LAS VEGAS - The Diamondbacks’ suite at the Bellagio overlooks Interstate 15, and the D-Backs really are tying to get into the fast lane here.
They made a contract offer to left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes on Tuesday and both sides believe it will be a quick process, with a decision perhaps as early as the end of the winter meetings on Thursday.
“Generally, when you make an offer, you expect a rapid response,” D-Backs general manager Josh Byrnes said.
“We are talking,” said Rhodes’ agent, Dan Horwitz.
The D-Backs also have spoken to the agents for lefties Joe Beimel and Alan Embree, although it is unclear if offers have been made.
Cincinnati also had made an offer to Rhodes, according to published reports, as has at least one other team.
Rhodes, 39, entered last season on a minor league contract in Seattle but was promoted quickly and went 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA with the Mariners and Florida, making a $450,000 base salary and another $600,000 in incentives.
His fastball was in the 90 mph range in Florida last season, and he would seem an ideal fit for a team looking for a left-handed specialist. Rhodes had an 0.68 ERA in 25 games with the Marlins, where he held left-handed hitters to a .157 batting average.
Based on past performance, Rhodes could expect to earn as much as $2 million this season.
The D-Backs have lost Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz, two bullpen mainstays, but could fill with Rhodes and another right-hander internally.
The D-Backs will not necessarily carry two left-handers, Byrnes said.
“If we do get (a left-hander), we’ll have three good late-game righties to go with a lefty,” said Byrnes, speaking of holdovers Chad Qualls, Tony Pena and Jon Rauch.
The D-Backs have targeted a bullpen left-hander and a second baseman here, although the loss of Mark Loretta to the Dodgers is believed to take them back to Ramon Vazquez and Damion Easley as a possible platoon partner for Augie Ojeda. Chris Burke also remains a candidate, Byrnes said.
“It is what it is,” Byrnes said after losing Loretta, who agreed to take $1.25 million, about $300,000 more than the D-Backs’ offer.
“There are a lot of second base options out there,” Byrnes added, saying a trade, a free agent signing or simply filling internally “are still are there.”
In other developments:
• The D-Backs “are still assessing” trade options among their catchers, Byrnes said, despite a report that they have pulled Miguel Montero off the market. At the same time, Byrnes said he would be comfortable if both Montero and Chris Snyder returned.
“We have a very good catching combination. They are both capable of being front-line guys. There is value to holding onto them,” Byrnes said.
Boston is among the teams that has inquired about Montero, although it is unlikely the D-Backs could get a young pitcher such as Justin Masterson in return.
• Cleveland met with the agents for Lyon, who turned down salary arbitration from the D-Backs that would have netted him about $4 million in 2009, but the door may close there if Cleveland finalizes a two-year deal with closer Kerry Wood, who must pass a physical. Lyon could be a candidate to land in Minnesota, Philadelphia and St. Louis, teams that are in the market for relief pitchers.
• Houston and the Los Angeles Angels have joined the list of teams who have expressed interest in Randy Johnson after meeting with Johnson’s representatives here. The Dodgers, San Francisco, Oakland, Texas, Milwaukee and the Cubs already had touched base with the Johnson camp, and the Giants spoke to Johnson’s agents Tuesday. Oakland has not done so here. Among that group, the Cubs seem the most likely suitor, but they would only be interested in Johnson if 1) a Jake Peavy deal falls through, and 2) they can move Jason Marquis, which seems less and less likely, since Marquis is to earn $9.875 in 2009.
HITTING THE LINKS
Many of the D-Backs players attended Doug Davis’ charity golf tournament in the Valley on Monday.
Closest to the pin? “I was closest to the rocks and dirt,” said Conor Jackson, who returned to the Los Angeles area Monday night.
Jackson was named the starting left fielder ahead of Eric Byrnes on Monday.
“I’ve always felt comfortable out there,” Jackson said. “I feel I can handle it out there.”
STAYING IN TOUCH
The D-Backs had conversations with Jonathan Maurer, the agent for Brandon Webb, on Monday evening, although there were no talks about a contract extension.
The meeting was characterized as a way for the sides to stay in touch.
In Nashville last year, the D-Backs and Maurer initiated discussions on an extension and had agreed on the general framework of a $54 million deal similar to the one Dan Haren eventually agreed to. The offer was pulled back in midseason.
This year, with the state of the economy, there is no appetite for extension talks.
Webb, 22-7 last season, was the runner-up for the NL Cy Young for the second straight year after winning it in 2006. He is to be paid $6.5 million this season with an option that is worth $8.5 million in 2010.