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Arizona Diamondbacks: 10 Players the D-Backs Never Should Have Gotten Rid Of

Gil ImberAnalyst IIDecember 7, 2011

Arizona Diamondbacks: 10 Players the D-Backs Never Should Have Gotten Rid Of

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    In their 14 MLB seasons of existence, the Arizona Diamondbacks have seen approximately 500 players at the major league level from 1998 through 2011.

    From future Hall of Famers to fledgling duds, the D-Backs have seen it all in their short existence.

    When MLB announced plans to expand the National and American Leagues to 16 and 14 teams, respectively, Joe Garagiola Jr. (March 1995-Aug. 2005) was named the first Arizona GM.

    Garagiola was succeeded by Bob Gebhard, who held the position for all of two-and-a-half months from Aug. to Oct. of 2005. Gebhard, in turn, was followed by current San Diego Padres GM Josh Byrnes (Oct. 2005-July 2010) and current Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim GM Jerry Dipoto (July 2010-Sept. 2010).

    Current GM Kevin Towers took over for the interim Dipoto in late Sept. of 2010 to complete the five-man all-time Diamondbacks GM roster.

    During their various tenures, the GMs conducted trades, signed free agents, designated players for assignment, presided over the annual arbitration periods and simply cut players from the squad. Garagiola's regime additionally participated in the 1997 expansion draft.

    A great number of these moves were successful—they gave us stars like Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson and Ian Kennedy—but some moves never quite panned out.

    Some transactions even sacrificed successful players for other big leaguers or prospects that haven't upheld their ends of the bargain.

    Now, in retrospect, this is a list of 10 players the Arizona Diamondbacks never should have gotten rid of.

Honorable Mention: Luis Gonzalez

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 1999-2006

    How he was discarded: D-Backs did not exercise team option

    In 2010, the Diamondbacks retired Luis Gonzalez's uniform No. 20, joining Jackie Robinson's No. 42 as the only two numbers ever to have been retired by Arizona. All 30 MLB teams have retired Robinson's No. 42.

    Simply put, this gesture implies that Arizona considers Luis Gonzalez the best player to ever wear a Diamondbacks uniform.

    At the end of the 2006 season, Arizona chose not to offer Gonzalez a $10 million, one-year contract for 2007 because the deal was simply not worth it. The option unused, Gonzalez signed a $7 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    At 38 years of age in 2006, Gonzalez had clearly begun his descent—his skills hadn't completely atrophied, but Arizona believed $10 million was just not worth the production the aging veteran had contributed the year prior.

    Gonzalez's career highs in batting average (.336), OPS (1.117), HR (57) and RBI (142) had all been achieved in either 1999 or 2001, years in which he was named to NL All-Star teams and won a Silver Slugger Award (2001 only).

    Still, many Arizonans cited Gonzalez as the best player to ever appear on the Diamondbacks and his departure for Los Angeles left a slightly bitter taste in many fans' mouths.

    When he retired with the Florida Marlins in 2008, Gonzalez had already cemented his spot as the best offensive D-Backs player of all time.

    Unfortunately, Gonzalez retiring as a Diamondback was one part of his magnificent career that never materialized.

No. 10: Brandon Webb

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 2003-2009

    How he was discarded: Free agency after the 2010 season

    Pitcher Brandon Webb succumbed to right shoulder bursitis in April of 2009 and never recovered.

    The Diamondbacks picked up Webb's option at the conclusion of the 2009 season, though Webb never pitched in 2010 after undergoing surgery on Aug. 3, 2009.

    When the Diamondbacks elected not to pursue Webb at the conclusion of the 2010 season, it was a move that made complete sense—Webb had been injured and sidelined for so long that he seemed too much of a financial commitment for an uncertain result.

    Webb is a three-time All-Star, Cy Young Award winner and two-time wins leader. In his pre-injury prime, Webb was a terrific pitcher.

    When the Texas Rangers picked up Webb in Dec. 2010, they pitched him in Double-A for almost two months before announcing he would need yet another surgery in order to pitch again.

    Webb has been a lot of work for both the Diamondbacks and Rangers since 2009, and by many accounts, getting rid of him was a smart move.

    However, his lengthy rehab process has not yet been completed, and it is unknown what kind of pitcher Webb will be when he ultimately returns—if he does return.

    If Webb happens to return to pre-2009 form, the Diamondbacks will be kicking themselves for letting him go.

No. 9: Scott Hairston

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 2004-2007

    How he was discarded: Traded to San Diego Padres

    Outfielder Scott Hairston made his MLB debut with Arizona on May 7, 2004, recording a .248 batting average his rookie season with a .735 OPS, 13 HR and 29 RBI.

    A victim of an overcrowded outfield, Hairston did not see significant playing time again in Arizona until 2007, a season disrupted by his trade to San Diego.

    In his four years in San Diego, Hairston flourished with 45 HR and 116 RBI with an OPS of .781.

    His career-high OPS of .981 came during his stint with San Diego in 2007.

    A consistent fielder yet injury-plagued ballplayer, Hairston was traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2009, back to San Diego in 2010 and to the New York Mets in 2011.

No. 8: Lyle Overbay

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 2001-2003 (first), 2011 (second)

    How he was discarded: Traded to Milwaukee Brewers

    Though the Diamondbacks eventually re-signed Lyle Overbay in 2011, he never should have been traded away back in 2003.

    Overbay was part of a massive two-team trade in 2003, joining Craig Counsell, Junior Spivey, Chris Capuano, Chad Moeller and Jorge De La Rosa in going to the Milwaukee Brewers for Richie Sexson and Shane Nance.

    Sexson didn't last long in Arizona before leaving in free agency for the Seattle Mariners, and Nance failed to impress, pitching only 19 games for Arizona before leaving the show for good.

    Overbay, on the other hand, experienced a breakout season in 2004, hitting a career-high 53 doubles with a .301 batting average for Milwaukee.

    Since then, he hit a career-high 22 HR in 2006 with the Toronto Blue Jays and recorded a career-high 92 RBI that season as well.

    In his seven years with Milwaukee and Toronto, Overbay hit 118 homers with 495 RBI and maintained an OPS around .800.

    The Diamondbacks saw Overbay from ages 24 to 26 and again at age 34.

    In between, Overbay had experienced a nice career, one that Arizona unfortunately never got a chance to see.

No. 7: Dan Haren

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 2008-2010

    How he was discarded: Traded to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

    Dan Haren was traded to the LA Angels in July of 2010 for pitchers Joe Saunders, Rafael Rodriguez, Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs.

    Though Saunders experienced a performance drop-off after his arrival in Arizona, Skaggs is considered one of baseball's top pitching prospects.

    He and Paul Goldschmidt represented Arizona at the 2011 All-Star Futures Game and were also respectively named organizational Pitcher and Player of the Year.

    Haren, meanwhile, has rebounded nicely for Anaheim with a 16-10 record in 2011. After pitching a career-best 2.87 ERA with the Angels in 2010, he posted a 3.17 ERA last year and at 30 years old finished in seventh place in the 2011 AL Cy Young race.

    Haren also threw a complete-game shutout on Sept. 10, 2011 against the New York Yankees.

    Haren has proven himself a still-developing quality pitcher for the Angels, and if LAA manages to land C.J. Wilson, the Halos' one-two-three punch of Jered Weaver-Wilson-Haren might be the best in baseball.

    For a 2012 Diamondbacks team looking to add some pitching to help out Ian Kennedy, keeping Haren would have helped tremendously.

    He is decidedly much better than Saunders, though the prospect of 20-year-old Skaggs advancing to the major leagues and posting similar numbers to his dominating 2011 MiLB figures (2.96 ERA, .218 average against, 198 K in 158.1 IP) is intriguing.

No. 6: Mark Reynolds

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 2007-2010

    How he was discarded: Traded to Baltimore Orioles

    Infielder Mark Reynolds began his MLB career as a Double-A call-up in 2007, similar to Paul Goldschmidt's rise to the show in 2011.

    At the age of 23, Reynolds played in 111 games during his rookie season, batting a career-high .279 with an OPS of .843.

    Reynolds had a career year in 2009 with an OPS of .892, a whopping 44 HR and 102 RBI. He has not broken the 90-RBI mark since.

    When Reynolds was traded to Baltimore in mid-2010, the Diamondbacks received pitchers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.

    Hernandez appeared in 74 games for the Diamondbacks in 2011, throwing 69.1 innings and earning a respectable 5-3 record with a 3.38 ERA. By all accounts, Hernandez is a pitcher with three years of MLB experience who is still on his way up.

    Mickolio, however, was almost immediately optioned to Triple-A and was recently sold to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan.

    With Baltimore in 2011, Reynolds improved his numbers over his 2010 record, showing signs that he might have not peaked yet either.

    In the end, the Diamondbacks—who coincidentally could currently use another third or first baseman—lost the possibility of developing Reynolds into a quality and consistent player.

    Had Arizona held on to Reynolds, it is quite possible he could have been one of its team leaders.

No. 5: Steve Finley

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 1999-2004

    How he was discarded: Traded to Los Angeles Dodgers

    Veteran Steve Finley was an integral part of the Diamondbacks outfield from 1999-2004, leading Arizona through the 2001 postseason en route to its World Series championship and leading the NL in triples in 2003.

    In exchange for Finley and Brent Mayne in July 2004, the Dodgers sent over Koyie Hill, Reggie Abercrombie and Bill Murphy.

    Hill broke his ankle early on with Arizona in 2004, was underwhelming in 2005 and was ultimately designated for assignment in 2006.

    Abercrombie never made the big league club, joining the Florida Marlins in 2006 before dropping out of the major leagues following a 2008 campaign with the Houston Astros.

    Murphy pitched 10 games for Arizona in 2007, amassing an unimpressive 5.68 ERA before being placed on waivers in 2008. He now plays in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines.

    Finley, meanwhile, won a 2004 Gold Glove Award and hit 13 HR in his two-plus months with the Dodgers, including a very memorable walk-off grand slam in October of 2004.

    In 2006, he hit .246 with a .714 OPS and 12 triples for the San Francisco Giants.

    The Diamondbacks could have had Finley for about three more years but instead traded him for several duds.

No. 4: Randy Johnson

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 1999-2004 (first), 2007-2008 (second)

    How he was discarded: Traded to New York Yankees

    When Randy Johnson won the pitching Triple Crown in 2002, he also received his fourth consecutive Cy Young and Warren Spahn Awards.

    If Luis Gonzalez was the best Arizona Diamondbacks player of all time, Johnson was the best Diamondbacks pitcher of all time.

    In 1999, Johnson signed with the Diamondbacks for four years and $52.4 million after a short tenure with the Houston Astros. Sure enough, the Diamondbacks reached the playoffs in 1999 thanks in no small part to Cy Young winner Johnson's 17-9 record, 2.48 ERA and 364 strikeouts.

    When Johnson teamed up with former Phillies ace Curt Schilling in 2000, the result was a 2001 World Series championship, the first and only World Series win in Diamondbacks franchise history.

    Though Johnson was on and off the disabled list in 2003, he rebounded in 2004 to pitch just the 17th perfect game in baseball history and reach 4,000 career strikeouts in June of that year.

    When the Yankees offered Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro and cash for the Big Unit in Jan. 2005, Arizona GM Joe Garagiola Jr. took the deal.

    Johnson was inconsistent in New York and accordingly was traded after the 2006 season.

    New Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes seized his opportunity and took Johnson back, a deal that was completed in great part due to Johnson's wish to return to Arizona to be with his family in Phoenix.

    Though Johnson spent a great part of 2007 on the DL, he was still among baseball's top strikeout pitchers. In 2008, he climbed to the No. 2 spot on baseball's all-time strikeout leaders list behind Texas Rangers legend Nolan Ryan.

    Had Johnson remained in Arizona instead of going to New York, there is no telling what kind of numbers he could have put up.

    At 44 years of age at the end of 2008, Johnson elected to sign with the San Francisco Giants for his final MLB season. 

No. 3: Tony Womack

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 1999-2003

    How he was discarded: Traded to Colorado Rockies

    Tony Womack's trade to the Rockies was one of those moves that never quite worked out for Arizona. It was a complete whiff.

    Womack was dealt to the Rockies for prospect Michael Watson, a minor leaguer who played four seasons in Arizona's Single-A system.

    Watson never made it to Double-A before being cut by Arizona in 2005 after amassing a career 5.01 ERA over 88.0 IP in Advanced A-ball.

    The trade was a huge disappointment and kicked off a series of transactions that saw Womack in Colorado, Chicago (Cubs), St. Louis, New York and Cincinnati.

    To complete the sting of Womack's departure, Tony had a breakout season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004, hitting .307—his only full season with a batting average above .282—with an OPS of .735, also a career high.

    Though Womack never regained the speed he experienced on Arizona's 1999 squad in which he stole 72 bases, he was a fairly valuable player the Diamondbacks never should have let go of.

    Even if he was somehow worth getting rid of, he never should have been traded for Watson.

No. 2: Curt Schilling

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 2000-2003

    How he was discarded: Traded to Boston Red Sox

    When the Philadelphia Phillies traded pitcher Curt Schilling to the Diamondbacks in 2000, Arizona gained a pitcher who had proven himself a workhorse, throwing 15 complete games in 1998 and no fewer than eight CG every year since 1995.

    In his first full season with Arizona in 2001, Schilling won 22 games with a 2.98 ERA and 293 strikeouts.

    In both 2001 and 2002, he was easily an All-Star and finished in second place behind teammate Randy Johnson for the NL Cy Young Award.

    He was the 2001 World Series MVP, The Sporting News' 2001 NL Pitcher of the Year and winner of the 2001 Roberto Clemente, Babe Ruth, Branch Rickey and Hutch Awards.

    All of this makes Schilling's 2003 trade to Boston all the more puzzling.

    In exchange for Schilling, the Diamondbacks received outfielder Michael Goss and pitchers Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon and Jorge De La Rosa.

    Meanwhile, Schilling went on to win 21 games in 2004, earning his sixth All-Star selection and second World Series win.

    He would win the World Series once more in 2007 after experiencing four terrific years in Boston.

    Those are four terrific years he could have had in Arizona.

    In Boston, Schilling helped break the Curse of the Bambino. Surely he could have brought Arizona another World Series title had he stayed.

No. 1: Jose Valverde

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    Tenure with Arizona Diamondbacks: 2003-2007

    How he was discarded: Traded to Houston Astros

    It might be difficult to recall, but Detroit's dominant closer Jose Rafael Valverde began his MLB career with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    By the time Arizona gave Valverde away, he had amassed a 3.29 ERA and 331 strikeouts over 260.0 IP in five years with the Diamondbacks.

    Traded to the Astros for pitchers Chad Qualls, Juan Gutierrez and utilityman Chris Burke on Sept. 25, 2007, Valverde was clearly still on his way up and still very valuable.

    Since his trade, Valverde has put up career highs in saves (49 in 2011), strikeouts (83 in 2008) and appearances (75 in 2011).

    Meanwhile, Qualls briefly was the Diamondbacks closer for less than three years and recorded a 4.34 ERA with 45 saves while in Arizona.

    Gutierrez debuted with Arizona's MLB club in 2009, though his ERA ballooned to 5.40 in 2011 as he commuted between AAA and the big leagues throughout the season.

    Burke quickly left for the San Diego Padres after batting just .194 in 165 at-bats while in Arizona.

    In the end, Valverde has been better than Qualls, Gutierrez and Burke combined.

    He is a tremendous talent and accordingly is the No. 1 player the Arizona Diamondbacks never should have gotten rid of.

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