Earlier in the offseason, Josh Byrnes had a trade for a first baseman – Lyle Overbay(notes) – fall through, so it was perhaps with some relief that the Arizona Diamondbacks general manager bumped into his fallback first baseman Tuesday afternoon.
Conor Jackson(notes), who missed the last five months of a dreadful Diamondbacks season because of valley fever, had returned from the Dominican Republic on Monday night. He'd batted .425 with two home runs, 16 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 23 games for Leones del Escogido (and manager Ken Oberkfell), this after participating fully in the instructional league.
Valley fever, caused by fungi in desert soil and contracted primarily in the Southwest, can become extremely serious, and Jackson had a particularly nasty case. So to see Jackson full of confidence and in good spirits was a relief to Byrnes.
''I'm back to normal,'' Byrnes said Jackson told him, adding, ''I'm fine.''
A healthy Jackson and a healthy Brandon Webb(notes) are critical for the 2010 Diamondbacks, who apparently will have a little more money to spend, but they're more likely to add another starting pitcher and bullpen arm through a trade rather than free agency.
In the past five or so years, dozens – maybe hundreds – of newspaper and baseball layoffs have brought sadness, even if only in their inevitability. None, however, struck quite like word the Angels laid off Nancy Mazmanian, their communications director who for 11 years helped make the organization kinder, friendlier and more accessible. She managed the press box with genial authority and moved through the clubhouse with the attentiveness of a team mom. This one feels especially crummy.
… The Twins have three priorities as December approaches: Lock up Joe Mauer(notes) long term, acquire a trusty veteran starting pitcher and settle third base. They have not ruled out bringing back Joe Crede(notes) for another season, nor have they decided against another Matt Tolbert(notes)-Brendan Harris platoon. Prospect Danny Valencia, they think, is still a year away.
… One AL scout wondered if there would be more early signings this winter given what happened last offseason to the likes of Orlando Cabrera(notes), Bobby Abreu(notes) and Orlando Hudson(notes). (Of course, owners and GMs smell that kind of desperation). By the way, the Twins might have made a run at Cabrera – and not made the J.J. Hardy(notes) trade – had they not seen a subtle decline in Cabrera's defense, both in range and arm. They loved him otherwise.
… Last winter's languishing had a huge impact on Abreu, who jumped at the Angels' offer of two years and $19 million, and as a result will have a more relaxing offseason. Not sure the Angels will, though.
… Kelvim Escobar(notes), whose shoulder issues have cost him most of the past two years, will pitch for Lara of the Venezuelan winter league in about four weeks. Escobar, who will be 34 in April, will pitch in relief.
… A lot of GMs have Marco Scutaro(notes) on their lists because of his versatility. In what could be the winter of the free-agent third baseman (Chone Figgins(notes), Adrian Beltre(notes), Mark DeRosa(notes), Juan Uribe(notes) and, depending where you like them, Placido Polanco(notes) and Miguel Tejada(notes)), Scutaro is even included there for a couple teams. In some places, 12 home runs make you a corner guy.