“We think that our time is now. Obviously, with the way ownership has stepped up, we’re putting the effort towards trying to get it done now.”
This quote from Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart during a conference call with reporters at last December’s Winter Meetings not only sums up the current philosophy of the front office, but it explains every transaction that this group has made.
Since Stewart and President of Baseball Operations Tony La Russa took over the decision-making of the D-Backs, those two sentences can explain every decision this front office has made. To be frank, the Diamondbacks are doing things that teams have never done. The philosophy is innovative, interesting to cover, frustrating, and head scratching at the same time. After years of not going after big free agents, the “right time” for this team to be aggressive came after a successful 2015 season in which the team won 15 more games than they did in 2014.
However, if the D-Backs were going to take the next step in 2016 and contend in the National League West, the starting rotation had to be better.
Management accomplished that by signing free agent Zack Greinke and trading for Braves fireballer Shelby Miller. Both transactions come with costs, but the Diamondbacks can make these aggressive moves because of the depth in their farm system and a committed ownership group.
In his mind, Stewart believes he accomplished two important goals: dumping Hill’s contract, and adding offense to a lineup that will be without Ender Inciarte, a key contributor to a offense that led the majors in runs scored. Did he really accomplish either one though? According to the Arizona Republic, the D-Backs sent $5.5 million to Milwaukee to help pay for the $12 million still owed to Hill on the $35 million dollar extension he signed after the 2013 season. Segura will make $2.6 million this season, and if I can do math, then Arizona is only saving $4 million which, in the grand scheme of things, won’t have much of an impact.
Adding Segura and subtracting Hill isn’t an offensive upgrade at either shortstop or second base. Segura did put together an All-Star campaign in 2013 and many thought he was on the cusp of being one of the best all-around players in baseball. Despite only being 26 years old with plenty of prime years ahead of him, Segura’s production has tapered off significantly in the last two seasons to the point where hardly anybody remembers what he accomplished in his breakout season.
Plus, the D-Backs already have a MLB caliber shortstop in Nick Ahmed. Ahmed is regarded by many scouts as the best defensive shortstop in the game, and his OPS was 18 points higher than Segura’s last season. Acquiring Segura shouldn’t come at Ahmed’s expense given how far he has progressed, and he was a big part of the number-one defense in baseball according to The Fielding Bible. Losing Diaz, who is years away from contributing, doesn’t bother me, and it shouldn’t be a surprise because Stewart doesn’t value draft picks. He said it himself to Tyler Kepner of the New York Times in December at the Meetings:
“That’s three players,” Stewart said in reference to the drafted players he has already dealt. “Believe me they’re very highly regarded players. But three players do not make our future. We’ve got second-round picks, third-round picks, fourth-round picks. The draft goes to 40.”
The problem I have is that Segura wasn’t the best this team could have done. At the time, veteran Howie Kendrick was still a free agent and had strong interest in coming to Arizona. If the Diamondbacks truly wanted to win right now, Stewart would have been willing to part ways with a competitive-balance pick, sign the 34-year-old for two or three years, and they would have added a consistent .290-.300 hitter with no cost to the farm system or current depth on the major-league roster.
If the goal was to add offense in the middle infield, an area the team didn’t see much production from last year, Kendrick would have been a far better option than Segura. The reason Stewart didn’t make the move for Kendrick is because he didn’t want to lose the draft pick, but he was willing to lose picks to sign Greinke and add Miller. While I approve of the majority of the things Stewart has done, he has to be consistent. If he wants to win now and doesn’t care about draft picks as he said himself, he should have no issue losing another pick to sign an impact bat in Kendrick.
When Kevin Towers was in charge of baseball operations and was making similar moves, it was seen as “mortgaging the future,” and understandably so. At the time, the D-Backs weren’t ready to win, and he was trading valuable assets for inconsistent veterans (like Jarrod Parker for Trevor Cahill). The D-Backs are in a different position now, and these moves should be welcomed, and the fan base should be excited. But if Stewart continues to flip flop on his strategy, the fans and the players won’t know when the franchise wants to win, and that is not good for anybody.