Chances are, he would not have been quite as enthusiastic had the anticipated trade sent him elsewhere."New York or Boston would have been interesting places to play, but once I realized Arizona was one of the teams interested, that's what we hoped for," he said, including Jessica in that sentiment. "And when Billy called and I heard 'Arizona,' it was a relief." A laid-back California dude with the uncomplicated perspective of someone who grew up as a genuine fan of the game, Haren's D-backs wish was two-fold. There is the location, an area with which he is quite familiar after three Spring Trainings with the A's. And there is the composition of the team, an increasingly youth-driven group with a light-hearted attitude that translates into enthusiasm on the field. "Absolutely, that's the reason I'm so excited by this team," Haren said. "To give up all those prospects shows a commitment to win now, but it's exciting to know I'll have a chance to see them get better for at least three years." The reference was to the remainder, including a 2010 option, of the contract he had signed in Oakland at the end of the 2005 season. The finances -- a young pitcher with Haren's resume for about $19 million the next three seasons -- is another reason the deal held so much appeal for Byrnes. "His age, the contract ... there are so many things," the GM said. "So [as the offseason unfolded] we kept coming back to him as our prime target. We knew he was the kind of guy who could help us win games in October." Coincidentally, Byrnes on Tuesday formally acknowledged the contract extension for his manager that also takes Melvin through 2010. For that, Melvin was grateful. "I've been in baseball 28 years, and I've never before had a three-year contract," he said. For Haren and Webb at the head of the rotation that will also include Micah Owings, Doug Davis and -- everyone cross your fingers -- Randy Johnson, Melvin seemed even more grateful. Addressing specifically the related departure of closer Jose Valverde, traded to Houston for payroll reasons, Melvin said, "I think our pitching is better, overall. We'll have guys in camp who'll be able to pitch the ninth inning for us. All in all, we'll be a better team for it." Haren looked forward to the Spring Training mixer, to being able to get to know his new teammates. He is familiar with only one of them -- which, Melvin suggested facetiously, may not be a good thing. "[Eric] Byrnes is the only one I've talked to," said Haren, referring to the hyper outfielder with whom he played on the 2005 A's. "He wants me to buy the house right next to his." Melvin squinted.
"No, not that one," said the manager.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less