D-backs GM eyes changes after disappointing season

The Arizona Diamondbacks tumbled from their 2011 NL West title

with a thud this season, and that means changes are in store for

2013.

General manager Kevin Towers said the top priority is upgrading

the left side of the infield, particularly at shortstop, a position

that is thin in the team’s otherwise outstanding minor league

system. He indicated that third base is another target.

He characterized the free agent market as ”not real

strong.”

”So probably those moves to upgrade those positions more than

likely will have to come via the trade,” Towers said.

The Diamondbacks, he said, would like to ”add another power

arm” as a late-inning reliever along with setup man David

Hernandez and closer J.J. Putz and ”definitely” need a

left-handed specialist. Towers said the team expects to pick up

Putz’s option for next season.

Towers also will be looking for a veteran pitcher to add to the

team’s young rotation, especially when right-hander Daniel Hudson

is not expected to be back from Tommy John elbow surgery until

August at the earliest, manager Kirk Gibson said.

Towers said it’s highly unlikely the team will trade right

fielder Justin Upton. But center fielder Chris Young could well

have played his final game for Arizona, potentially losing his job

to young Adam Eaton. Eaton is aggressive and extremely fast, and

has shown a knack for drawing walks.

Towers effusively praised Eaton, who is recovering from a broken

hand after being hit by a pitch last Saturday, as the bona fide

leadoff batter the franchise has lacked since Tony Womack held the

job for the 2001 world championship team.

”It’s been something we’ve been looking for. It’s very tough to

find,” Towers said. ” … He brings that swagger, that little bit

of edge, cockiness. However you want to put it. That’s the way he

played in the minor leagues, too. He’s an exciting player and he’s

only going to get better with time.”

With A.J. Pollock also in the mix in the outfield, Young could

be the odd man out. Arizona’s center fielder for six seasons and a

superb defender, Young is just a .239 career hitter. He came on

strong to start this season, then was sidelined with a shoulder

injury and never regained that fleeting form at the plate. He is

due to make $8.5 million next season, the final year of his

contract.

”I have no idea, not even the slightest clue, what’s going to

happen,” Young said. ”Players rarely know anything that’s going

to go on in the offseason, or what the offseason plan is. Only time

will tell really.”

Upton, who injured a thumb early in the season and struggled to

regain his 2011 form until a late-season charge, got a vote of

confidence from owner Ken Kendrick in a radio interview and a big

voice of support from Gibson, who benched the slugger for three

games earlier in the season. Not all of Upton’s numbers were off.

He raised his average to .280 with his late performance and his 107

runs tied Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen for second-most in the NL,

one fewer than Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun.

”I’m going to be optimistic about the situation,” Upton said.

”This is where I played my entire career. I enjoy playing here, so

we’ll see.”

The Diamondbacks were the definition of an average team,

finishing at 81-81. They never were more than five games below .500

or four games above it.

”We kept searching and searching and searching,” catcher

Miguel Montero said, ”have a good series, a good game, and then it

just kind of disappeared. We kept searching to get it back again.

That’s the difference in us going home early and some other teams

are still playing.”

While there were plenty of negatives, one undisputed positive

was the play of Aaron Hill, whose season arguably was better than

any other second baseman in the league. Hill batted .302 with 26

home runs, 44 doubles and 85 RBIs.

”Numbers-wise I don’t think anybody matches up,” Gibson said.

”The numbers in themselves are an indicator of who you have, but

the intangibles are really what I look for. I think that’s where

your impact comes in. … I think you could call Aaron Hill

relentless. He likes baseball. He enjoys the game. We’re very, very

excited about Aaron on our team.”

Jason Kubel had a big early season in left field but tailed off

badly at the plate in recent weeks. His average dipped to .253 but

he still led the team in homers (30) and RBIs (90). First baseman

Paul Goldschmidt (.286, 20 home runs, 82 RBIs) had a strong first

full season, as did rookie left-hander Wade Miley (16-11, 3.33

ERA). Montero, who got a big new contract before the season began,

batted .286 with 82 RBIs. Ian Kennedy, a 21-game winner in 2011,

recovered from a slow start to finish 15-12.

But it didn’t add up to the kind of long winning streaks the

Diamondbacks needed to make a playoff run.

”We didn’t execute like we did last year but people made

adjustments to us,” Gibson said. ”So it’s on us to make

adjustments to them.”

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