The loss of A.J. Pollock for what could be the entire season rocked the D-backs late in Spring Training, but while there’s been talk of potentially adding some help from outside the organization, it doesn’t sound as if the Diamondbacks will spend any significant money to make an upgrade in center field, writes Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic. In fact, GM Dave Stewart tells McManaman that the D-backs aren’t likely to make any significant payroll increases at any point this season.
“We’re not in a position to take on more salary,” Stewart explained. “We are where we are when it comes to salary and taking on more money. We can’t do that.” The D-backs opened the season a payroll just under $100MM — the second-largest Opening Day mark in franchise history. Some fans might wonder, then, whether Stewart would make potential trade deadline upgrades by parting with more young talent, but the GM also downplayed the possibility of further depleting his farm system after already having traded Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair, Isan Diaz and Touki Toussaint within the past year.
“You can’t sell the organization,” said Stewart. “There have been a lot of organizations that have gone out and thought they were in a position to win and they get rid of prospects, then you look at your minor-league system and all of a sudden you have nothing.” Stewart said he dislikes the notion that he doesn’t care about trading prospects, explaining to McManaman that it was difficult to part with each promising young player he’s traded away.
The actions of the Diamondbacks late in the offseason exemplified those lines of thinking; Arizona only sprung to sign right-hander Tyler Clippard to a two-year deal after saving about $4MM in the trade that sent Diaz, Chase Anderson and high-priced veteran Aaron Hill to the Brewers. And while the club took a long look at signing Howie Kendrick, the D-backs ultimately neglected to commit the money that was necessary or surrender the required draft pick in order to add Kendrick. As Stewart explained to Brett Ballantini in a recent MLBTR interview, the decision not to sign Kendrick, though, was motivated largely by the belief that Chris Owings would rebound after battling through shoulder problems in 2015. Owings, of course, has now been playing some center field in Pollock’s absence.
Circumstances, of course, can change quickly. Stewart also noted to Ballantini in the aforementioned interview that he never dreamed that ownership would give him the green light to pursue Zack Greinke this winter — even as the early stages of free agency began to play out. And, as McManaman’s colleague, Nick Piecoro, explained to Jeff Todd on a recent edition of the MLBTR Podcast, owner Ken Kendrick is typically open to expanding the budget a bit if it appears that the club has a chance to win as the trade deadline nears. That said, it would seem that Stewart is operating under the assumption that he’ll have to ride out the remainder of the season with what the club has in house. A small addition (e.g. Michael Bourn, who would only be owed the pro-rated league minimum if and when he is released by the Braves) still seems plausible even in light of Stewart’s comments, but for the time being it appears that the D-backs’ extravagant dealings will be limited to the right-handers that they acquired this offseason.