SEPT. 19: In an updated version of his story, Piecoro now reports that while it was La Russa who made the announcement about Watson, the decision to let him go came from ownership and not from La Russa and Stewart.
“In talking with De Jon when his option was not picked up at the end of August,” La Russa explained, “he asked about how long it would take because if it wasn’t going to work out, he’s got contacts to make so he can land on his feet. That kind of sped the process up in his case.”
La Russa went on to offer praise for Watson but suggested that there may be some redundancies within the roles occupied by Watson, himself and Stewart, thus leading to the idea of “consolidating” some of the front office duties. “As we’ve worked through a couple of years, there’s more communication like I’m having with scouting and player development, and Stew is having the same,” said La Russa. “It’s not that there’s not a role for someone like De Jon, but that’s a possibility that there’s some duplication.”
SEPT. 18: The Diamondbacks will not pick up senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson’s contract for 2017, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The decision to cut ties with Watson was made by chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart, a source told Piecoro. La Russa and Stewart are facing uncertain futures in Arizona, which could move on from one or both in the coming weeks.
The D-backs announced the hirings of Stewart and Watson on Sept. 25, 2014, which came a few months after they tabbed La Russa to lead their baseball department. The trio has since come under fire for a slew of questionable moves that have helped contribute to the last-place club’s 62-86 record this year. Among the front office’s panned transactions have been the big-money signings of Cuban free agents Yoan Lopez and Yasmany Tomas. Watson was instrumental in those additions, per Piecoro, as he was an important figure in their international scouting efforts.
Lopez, a right-hander whom the Diamondbacks gave a then-record $8.27MM bonus as an international free agent in 2014, has scuffled in the minors and has even contemplated giving up baseball. Inking Lopez at such a high cost has prevented the D-backs from landing any international free agent for more than $300K over the past two signing periods.
Unlike Lopez, Tomas has cracked the majors, but the six-year, $68.5MM deal Arizona signed the third baseman-turned-outfielder to before the 2015 season hasn’t exactly been a bargain. The 25-year-old Tomas has hit a below-average .269/.306/.456 with 38 home runs, including an impressive 29 this season, in 943 major league plate appearances. Thanks largely to the big-bodied Tomas’ inability to make positive contributions as a defender or baserunner, he has posted a minus-1.6 fWAR with the D-backs.
While the moves he helped guide the Diamondbacks to haven’t gone as planned, Watson also didn’t get along well with farm director Mike Bell, according to Piecoro. Bell told the team’s higher-ups in July that he couldn’t work with Watson anymore. If Bell continues with the organization past this season, Watson will no longer serve as a hindrance to him.