Would You Like a Waffle with that Free Agency?

The Arizona Diamondbacks have the day off today before starting a three game series against the Colorado Rockies on Friday. This late in the season especially with the Diamondbacks out of the play-off picture by all but the slimmest of chances, Bob Melvin has given the team a much needed day off. A lot of the players would spend the time with their families or make arrangements for when the season is over. Not all the players had plans for fun today. Luis Gonzalez had a meeting with Arizona Diamondbacks front office personnel to begin talking about his future with the team. Gonzalez has a $10 million team option for next season and there has been speculation most of the season that the team would decline that option making Luis a free agent. Gonzalez has stated that his desire is to continue to play and that he would like to retire as an Arizona Diamondback. The meeting this morning was called to discuss options and alternatives that would allow Luis to return for the 2007 season.

The meeting between Gonzalez and his representatives and the Diamondbacks was scheduled over breakfast at the Scottsdale Princess resort. What better way to handle the face of the organization than inviting him and his agents to share the most important meal of the day? The Diamondbacks were represented by General Manager Josh Byrnes and General Partner Jeff Moorad. Gonzalez and his agents were hoping to have an initial dialog where they could lay out options and alternatives whereby Luis would be willing to return to the team at a reduced rate and provide payroll flexibility. Before that discussion could even begin, the team made it clear that they appreciated all of the work and effort that Luis had done for the team but that they were going a different direction and he did not figure into their plans. For the 2007 season the Diamondbacks expected to have an outfield with two rookies and one veteran. The rookies would be Carlos Quentin in right field and Chris Young in centerfield. The veteran they have penciled in at left field is Eric Byrnes. So before the butter could even melt on the top of Gonzo’s waffle, he had been written out of the plans for the Diamondbacks.

There are a couple of interesting things to note from this. First I give credit to the Diamondbacks to have both the General Manager and the General Partner at the meeting. I think the service and work that Gonzalez has done for the Arizona Diamondbacks warranted that senior team management be represented during the discussion. I think it is interesting that Jeff Moorad was Luis Gonzalez’ agent when this current contract was negotiated. So in a sense Moorad was paid handsomely for negotiating such a deal and then paid again for burying it and getting the contract off the books. In any other industry that would have been seen as a substantial conflict of interest but in baseball that somehow seemed natural. Majority partner Ken Kendrick who mentioned Luis Gonzalez earlier in the season in connection with the steroids scandal around Jason Grimsley was not in attendance. I have no idea what to read into that and will leave it up to the reader to ponder.

The second interesting thing to note from this is that the Diamondbacks have now publicly stated that it is their plan to bring back Eric Byrnes for next season. Byrnes had signed a one year contract but because of his time of service the Diamondbacks hold his rights for one more season. Byrnes is a scrappy player and fan favorite and should actually increase the defensive strength in left field. Eric has played most of his career in center field so it will be interesting to see how he responds. While Gonzalez is forever of the highest class, you do have to wonder what affect this will have for the remainder of this season in the clubhouse where Gonzalez knows that Byrnes is taking his job. Besides Gonzalez, the other person who should be very nervous about this conversation should be Jeff DaVanon. DaVanon who is recovering from ankle surgery has a player option for 2007 which he has stated he will exercise and return to the Diamondbacks. If the team has plans to get young and athletic I am not sure how Jeff fits in. He is left-handed and could come off the bench as a fourth outfielder but with players such as Scott Hairston ready to make the jump to the major league level it is questionable how much playing time DaVanon will receive.

In the days that lie ahead it will be interesting to see how the players and the fans respond to the impending departure of Luis Gonzalez. He has been with the team since its second season is one of the major components from the 2001 World Series championship. This is just another reminder that time marches on and nothing stays the same. Sometimes good guys get all the accolades and sometimes they get left with a half eaten breakfast.

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