With contract decisions fast approaching on chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, GM Dave Stewart, and VP of baseball operations DeJon Watson, the Diamondbacks have yet to make a final call on their front office moving forward, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports.
The contracts originally signed by the three top members of the organization’s baseball decisionmaking structure are all nearly due for a decision. La Russa’s runs out at the end of the year, while Stewart and Watson both have deals that include options which must be exercised
“Nothing’s been decided. It will be an evaluation,” said club president Derrick Hall. He did speak positively of the dedication and attitude of his top baseball executives, but had to admit that “it hasn’t gone well” this year for the Snakes.
Indeed, managing general partner Ken Kendrick is understandably said to be rather unhappy with the way things have played out in 2016. It’s hard to see how he’d feel otherwise with the team buried in last place after an offseason in which it spent huge money on aging-but-excellent hurler Zack Greinke and parted with a major haul of young talent to acquire foundering righty Shelby Miller.
Though there are whispers (see here and here) that skipper Chip Hale could be in danger of losing his job, it seems hard to lay too much of the blame at his feet. That’s true to some extent of the front office personnel, too — the loss of A.J. Pollock crippled the team before the season even started, for instance — but the D-Backs’ roster construction efforts are ripe for second-guessing. Indeed, the underlying decisionmaking process has come under fire since the very inception of the La Russa/Stewart regime, with the chorus of criticism only growing louder of late.
Most notably, ESPN.com’s Keith Law recently offered a withering assessment of the front office’s work since taking charge. Among other things, he reports that the D-Backs were entirely unaware of the way the international signing rules work when they inked Yoan Lopez (while also mis-assessing his talent and market value). Other embarrassing episodes include an apparent attempt by Stewart to engineer a trade that wasn’t permissible under MLB rules and a glaring mismanagement of last year’s draft bonus pool allotment. You’ll want to read the entire piece for a full understanding of the wide-ranging critique.
Stewart has pushed back against the critics, telling Heyman that he thinks he has performed well in his two seasons at the helm. “We’ve done a pretty good job of putting players in our system,” says Stewart. “When we came in the major-league team was not very good and the minor-league system was not very good.” Even while defending his record, Stewart did insist that he isn’t focused at all on his own contract situation; to the contrary, he says he isn’t even aware of when the option is due to be decided upon.
That Stewart evidently isn’t concerned with the timeline for assessing his future may actually coincide with upper management’s own preferences for dealing with their baseball operations department. “Our preference is to wait until the end of the year, if we can,” Hall said of making a final call on whether to retain some or all of the trio. It’s not immediately clear how that would occur, but presumably Arizona could simply decline to pick up the options and then attempt to work out new contracts if the decision was made to retain Stewart and/or Watson.