D-Backs near deals with pitchers Sparks, Reynolds
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 20, 2003 12:00 AM
The Diamondbacks made no official announcements Friday, although they may be close to signing free-agent pitchers Shane Reynolds and Steve Sparks to one-year contracts.
Agent Tommy Tanzer said Reynolds planned to undergo a physical examination soon but declined to confirm whether a deal had been finalized.
Since acquiring slugger Richie Sexson from Milwaukee, the Diamondbacks have emphasized fortifying the back end of their rotation at a reasonable cost.
Sparks and Reynolds have shown the ability to consume innings, which may take a load off the bullpen.
But with the ages of Sparks (38) and Reynolds (35), it would behoove the Diamondbacks to make sure their investments are currently injury-free.
Sparks has stayed healthy since undergoing reconstructive right elbow surgery, which caused him to miss the entire 1997 season with Milwaukee. He threw 232 innings with Detroit in 2001.
Reynolds was limited to 13 starts with Houston in 2002 because of a pinched nerve in his lower back that required season-ending surgery. He also missed the first three weeks of the 2001 season while recovering from off-season surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee.
Reynolds, however, showed no effects from his back surgery as he threw 167 1/3 innings for Atlanta last season.
The additions of Sparks and Reynolds would lessen the need to add youngsters to the rotation. Candidates John Patterson, Edgar Gonzalez and Andrew Good have yet to spend a full season in the major leagues.
Gonzalez, 21, has allowed one run in seven innings covering two games in Mexican Pacific League play for Hermosillo, Sonora, where Gonzalez is splitting his assignments with fellow Diamondbacks pitcher Elmer Dessens.
The Diamondbacks and the other 29 major league teams face decisions, with a deadline late tonight, on whether to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players.
The Diamondbacks player in question is catcher Rod Barajas, who seems destined not to receive a contract offer and to become a free agent. The team reached an agreement Sunday night with free-agent catcher Brent Mayne and intends to tender a contract offer to third baseman Shea Hillenbrand, who could earn around $2.5 million as a first-time, arbitration-eligible player.
Barajas, if non-tendered, would be thrown into a pool of new free agents that includes former Diamondbacks outfielder David Dellucci, to whom the New York Yankees declined to tender a contract.
Barajas, 28, has spent at least parts of the past five seasons with the Diamondbacks.
Although Barajas has a career .212 major league batting average, pitchers have praised him for his work behind the plate.
Tampa Bay, Montreal, Los Angeles and Boston (the new home of former Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling) could be in the market for a catcher of Barajas' caliber.
General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr. reiterated Friday that the team plans to tender a contract to Hillenbrand and that he exchanged telephone calls with agent Adam Katz.
Hillenbrand, 28, hit 17 home runs and drove in 59 runs in 85 games for the Diamondbacks after coming over in a trade from Boston.
Red Sox pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim, whom the Diamondbacks dealt to acquire Hillenbrand, also is eligible for salary arbitration, but the addition of Schilling to a staff that already possesses Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield clouds his status.
Kim made $3.25 million last season.