Cactus League countdown: Diamondbacks
FEB 11, 2013 8:33a ET
PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks were broken last year, and general manager Kevin Towers took steps to fix them. It should make for an intriguing season.
Dissatisfied with an underachieving 2012, Towers went into facelift mode over the winter, and as a result of his wheeling and dealing the D-backs could have as many as 12 new faces on the 25-man roster when they break camp this spring.
An 81-81 season, especially for a defending NL West champion, can do that.
Towers’ last deal was his biggest, when he sent former franchise fixture Justin Upton – remember Uptown? – and third baseman Chris Johnson to Atlanta for a five-player package headed by Martin Prado on Jan. 24.
While Justin will join brother B.J. Upton in the Braves’ outfield, the D-backs’ outfield will be two-thirds new, with free agent Cody Ross taking over for Upton in right and spunky Adam Eaton replacing Chris Young (traded to Oakland) in center. Prado will play third base, Johnson’s spot.
The D-backs’ offense will be different without Upton and Young, but that it is not to say it will be less productive. Eaton is the table-setter/speed guy that the D-backs have had only once (Tony Womack) in franchise history, and they were impressed by what they saw in a September callup. Ross has three 20-home run seasons the last five years, and only one came in a park as hitter-friendly as Chase Field. He was the 2010 NLCS MVP with San Francisco.
Like Eaton, Prado is proficient at the small-ball things the D-backs have not been particularly good at in recent years, despite their run to the 2011 division title with a 94-68 record. The D-backs have lived by the home run in recent years, but Towers has ensured that manager Kirk Gibson will have more creative ways to score this season.
Even with the losses, the lineup is not bereft of power. In addition to Ross, Jason Kubel, Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt had 20 or more home runs last year, and catcher Miguel Montero had 15 homers and drove in 88.
Towers also addressed his bullpen, and the addition of Heath Bell gives the D-backs three closer types, including J.J. Putz – who will hold the position this spring – and David Hernandez. The D-backs also added left-handers Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds. Two lefty relievers are a luxury the D-backs have seldom had.
Right-hander Brandon McCarthy was acquired from Oakland to join the rotation, and Eric Chavez and Eric Hinske were signed to deepen a bench that the D-backs felt was too thin a year ago.
Who’s new: SS Cliff Pennington (trade, A's), P Heath Bell (trade, Marlins), P Matt Reynolds (trade, Rockies), SS Didi Gregorius (trade, Indians), P Tony Sipp (trade, Indians), 3B/OF Martin Prado (trade, Braves), P Randall Delgado (trade, Braves); 1B/OF Eric Hinske, 1B/3B Eric Chavez, P Brandon McCarthy, OF Cody Ross, free agents; P Starling Peralta (Rule 5 draft, Cubs); C Rod Barajas, minor-league free agent.
Who’s gone: CF Chris Young (A's), P Sam Demel ( Astros), INF Jake Elmore (Astros), 3B Ryan Wheeler (Rockies), P Trevor Bauer (Indians), P Matt Albers (Indians), P Bryan Shaw (Indians), IF Cody Ransom ( Padres), P Takashi Saito (Japan), C Henry Blanco ( Blue Jays), RF Justin Upton (Braves), 3B Chris Johnson (Braves), P Brad Bergesen (Japan), P Matt Lindstrom ( White Sox).
Battle ground: Pennington and holdover Willie Bloomquist will compete for the starting shortstop job if prospect Gregorius, as expected, is returned to the minor leagues to get more at-bats. Holdovers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin and newcomer Randall Delgado will compete for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation.
Health watch: Daniel Hudson underwent Tommy John surgery in July and, while he is recovering apace, he is not expected to be ready until after the All-Star break. Willie Bloomquist missed almost all of the final two months with a slight cartilage tear in his lower back, but he has done core work in the offseason and is expected to be 100 percent. Brandon McCarthy suffered a fractured skull and a concussion when he was struck by a line drive Sept. 4, but he passed all the tests given by a concussion specialist in November and said he feels no residual effects. Center fielder Adam Eaton is back to 100 percent after suffering a broken right hand in the final week of the season.
Sneak preview: Didi Gregorius was acquired to be the shortstop of the future, but it was revealed on Tuesday that he has a right elbow injury. Some scouts believe he might be the best defensive shortstop on the roster, and that is saying something, inasmuch as John McDonald is still here. Left-hander Eury De La Rosa, added to the roster last winter, is only 5-foot-9, 167, but he gets the job done – 29 saves, 2.48 ERA, 265 strikeouts in 243 minor league innings, none above Class AA. He is considered a lefty specialist.
Spring training info: Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, 7555 N. Pima Rd., Scottsdale. First workouts: Feb. 12 (pitchers and catchers), Feb. 15 (full squad). First game: Feb. 23. Tickets: dbacks.com/spring; 888-490-0383; 480-362-9467.