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The telephone Josh Byrnes used to answer at Chase Field has a recording that deflects the caller to another in-house number, "for any general manager-type calls," which, it turns out, is the wrong number, too.
Jerry Dipoto, a general manager-type for not even three weeks, is at a third number. He, too, has some directional issues, given the Arizona Diamondbacks will finish last in the National League West for a second consecutive season (an outcome that cost Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch their jobs) with a roster (Brandon Webb(notes) notwithstanding) that should have been all grown up by now.
"We've watched as an organization," Dipoto said, "while our group has stagnated."
A Byrnes loyalist and therefore as much a part of the problem three weeks ago as he is part of the solution now, Dipoto is an interim GM-type with an interim manager in Kirk Gibson re-examining a broken roster just in time for the non-waiver trading deadline, and that's a big undertaking.
The questions that dogged Byrnes – chiefly, how do so many terrific athletes come together to make such a bad baseball team – are foremost on Dipoto's mind. The deadline does serve to heighten the introspection process, at least for a few weeks, as Dipoto begins to sort the athletes from the ballplayers, and the philosophy from the results.
As Dipoto pointed out from the end of the phone maze, the Diamondbacks possess a third baseman (Mark Reynolds(notes)) of 40 home runs, a shortstop (Stephen Drew(notes)) of reasonable consistency, a second baseman (Kelly Johnson(notes)) of the best OPS in the league at his position, a first baseman (Adam LaRoche(notes)) of 100 RBI potential, a right fielder (Justin Upton(notes)) of superstar skills, a center fielder (Chris Young) of All-Star qualifications, and a right-hander (Dan Haren(notes)) of ace material.
And, OK, maybe the worst bullpen in the game.
United, they became 100-or-so losses, an organizational overhaul and a couple new guys running the place. And they become interesting fodder for clubs on the other end of the standings, the 18 contenders, most of whom could use Haren, many of whom could make something of Drew, LaRoche, Johnson, Edwin Jackson(notes) or Aaron Heilman(notes).
When, say, the Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers think Haren, Dipoto, in return, thinks roster balance and, he said, skills "diversity." Basically, he seemed to be saying, it's one thing to have a roster with a couple swing-and-miss guys, another to have an entire lineup card of them.
He said he'd like smart players with baseball acumen. He said he'd like players with "a winning edge." He said Gibson already has helped there. Whatever it is, exactly, he seems to be saying the Diamondbacks lack it.
"A lot of things are probably intangible," Dipoto said. "We have a lot of physical ability on the club. One of the difficulties is turning tangible evidence into intangible quality."
It's time for change. Maybe not massively so, and Dipoto seemed to be thinking smaller, but you could hardly blame them if they went big, either.
As he said, "We're no longer looking at a group of players you're allowing to experience life at the major-league level. Now we assess who they are and what they are as a team."
By the end of the season, the once young and indomitable Diamondbacks will have a single regular position player under the age of 27 – Upton. Young, Drew and Reynolds each will have well more than 2,000 big-league plate appearances. At some point, they are what they are.
And then what?
Then the general manager types sort it out.
DEADLINE DEAL BUZZ
• Losers of four in a row and with 13 of their next 17 games against the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres, the Dodgers, according to baseball sources, have been very aggressive in their pursuit of pitching, both for the rotation and the bullpen. They continue to call the Houston Astros on Roy Oswalt(notes), the Chicago Cubs on Ted Lilly(notes), the Diamondbacks on Haren and even the Cleveland Indians on Jake Westbrook(notes) and Fausto Carmona(notes). The Diamondbacks once believed they had a possible fit with the Dodgers and Haren, but that was during the Byrnes era and those talks had to be restarted.
• As usual, the demand far exceeds the supply, meaning general managers of sellers such as Ed Wade, Jim Hendry, Dipoto and Mark Shapiro are waiting for the market to come to them, and meaning the Texas Rangers were wise in acting quickly for Cliff Lee(notes).
• The Dodgers also are among the clubs that have expressed interest in all or parts of the available Toronto Blue Jays relievers – Scott Downs(notes), Jason Frasor(notes) and Kevin Gregg(notes). As with every other available pitcher, the Dodgers have plenty of company.
• Because they find themselves on the cusp of contending, and because Dallas Braden(notes) is due to start Tuesday night and Brett Anderson(notes) might not be far behind, the Oakland Athletics haven't decided how they'll position themselves at the deadline. Indeed, if the team plays well leading into the break (two series against the White Sox, one each against the Red Sox and Rangers), they could use their depth in starting pitching to swing a trade with another contender, flipping Ben Sheets(notes) for offensive help.
• The Rangers, who've already added Lee and catcher Bengie Molina(notes), are scouting for a right-handed hitter to complement first baseman Chris Davis(notes). Jorge Cantu(notes) is possible, as is Mike Lowell(notes), but the Rangers must keep all transactions payroll neutral because of the team's ownership uncertainty.
• The Yankees aren't so concerned with Andy Pettitte's(notes) groin injury that they'll seek a replacement starter, though a source said they'll continue conversations in case Sergio Mitre(notes) falters. They do like Oswalt, but certainly not as much as they did Lee, and view Oswalt's contract as a detriment. Meantime, they'll administer to their bench, which has been GM Brian Cashman's primary concern.