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End Of An Era: Brandon Webb Becomes Free Agent

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The Arizona Diamondbacks have officially cut ties with the former Cy Young winner and rotation ace Brandon Webb, allowing him to become a free agent, along with Mike Hampton, Aaron Heilman, Rodrigo Lopez and Kris Benson.

The team is not expected to contact Webb about returning. Webb was a staple of the Diamondbacks starting pitching rotation in the mid-2000s and was originally expected to remain a part of the team for a long time -- or at least until the D-backs could no longer afford to pay him.

However, when shoulder pain abruptly ended his 2009 season, the tenor of his relationship with the team changed. Webb spent two entire seasons battling the injury, first trying rest and rehab and eventually turning to surgery. Webb was never able to regain major league form and, outside of a few instructional league and simulated games, has not pitched in real action since that fateful day two seasons ago.

In the wake of Webb's struggles, the Diamondbacks attempted to find their next ace. For the majority of Webb's absence, Dan Haren -- originally anticipated to be an above average number two behind Webb, not an ace -- tried out the role, but was unable to sustain his strong numbers throughout an entire season, often faltering late.

Eventually, when it became clear that the D-backs would have to retool most of their roster and start rebuilding, the team traded away Haren. With both Webb and Haren gone, there is no clear ace on the staff. Could that eventually be Daniel Hudson, who finished his brief first season in the majors with an 8-2 record and a 2.45 ERA?

Next season will be an "ace audition" for a number of young pitchers on the D-backs staff, including Hudson, Barry Enright, Ian Kennedy, and likely call-up Jarrod Parker.

[Note by Justin Burning, 11/03/10 2:37 PM MST ]

Diamondbacks General Managing Partner Ken Kendrick, President and CEO Derrick Hall and Executive Vice President and General Manager Kevin Towers released statements regarding Webb's free agency.

From Kendrick:

"Brandon has made significant contributions to the D-backs' organization both on and off the field since we drafted him 10 years ago. He and Randy Johnson top nearly every pitching category among our franchise's all-time leaders and are the only two D-backs to win a Cy Young Award. Brandon also gave his time and resources to the local community through his K Foundation, which means a great deal to me."

From Hall:

"I certainly understand Brandon's decision to test the free agent market and I wish him well. He has meant so much to this franchise and provided this team and our fans with magical memories. His contributions both on and off the field are greatly appreciated and should be recognized. His wife and children have been beautiful additions to our D-backs family and we will always consider them members of it."

From Towers:

"Although we have not entirely closed the door on Brandon returning to the D-backs next season, I understand the process he and his agent are going through at this time as a free agent. Brandon was one of the elite pitchers in the National League and a leader on D-backs' pitching staffs until suffering the injury two years ago. We wish him continued success as he goes through this process."

From the talk of the D-backs executives, the team and Webb parting ways may have been initiated by Webb.