Diamondbacks wheeling and dealing in offseason

Art Davidson

Although Arizona was swept by Colorado in the National League Championship Series, it was expected to be a quiet offseason in the Valley of the Sun. The youthful Diamondbacks exceeded expectations in 2007 by winning the NL West title and finishing with the best record in the National League.

Before losing to the Rockies, Arizona swept the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series.

Last Friday, things got very busy in Phoenix and it had nothing to do with holiday shopping. Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes made three deals in which 14 players were exchanged. The most significant player traded was right-hander Dan Haren, whom Arizona obtained from Oakland for six prospects.

The addition of the 27-year-old Haren gives the Diamondbacks one of the most formidable starting rotations in baseball. Haren joins a staff which is headed by Brandon Webb, who won the National League Cy Young Award in 2006 and finished second in the voting this year.

The rest of the starting rotation consists of Doug Davis, Michah Owings and Randy Johnson, who was limited to pitching in only 10 games last season by a back injury.

Byrnes is optimistic that Johnson, who underwent surgery last July to repair a herniated disk, will be ready to pitch when the season starts.

"He's been working out regularly and hasn't encountered any problems," said Byrnes, who was formerly Boston's assistant general manager. "We aren't going to rush him, but right now his prognosis is good."

To obtain Haren, the Diamondbacks sent left-handed pitchers Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith, outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham and first baseman Chris Carter to the Athletics.

"I have to give a lot of credit to our scouts and players development people," Byrnes said. "We've built up a talent base that allowed us to make a deal to acquire Danny Haren. The addition of Haren would make any team's starting rotation considerably stronger."

The Red Sox and Yankees were among the teams which also pursued Haren.

Last season, Haren was third in the American League with a 3.07 ERA. He finished 15-9 for an A's team, which was 10 games under .500. Baseball America rated Haren as the second-best pitcher in the American League. He was sandwiched between Minnesota's Johan Santana and Boston's Josh Beckett.

In another surprising trade, Arizona swapped closer Jose Valverde, who had a major-league leading 47 saves this year, to Houston for reliever Chad Qualls, infielder/outfielder Chris Burke and minor league pitcher Juan Gutierrez.

"We gave up some depth when we made the deal with Oakland, which was a concern for us, but we got some depth back when we made the trade with Houston," Byrnes said.

The biggest question the Diamondbacks will need to answer in spring training is who will be the club's closer. Brandon Lyon, Tony Pena and Qualls are all possibilities.

Byrnes made a trade of lesser significance last Friday when he sent infielder Alberto Calllaspo to Kansas City for pitcher Billy Buckner, who isn't related to former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner.

Art Davidson is a Daily News staff writer. He can be reached at adavidson@cnc.com or 508-626-4403.