On the strength of three consecutive winning seasons and an aggressive offseason, the Diamondbacks were a trendy playoff pick and even a dark-horse NL pennant contender last spring, but things didn’t at all go to plan. The D’Backs have a 24-35 record, and tonight’s loss to the Rockies ensured that Arizona will finish last in the NL West for the first time since 2014.
It was “a disappointing season, obviously, for everybody” in the organization, team president and CEO Derrick Hall told The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan and other reporters. How the D’Backs will regroup for 2021 is still up in the air, and it is quite possible “the uncertainty of this upcoming season” means that the club might just decide to run things back as best as possible next year.
“I would never say never, but I have had no indication that anyone wants to make changes as a result of this year,” Hall said. “I also think it’s so difficult to judge the performance of either leadership or the majority of the players in such a short and strange season. It may not have worked out well for us, and I think there’s obviously nearly half the teams that could say the same thing and be disappointed, but it’s too short a season in a strange season to make those judgment calls. I’m excited to turn the page, start over and see how we do with guys that we have a lot of confidence in down there.”
However, some changes will be afoot for the D’Backs, as Hall called it “far-fetched” that the club will have the same payroll it was prepared to spend coming into a normal season. The Diamondbacks were projected to have roughly a $124MM payroll going into Opening Day back in March, and they already have over $51MM committed to next year’s payroll. Yasmany Tomas’ salary will finally come off the books, though those savings will mostly be eaten up by the second-year raise built into Madison Bumgarner’s contract.
The Diamondbacks have never had more than a $132MM payroll since Ken Kendrick’s ownership group bought the team in 2004, and though the team has spent up to and close to that amount over the last three seasons, Hall said the loss of revenues from this season and the unanswered questions about next year’s revenues will limit spending to some extent. This doesn’t necessarily auger a drastic payroll cut or even anything beyond a minor cut, and Hall said Kendrick and company could potentially sign off on more player spending if fans are allowed at Chase Field.
“It’s hard to pinpoint where our payroll will be at this point just because it’s going to be fluid….Not just us, but every other team as well, we’re having to plan for different scenarios of revenue, different scenarios of attendance,” Hall said. “Smaller minimal crowds, no crowds, no restrictions and what that looks like. It’s going to take some time before we know exactly what that direction will be and what the payroll will look like.”
Hall also noted that GM Mike Hazen wasn’t under any mandate to cut payroll at the trade deadline. The deals of Starling Marte, Robbie Ray, and Archie Bradley shaved some significant dollars off of Arizona’s books for both this season and (in the cases of Marte and Bradley) in 2021, and it’s probably safe to assume that Hazen was taking payroll into consideration just as a matter of standard operating procedure, even if he received no direct instruction from upper management.
In the broader financial picture, Hall said the team’s explorations into a potential new ballpark have been “completely put off to the side” in the wake of the pandemic, as “in this economy, it doesn’t make sense to even kick the tires or talk to anybody.” The construction of the Diamondbacks’ new player academy in the Dominican Republic is also “on pause” for the time being.