The last-place Diamondbacks have until Aug. 31 to decide whether to exercise 2017 options for general manager Dave Stewart and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Chief baseball officer Tony La Russa told Piecoro that he expects owner Ken Kendrick and CEO Derrick Hall to retain Stewart and Watson. However, La Russa doesn’t seem aware of his own job security going forward.
“There has not been one conversation, not one, between Derrick and Ken, the three of us, having to do with front office contracts, not one, because what’s dominating us is the disappointing season and that’s where our concentration and energy are going,” said La Russa, who’s unsure of whether his three-year contract began in 2014 – when the team hired him, Stewart and Watson – or in 2015.
Regardless, if the Diamondbacks let go of the 71-year-old La Russa, the longtime manager won’t collect any of the money still owed to him, he informed Piecoro.
“If they like what I’m doing, then I’m here,” the three-time World Series winner stated. “If they don’t, then I’ll leave knowing that right now I’m not very happy with the job that I’m doing. So I’m determined to do better.”
After posting 79 wins and a plus-7 run differential last year, the Diamondbacks’ first full season under La Russa, Stewart and Watson, the club has gone backward in 2016. Those three are currently at the helm of a 48-68 team despite aggressively trying to turn it into a contender in the offseason. Not only did Arizona commit $206.5MM to right-hander Zack Greinke, but it famously dealt 2015 No. 1 pick and top shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson, outfielder Ender Inciarte and young righty Aaron Blair to Atlanta for Shelby Miller.
Greinke has pitched well in his first season with the Diamondbacks, though it’s too early to assess whether their long-term investment in him was wise. On the other hand, Miller’s 2016 has been an unmitigated disaster. The decision to trade such a significant haul for the righty was widely pilloried from the get-go, but no one expected the 25-year-old to regress from a quality starter to someone incapable of holding a spot in a major league rotation. Miller, who has registered a 7.14 ERA, 6.49 K/9 and 4.41 BB/9 across 69 1/3 innings with the Diamondbacks, has been with Triple-A Reno since mid-July.
After acquiring Miller, Greinke, shortstop Jean Segura and reliever Tyler Clippard (who is now a Yankee after a July trade) during the winter, D-backs brass expected to field a postseason-caliber squad. Prior to the season, Stewart called the idea of the club winning fewer games than last year “a joke” and referred to it as “impossible” (via Jack Magruder of Today’s Knuckleball). Unfortunately for Stewart, that impossibility is going to become a reality.
In fairness to Stewart and the rest of the Diamondbacks’ front office, injuries haven’t helped the team’s cause. Most notably, Arizona has been without star center fielder A.J. Pollock all season because of a fractured elbow. Plus, the 26-year-old Segura – whom the Diamondbacks acquired from the Brewers for righty Chase Anderson, infielder Aaron Hill and shortstop prospect Isan Diaz – has been quite effective. Moreover, lefty Robbie Ray, righty Rubby De La Rosa and outfielder Yasmany Tomas, all of whom were picked up after La Russa, Stewart and Watson took the helm, have shown promise. But, despite Tomas’ offensive strides, the big-bodied 25-year-old has minimal upside because of his limitations as a defender and base runner. Thus, the Diamondbacks’ $68.5MM investment in him looks questionable at best.
Arizona’s other noteworthy Cuban signing, 2014 addition Yoan Lopez, has scuffled in the minors during his tenure in America and the righty hasn’t pitched since June 29 because he’s contemplating leaving the sport. Signing Lopez, then an international free agent, for a record $8.27MM bonus took Arizona out of the running to land any other international amateurs for more than $300K during both the 2015 signing period and this year’s.
The era of La Russa, Stewart and Watson has clearly produced more negatives than positives for the Diamondbacks, who enter play Sunday with the fourth-worst record and third-worst run differential (minus-114) in the majors. While La Russa expects his cohorts to return next season, the fact that there’s uncertainty regarding their statuses obviously wasn’t what they or the franchise had in mind at the beginning of the year.
I can defend the DBacks front office some but not enough to justify them keeping that front office intact. Make some sweeping changes!
I thought LaRussa would be good for the team, but his loyalty to Stewart and some of the moves are questionable. We all know the big things, but trading Zeigler early instead of waiting and for a very low, but with potential (and we have seen the roadblocks to these types of players) was bad. He likely could have got much more by waiting until the bidding for quality bullpen guys happened. The handling of Miller, a 25 year old with some very good success has also need to be questioned. Even suggesting a couple weeks ago that he was on the block was very questionable. With all the “baseball people” in the system they were ready to give up on him. Time for some changes including a new owner.
In LaRussa and Stewart you have two very old-school guys who probably agree on everything. It seems as though executives thrive when they are challenged by the people around them.
Stewart needs to go. He is over his head
I remember when he couldn’t tell the difference between a man and a woman….lol.you may have to be older to remember the incident
Stewart is a worse GM than Ruben Amaro jr. He has no understanding of the value of prospects
Does anyone have a park adjusted stat for Grienke? Obviously a pitchers era is going to go up pitching half their games in AZ. Curious if there’s a stat that adjusts for that for pitchers. Seen one for hitters.
ERA+ does that. Greinke has a 117 ERA+ which is 17% better than the average pitcher, adjusted for ballpark. Last year Greinke had a 222 ERA+ and has a 122 ERA+ for his career.
I have to work for this team. I can be a star executive. Compared to what they have of coarse.
East Coast Bias
Worst front office in the league right now.
Stewart is arguably the worst GM in the majors. He needs to go along with whoever is responsible for hiring him in the first place.
It seems every player that is traded or released from D-Backs thrives elsewhere. Why?
Seems crazy they’re ready to tear everything apart soon. Before the season they said they were on the 3-year plan. If it didn’t work this year they would still have the top players together for 2 more years.
All of the pitchers have underperformed,to put it lightly, and some of the best hitters have been hurt (pollock, peralta). The front office didn’t set this team up for failure this season. If someone needs to be fired, get rid of some coaches and get a new pitching coach.
Fire them all
Reed Eaton Bauer Didi the list goes on and on.
The Shelby Miller trade was insane. They could have gotten Mike Leake as a free agent.. He wanted to sign with the DBacks. He is better than Miller. The front office needs to be removed. The entire pitching staff needs reconstructed. They could have kept Ziegler and Clippard since they were the only relievers pitching decently. Once Pollock and Peralta return next year, the offense should be ok. They may even be able to get Enciarte back from Atlanta since he has not had a good season.
Larussa is ready to hire Eckersley as Stewart’s replacement.
If I were Kendrick, I’d dump all three including LaRussa, and if Hall signed off on the Greinke and Shelby Miller fleecing, I’d can him too. Their “go for broke” approach may have broken the club and it’s short term future.
I think they need to give them one more year with this group and if it doesn’t work clean the whole house and make trades next July.