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D-backs making progress, but no deals

D-backs making progress, but no deals yet

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- On the bright side, after meeting with eight to 10 teams and talking with at least one agent, the D-backs didn't have any of their potential deals fall apart on them.

But there also wasn't any news coming out of their suite at the Dolphin Hotel after the second day of the Winter Meetings.

"I guess I would regard them as making progress," general manager Josh Byrnes said. "Obviously we're still progressing at a slow pace, so we'll see if it leads to a trade or not or a signing or not. I wouldn't say anything has really disappeared, we're just in a holding pattern in certain spots."

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Byrnes did meet with the agents for free-agent pitcher Mark Mulder, though he declined to say if any progress had been made on that front.

Mulder's agents had previously said that 15 teams had expressed interest in the left-hander, with three submitting proposals, and they met with the Mets on Tuesday.

The D-backs hadn't made an offer as of early Tuesday afternoon, and their ability to do so is hamstrung a bit by the club's policy against including incentives in contracts. With Mulder coming off shoulder surgery and the likelihood that he won't be ready for Opening Day, a one-year deal laden with incentives along with a vesting option for 2008 is reportedly what some teams are offering.

Arizona does not give incentives for things such as innings pitched or games started. The D-backs got around that when they signed outfielder Jeff DaVanon last offseason. With concerns over DaVanon's shoulder, the D-backs wrote language into the contract that increased his 2007 salary based on days he was available to play. Disabled-list time for things other than his shoulder did not count against him, and there was nothing about how many games he actually had to play or at-bats he needed to have.

"That's probably the type of situation that poses the greatest challenge," Byrnes said about Mulder and the incentives policy. "But I think we can figure out a solution. It is what it is. We'll figure out a way to address it that fits both sides."

On the trade front, Byrnes acknowledged that the D-backs have discussed a trade with the Rangers. Byrnes did not get into specifics, but the Rangers are known to be interested in right-handers Dustin Nippert and Micah Owings.

Nippert and Owings are among a group of seven young pitchers that, if Spring Training started right now, would be competing for the final two spots in the starting rotation.

"They signed [Vicente] Padilla and free agency dictates their trade needs to some degree," Byrnes said of the Rangers.

One Major League source said the D-backs have been trying to gauge the trade value of those pitchers to see if there is the potential to upgrade.

"That's a group we get asked about a fair amount," Byrnes said. "That group gives us depth, we believe, quality and flexibility, so we're not in a hurry to break it up unless we feel like we can better our pitching doing so."

Byrnes also said the D-backs did not see a match with the Angels. There was speculation that Arizona could deal third baseman Chad Tracy to the Angels for a starter like Joe Saunders.

Angels GM Bill Stoneman, though, said he would have to be overwhelmed before dealing one of his starters.

"Tough to do right now," Stoneman said. "Everyone wants pitching, especially our pitching. Everyone says we'd like to have one of those guys."

Byrnes would still like to get a deal done before he leaves the Magic Kingdom on Thursday.

"We like our club, we like the way it is right now," he said. "I guess we're close enough to feeling like if we get a break or get better, we can win this thing. So I think we're hopeful that we can make an improvement during the offseason and get the necessary luck to win it in the summer months."

Going Gonzo: The market for outfielder Luis Gonzalez has been narrowed down to the Dodgers, Orioles and Cardinals.

"I'd rather see him go to the other league, to tell you the truth," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said with a smile. "I might have to give him a call and lobby him. I'm a big Oriole fan, you know. Played there for two years."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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