After fielding the worst team in baseball in both leagues in 2014 finishing with a 64-98 record (.395) and a run differential of -0.8 (3.8 runs scored per game vs. 4.6 runs allowed), the Arizona Diamondbacks knew that they needed to make some changes in the front office and in the dugout. The fan base was hungry to once again feel the excitement of 2011 and 2007, when the team won the National League West and reached the N.L. Championship Series, respectively.
Team president Derrick Hall and ownership led by Ken Kendrick realized this, and started the process of reshaping the front office and the people who make baseball decisions. The long process of becoming a contender again all started in May 2014 when Tony La Russa was hired as the Chief Baseball Officer.
Even before La Russa’s opening press conference, D-Backs fans and people that cover the team alike knew that change for the better was coming, and given La Russa’s reputation everyone was optimistic about this team in the near future.
La Russa made it pretty clear from the get-go that he didn’t want to undertake a two- or three-year rebuild. In fact, the Hall of Famer said he would be “really disappointed” if his team didn’t win at least 81 games in 2015. The Snakes couldn’t even reach 70 wins, so expecting the team to win 17 more games in one season was considered by many to be unrealistic, and rightfully so. The former championship manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Oakland Athletics saw it differently: he saw a talented roster that just needed a different mindset and different leadership.
Five months later, the Diamondbacks fell short of La Russa’s goal, going 79-83, but they finished with the best offense and defense in baseball in many respects and fell short because of the starting rotation’s sub-par performance.
The D-Backs have a great young core led by Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock and are ready to take the next step. What would La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart do to get the rest of the roster to that point, and how aggressive would they be?
With pitchers and catchers set to report this week, its time to grade the transactions and how this roster is shaping up.