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Arizona Diamondbacks Rumors
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.
The Astros are without a permanent manager at the moment, having dismissed Bo Porter after some philosophical disagreement with the club’s front office. Tom Lawless is filling in on an interim basis, and reports have indicated that former big league managers Manny Acta, A.J. Hinch and Don Wakamatsu could be candidates, as could Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo and Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, among many others.
Here’s the latest on the team’s search …
- Another potential candidate could be Steve Buechele, the manager for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Drellich notes that Buechele has spoken to the Astros about the job. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram tweets that Buechele had a phone interview with the Astros.
- Astros third base coach Pat Listach will interview today, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com tweets. Prior to joining the Astros, Listach had served as a bench coach and third base coach for the Cubs and a third base coach for the Nationals. He also has four seasons of experience managing in the high minors in the Cubs system.
- The Astros have contacted Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweets that the Astros have already interviewed Banister twice for the job. Banister has spent his entire 29-year career in affiliated baseball with the Pirates, briefly playing for them in 1991 and then working his way up through their minor league system as a coach and manager. He has also managed in the Arizona Fall League. As Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel points out (via Twitter), Banister had a cameo in Ben Lindbergh of Grantland’s recent article about the strong bond between the Pirates’ field staff and their statistical analysts. Banister’s ability to work in such a system would surely interest the Astros.
- Nevin expressed keen interest in the position, saying that Houston is a special place for him as his first MLB organization, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
- The Astros met with Lovullo face-to-face on Boston’s off-day this week (Monday), according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). This is the first report of an in-person meeting with a managerial candidate. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently profiled Lovullo, breaking down his background and managerial philosophies
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Astros have spoken with five candidates via phone: Ebel, Hinch, Lovullo, Wakamatsu and Rays bench coach Dave Martinez (Twitter link). Martinez has previously stated that he would be very interested in the position after having a good experience when he interviewed the last time Houston was looking for a manager.
- Ebel, however, tells MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez that he has not spoken to the Astros about their managerial vacancy at this point (Twitter link).
- Lawless will interview for the position on a permanent basis this Saturday, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Lawless, who has 35 years of experience in baseball (10 as a minor league manager), has been received favorably by the current Astros’ players, McTaggart adds. Houston is 10-10 under Lawless, but McTaggart notes that the team’s September results won’t factor much into the equation. He’ll be asked the same questions as other candidates. Lawless looks forward to the opportunity, he says: “I’m just going to be myself and just talk honestly about what baseball means to me and the passion I have for baseball. [General manager Jeff Luhnow] has a tough decision, and the organization is going in the right direction. I think we can make this thing better.”
- The Astros have receive permission to interview former big league slugger Phil Nevin, who is currently managing the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Nightengale adds that Nevin will also be a candidate for the D’Backs if they decide to part with manager Kirk Gibson.
- Internal candidates for the Diamondbacks’ managerial job include Triple-A Reno manager Phil Nevin, Double-A Mobile manager Andy Green and big-league hitting coach Turner Ward, new GM Dave Stewart says. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that Nevin is a particularly strong candidate, given his work at Reno.
- Other candidates could include Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo and bench coach Mike Aldrete, White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing, and Twins bench coach Terry Steinbach. All four have ties to Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa.
- Reds bench coach Jay Bell will be another candidate, John Gambadoro of KTAR.com tweets. Bell, of course, played for the Diamondbacks and later served as their bench coach.
The Angels have cut off talks with the city of Anaheim regarding a new ballpark lease arrangement, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. Owner Arte Moreno says that the club can afford to build a new ballpark, and indeed the team is exploring its options in other Los Angeles-area locations. After agreeing upon a “deal framework” a year ago, the parties have been unable to finalize a new contract.
Here’s more out of the west:
- Astros slugger Chris Carter will be shopping for a new agent after losing former adviser Dave Stewart, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports on Twitter. The decision is a particularly important one for Carter, 27, given that he will qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player in the coming offseason. His 37 home runs make for a nice arb case, of course, but his raise will be well-deserved. Carter’s bottom-line production over the last three years: .228/.322/.480 (121 OPS+) over 1,409 plate appearances with 82 long balls.
- Stewart, of course, made the rounds today after being announced as the Diamondbacks‘ new general manager. One burning question has been how Arizona will incorporate statistical analysis into its decisionmaking, and Stewart told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link) that the organization must “get on board with it” after having not done so to present. That does not mean that the club will turn its back entirely on its scouting and culture-heavy focus; to the contrary, Stewart made clear that he hopes former GM Kevin Towers will stay on and discussed the importance of developing an organizational culture in several interviews.
- One element of the D’backs decisionmaking structure that has become clear is that De Jon Watson will play an important role in developing and disseminating information. In an appearance on the team’s television broadcast, Watson said that he will have wide-ranging responsibilities in the arenas of amateur scouting, player development, and MLB roster construction. He indicated that he likes the idea of being able to have such a broad role. That being said, Watson said the club intends to keep scouting director Ray Montgomery and player development director Mike Bell in their present roles.
- Turning to the actual ballclub, Stewart said in an appearance on 98.7′s Burns & Gambo show that Arizona has no intention of dealing away young talent. Calling the team’s farm system “pretty much depleted,” Stewart said that rebuilding depth — rotation candidates, especially — was a key focus. That being said, Stewart indicated that he hopes to put a winning club on the field quickly and will look to the free agent market for a “front end guy.”
3:55pm: In a curious decision, the D’Backs have announced that Trammell will manage the final three games of the season.
3:22pm: The Diamondbacks announced that they have fired manager Kirk Gibson and bench coach Alan Trammell. The team will immediately begin seeking a new manager, according to the press release.
“Kirk has done an admirable job under difficult circumstances and we are grateful for his professionalism and his dedicated service to the organization over the past eight years,” said chief baseball officer Tony La Russa in a statement. “We feel like it is time for a fresh start and with our recent restructuring in Baseball Operations, we want to get started immediately moving in a new direction. We are also appreciative of Alan Trammell for all that he has done for the D-backs and have great respect for what both men have accomplished in the game of baseball.”
Gibson took over as the D’Backs manager midway through the 2010 season and has since compiled a 353-375 win-loss record. His 2011 Diamondbacks won the NL West with a 94-68 record — a season which earned him NL Manager of the Year honors. However, since that time Arizona has a pair of 81-81 finishes and is now set to pick first overall in next year’s draft, as the team is a virtual lock to finish with baseball’s worst record.
Gibson has at times drawn ire from media outlets for his old-school tactics, including an incident this season in which it’s widely believed that Randall Delgado threw at NL MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen on purpose for “retaliation” against the Pirates, who had seemingly inadvertently hit Paul Goldschmidt the night before, sending him to the DL and ending his season.
It was a big day for the Diamondbacks: after announcing major front office changes, the club has all but clinched the league’s worst record, as Steve Gilbert of MLB.com notes (Twitter links). The only way they’d fall to the second pick would be if they were to sweep the Cardinals this weekend, with the Rockies in turn being swept by the Dodgers. It’s highly likely that Arizona will hold the first overall pick in next year’s amateur draft, providing an early test for chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and newly-minted GM Dave Stewart.
Here’s more from the west:
- Padres manager Bud Black indicated that he expects changes to the club’s array of position players, as MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell reports. “We were pretty set, and I think that’s definitely changed this year,” said Black. “I don’t know whether uncertain is the word. But I do think there will be some roster construction more so than last year.” It will be interesting to see how newly-minted GM A.J. Preller attacks his first offseason. If this season’s results are any indication, while the rotation is in solid shape, improving the offensive output may require new acquisitions.
- The Astros intend to be quiet, careful, and thorough in their managerial hunt, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. GM Jeff Luhnow is not necessarily seeking someone more malleable or numbers-focused than deposed skipper Bo Porter, according to Drellich, but rather someone more “relatable.” One of the possible candidates, Diamondbacks Triple-A manager Phil Nevin, is set for an interview after receiving clearance from the Arizona organization, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
- Angels owner Arte Moreno covered a lot of ground in an interesting interview with Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Moreno said that he is committed to winning a championship, emphasizing the financial health of the organization and how that has supported the team’s significant spending. Saying that the team carries no debt and operates at a profit, Moreno indicated that he has no intentions of selling his valuable ownership stake — though he said that he would take an objective, businesslike approach if contacted by an interested buyer.
The Diamondbacks announced today that they have hired Dave Stewart as their new senior vice president and general manager, thereby filling the void that was created when Kevin Towers was removed from the role earlier this month. Additionally, De Jon Watson has been hired away from the Dodgers to serve as senior VP of baseball operations. Both men will report directly to chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, according to the press release.
Stewart, 57, is quite familiar with La Russa, as he was the ace of several of pitching staffs with the A’s that were managed by La Russa in the late 1980s. Stewart has plenty of experience around the game, however, as he’s served as a pitching coach for the Brewers, an assistant general manager with the Blue Jays and a player agent, representing (up until this point) well-known big leaguers such as Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley and Chris Carter. Of course, Stewart will have to give that business up, and he’s already explained to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he will transfer that business to former teammate Dave Henderson.
It’s been quite some time since Stewart was in a front office, but he was once considered a hot GM candidate and was thought to have a chance to take over the post in Toronto and succeed Gord Ash following the 2001 season. (J.P. Ricciardi was instead named the next Blue Jays GM.) Baseball America ranked Stewart sixth among a list of its top 10 general manager “prospects” back in 2000.
This will be Stewart’s first test as a general manager, a position which he told Shea is exciting to him: “As an agent, I’m not challenged every day,” said Stewart. “But this job is 24 hours every day, and I’m looking forward to that.” He will have his work cut out for him, as the D’Backs are wrapping up a season in which they will narrowly miss 100 losses and are on pace to finish with baseball’s worst record. Of course, that fate would also provide Stewart with the opportunity to have the first overall pick in what will be his first draft as a GM.
In Watson, the D’Backs have secured a high-profile front office acquisition. The 48-year-old Watson had been serving as Los Angeles’ vice president of player development and was in his seventh year with the organization. In that role, Watson was responsible for developing and evaluating each minor league player in the system as well as appointing minor league managers, coaches and instructors. He also served as an advisor to GM Ned Colletti on all 40-man roster decisions. Prior to his time with the Dodgers, Watson served as the Indians’ director of professional scouting and the Reds’ scouting director. Prior to those roles, he served as an area scout for the Marlins.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
7:44pm: Stewart and the Diamondbacks are closing in on a multi-year agreement to make Stewart the new GM in Arizona, Nightengale tweets. An official announcement could come on Friday now, rather than Thursday, as had previously been reported.
6:01pm: Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports now hear that Watson is likely to leave the Dodgers and accept an assistant GM position with the Diamondbacks (Twitter link).
4:26pm: Nightengale writes that the D’Backs are still hoping to hire Watson as an assistant GM, but he is expected to remain with the Dodgers.
2:52pm: Stewart says he is transferring his agency business to former teammate Dave Henderson, reports John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. That would presumably clear the way for Stewart to take the D’Backs job.
Though Stewart did not comment as to whether he had been offered the position, his comments certainly left the impression that he was preparing to take the reigns in Arizona. “As an agent, I’m not challenged every day,” he said. “But this job is 24 hours every day, and I’m looking forward to that.”
12:12pm: The job has “officially” been offered to Stewart, though discussions are still ongoing, tweets Nightengale.
12:01pm: Stewart tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he has yet to be told that he has been chosen for the position, but hopes that he is. “My name, Allard [Baird] and De Jon [Watson] are three names that are, as far as I know, are the last names that are left,” said Stewart. “I do know that by my last conversation with Tony [La Russa], he planned to let us know within the course of today. That does not mean it’s going to happen today but I know it was their plan to give us an indication. We’re sitting on pins and needles, too.”
11:29am: The team is “deep in negotiations” with Stewart on a contractual arrangement, but the sides have yet to reach agreement, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
10:29am: The Diamondbacks are set to offer the club’s open GM position to Dave Stewart, sources tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Stewart, 57, has long been said to be the top candidate for the post.
The former big league pitcher, coach, and assistant GM is currently a player agent. Stewart’s broad experience carries obvious appeal, and it surely does not hurt that he has a strong history with D’backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, his former manager with the Athletics.
It is not yet known whether an offer has formally been made, Heyman adds, let alone whether a deal has been worked out. This employment situation could be trickier than usual since Stewart would need to figure out what to do with his agency business. Of course, he has now had plenty of time to consider that question, and Stewart has indicated that he would be strongly inclined to take the job if offered.
Padres assistant general manager Josh Stein recently sat down with Chris Bauer of PadresPublic.com for a lengthy and insightful interview that’s worth reading not only for Friars fans, but for anyone interested in player evaluation, scouting and the ever-growing role of analytics in front offices. Stein discusses the building of the Padres’ player information database and the importance of blending live scouting, video and statistical data. “Player evaluation ultimately is a decision,” said Stein. “Like any decision you make, you’re going to have a number of pieces of information to take into account. … Some of those pieces of information will be easier to explain with words based on an experience and some will be easier to quantify with numbers.”
Here’s more from the NL West…
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer press speculates that if the D’Backs hire Dave Stewart as their GM — which appears to be a near-certainty – and look outside the organization for a new manager, Twins bench coach Terry Steinbach would be a logical candidate (Twitter link). As Berardino notes, the 52-year-old Steinbach has a longstanding relationship with both Stewart and D’Backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa. Steinbach, a three-time All-Star as a player, was Stewart’s catcher in the late 80s and early 90s on an A’s team that was, of course, managed by La Russa.
- Rafael Betancourt is already planning on playing in 2015, and the Rockies are open to having him back, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com. Harding spoke with Rockies skipper Walt Weiss about the possibility of bringing Betancourt back as a free agent, who said that Betancourt’s makeup alone makes him a desirable target. Betancourt, who will turn 40 next April, spent four-and-a-half seasons with Colorado from 2009-13, compiling a strong 3.08 ERA with 10.5 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and 57 saves. He spent 2014 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery with the Rockies after signing a minor league deal.
- Tim Stauffer would like to return to a starting role in 2015, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock, and as such, he knows that there’s a good chance that his 11-year tenure with the Padres is coming to an end. The 32-year-old Stauffer was selected fourth overall in 2003, and while his career hasn’t been as high-profile as his draft slot would indicate, he’s quietly tallied a 3.38 ERA over 477 Major League innings dating back to 2009. A pair of surgeries have cost him some innings since establishing himself as a capable big league arm, which, paired with San Diego’s glut of pitching, has led to a bullpen role for him over the past two seasons.
Here’s the latest on the Diamondbacks’ search for a new GM following the recent removal of Kevin Towers from that role.
- The Diamondbacks will announce their new GM on Thursday, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter links). Dave Stewart is the heavy favorite for the job, although DeJon Watson is still under consideration. The team will also be promoting scouting director Ray Montgomery, according to Nightengale. In a third tweet, Nightengale says it wouldn’t be far-fetched to see Stewart named GM, Watson hired as an assistant GM, Montgomery promoted and Towers retained in a senior scouting capacity.
- Nightengale also tweets that while a decision won’t come until after the season, a managerial change appears likely given the team’s poor performance.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that Stewart, Watson and former Royals GM Allard Baird are the three finalists and runs down some of the qualifications of each candidate.
- Gary LaRocque will remain in his current position as the Cardinals’ farm director, the team confirms to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link).
- The “strong industry belief” is that Dave Stewart will be hired as the Diamondbacks’ new GM, though Gary LaRocque may also join the organization in some capacity, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (Twitter links). LaRocque is also still a candidate for the GM job and he and Stewart may be the final two names in contention.
- The Diamondbacks completed the GM interview process today, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweets.