A.J. Pollock Rumors

D’Backs Notes: Roster, Gardenhire, Payroll, Coaches

The Diamondbacks more or less kicked off their offseason last week when they announced the hiring of Dave Stewart as general manager and De Jon Watson as vice president of baseball operations. That duo, along with chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, will be tasked with righting the ship for a team that lost an MLB-worst 98 games in 2014. Both Nick Piecoro and Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic have authored highly informative columns about how things will shake out this offseason after talking with that group. Here are some highlights from the Republic’s scribes, but each piece is full of lengthier quotes and is well worth reading in its entirety…

  • It’s tough to get a read on Stewart at this point, Piecoro writes, as the new GM expressed a desire to add a front-of-the-rotation arm but expressed hesitancy toward the free agent market and toward the trade market. Stewart appears to be more conservative than predecessor Kevin Towers on the trade front, according to Piecoro, and as for free agency, both Stewart and Watson doubted the team would have the resources to pursue Jon Lester, Max Scherzer or James Shields.
  • A trade of minor league talent to acquire an established pitcher doesn’t seem likely either, Piecoro writes. He quotes Stewart: “We’re going to try to maintain our minor-league system. We’ve got to start putting players back in our system. So the trade market, we’ll look at it if it makes sense, but it’s not likely.”
  • La Russa tells Piecoro that when it comes to a manager, the team is looking for a candidate that can “lead and inspire.” Previous managerial experience sounded important to La Russa, who stated, “…when you start managing the game, the more that you’ve pulled the trigger as a manager somewhere, there is an art to that.” Asked specifically about recently dismissed Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, La Russa said he is “sure” that Gardenhire’s name will come up during their search.
  • La Russa also touched on payroll, though his answer when asked for a specific figure was nebulous; payroll could fall anywhere between $80-110MM, he stated, depending on whether or not there is value to be found, per Piecoro.
  • Shifting to Buchanan’s piece, La Russa said that there may not be many changes to the team’s coaching staff beyond the firings of Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell. La Russa offered particularly high praise for first base coach Dave McKay, pitching coach Mike Harkey and bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. — the latter two of whom he feels handled Arizona’s slew of injuries well. Roving pitching instructor Dave Duncan, La Russa’s former pitching coach, will take on a bigger role in the organization but will not return to a coaching position.
  • Buchanan spoke with Stewart on the team’s outfield situation. While Towers had expressed the desire to add an outfield bat, Stewart sounds much less inclined to do so. “I think that A.J. (Pollock) in center, (David) Peralta played well, (Mark) Trumbo will probably be in the outfield mix with (Paul) Goldschmidt being at first base and being healthy again,” the GM explained to Buchanan. “It’s a pretty solid outfield, in my opinion.” La Russa spoke on the outfield as well, adding praise for Ender Inciarte.
  • The D’Backs have yet to address their desire to incorporate analytics into their front office, but Stewart again repeated that it is a priority for the team. “…We’ve got to go through the process of trying to get the right person in to take over that department for us,” he said.

D’backs Unwilling To Trade Miley, Owings, Pollock, Others

The Diamondbacks have been receiving interest in left-hander Wade Miley, but are telling interested parties that he is unavailable, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Some had speculated that Miley could fetch a nice return as an under-the-radar trade candidate, but given his long-term control (through 2017), it appears that Arizona will likely resist the temptation.

Other players the D’Backs aren’t willing to move, according to Rosenthal (Twitter links), include Chris Owings, A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley. Even veteran setup man Brad Ziegler is likely unavailable, per Rosenthal’s sources. Rosenthal offers a somewhat softer take on Mark Trumbo‘s availability, stating that a trade is “unlikely.” Trumbo is controlled through the 2016 season, Rosenthal notes, and Arizona would be hard-pressed to get near the same value they surrendered to acquire the slugger in the offseason.

All said, it is not surprising that Arizona would be unwilling to part with most of the players listed above, especially the younger players who are now (or are expected soon to be) playing at the MLB level. While Trumbo comes with just two years of control remaining, his long injury layoff will at least suppress his salary somewhat. And Arizona will surely be hesitant to move him for a cut rate after parting with both Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs for his rights over the offseason.

Ziegler’s inclusion, though, is a bit surprising at first glance. The righty has been consistently excellent, of course — and has even managed to increase his strikeout numbers this year to a far-and-away career best of 8.0 K/9 — but at 34 years of age he is probably not a long-term asset. (He is, however, under contract for next season at $5MM and is under control through a $5.5MM team option, which comes with a $1MM buyout, for 2016.)

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.


Quick Hits: Pollock, Morales, Lester, Cubs

The Diamondbacks announced today that outfielder A.J. Pollock underwent surgery to repair a right hand fracture and would not resume baseball activity for eight weeks. Pollock, 26, had been a rare bright spot on one of baseball’s most disappointing clubs, emerging with a .316/.366/.554 triple-slash with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 192 plate appearances. Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Royals could enter the running to sign first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales to bolster a sagging offense, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While no serious discussions have happened to date, the club is not ruling out the possibility, adds Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). According to Heyman, pursuit of Morales would require the Royals to move some salary off its books. Ticking through the team’s roster, the most obvious big-salary trade candidate (assuming, of course, that the team is looking to make a run) is DH Billy Butler, who earns $8.5MM this year and comes with a $12.5MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2015. But his defensive limitations and serious struggles this year make it somewhat difficult to imagine that the team will be able to find a buyer willing to take on enough salary to make the switch-out plausible — especially since clubs looking at Butler would presumably also have interest in Morales. (Then, there’s the question whether Kansas City could both lock up Morales and dump Butler or another contract in early June.)
  • Meanwhile, the Yankees have made contact with Morales but are waiting to learn more on Mark Teixeira‘s wrist re-aggravation before acting decisively, Heyman reports. Turning to analysis, Heyman writes that the Yankees have many reasons to pursue Morales strongly, whether or not they get good news on Teixeira in the coming days.
  • Informed of recent comments from Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino indicating that the club expects to re-engage him in extension talks, Jon Lester emphasized that he remains focused on the season at hand, reports Boston.com’s Maureen Mullen“I think right now, obviously with us playing good baseball and us focused on what we need to do today, I think that’s where we need to stay,” he said. “The contract talks will come at the right time. … [T]hat time’ll come, whether it’s tomorrow, I don’t know. Whether it’s in the offseason, I don’t know. We’ll figure that out as we go.”
  • Carlos Villanueva of the Cubs says that he and fellow righty Jason Hammel hope to stay with the team but realize they could be traded, reports MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat“What’s happened here the last couple years, you can’t help but wonder if you’re going to be one of those guys, too,” he said. “When they sign here, they know. They know the direction this team is going.” Both pitchers, explained Villanueva, have played with multiple clubs and understand the business of the game. “In a perfect world, we could stay here and build around the young guys, and we could be part of the upswing of the team,” he said. “That could still happen — we’re still here, we’re going to make the most of it.”