goes to the Dodgers.
Next: Los Angeles Dodgers.