The Arizona Diamondbacks are one perplexing organization.
What do you say about a team that:
- Thought they would compete for the divisional crown in 2014 but instead finished with the worst record in baseball
- Has a projected Ace starter who was a full time reliever in 2013
- Currently sports one Oliver Perez on the roster
- Landed Yasmani Thomas–the biggest Cuban free agent of the offseason–for $68.5 million, but will ask the big, slow, slugger (who might be the riskiest guy to come out of Cuba yet) to play third base, despite the fact that he’s unilaterally considered to be a hopefully-he-can-manage-1st-but-should-really-be-a-DH slugger
- Signed Tomas’s 21 year old fellow Cuban, pitcher Yoan Lopez, for $8.25 million–but in the process cost themselves more than $16 million and the right to sign anyone good for more than 2 years
- Is slotting a guy named Tuffy at starting catcher
- Has a long and well document history of head scratching moves
- Has a long and well documented history of being overtly racist in player personnel decisions and has used the word ‘grit’ to describe the kind of blue collar, scrappy (read: white) players they want to the point that it now an open joke online
- Hired Tony La Russa as president
- Fired its GM and coach, and then picked a former major league pitcher-turned-agent who hasn’t worked in a front office in 14 years to be the new GM
- Admitted to being about $14 million over budget, but whose new GM “hasn’t even thought about how” to fix that problem
- And–the kicker–is, with a straight face, trying to lure free agent pitchers by identifying as a “true baseball team vs. some of the other teams out here that are geared more toward analytics and those type of things”
Honestly, I don’t know what you say.
It is absolutely baffling that this team continues to flaunt how ‘old school’–like 1930s, pre-integration ‘old school’–it is, given the state of today’s game. Let’s put aside the race thing for a minute (I can prove it but it would take a lot of digging into historical roster construction) and it’s not really the point anyway. (Though it’s absolutely true and should be a bigger deal.) Instead, let’s look at the way the current roster is constructed and the recent comments by GM Dave Stewart.
Stewart’s been on the job about three months; he probably shouldn’t be admitting that he has no inkling of how to adhere to a budget. How is that not something he’s thought about? How could he have been hired without discussing a budget? With what thought process has he been building his roster? It certainly can’t be to win as many games as possible, just look at it.
Right now, the Dbacks are banking on Yasmani Thomas, a guy who has never played American baseball at any level, to jump into country he doesn’t know, a league he’s never been in, against pitchers he’s never seen, playing a position he’s never played (and doesn’t seem likely to be good at)–and absolutely mash. Yes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu and to a lesser extent Yoenis Cespedes have proven that some semblance of that is possible, but no one has compared Thomas favorably to any of those three.
In addition, the Dbacks have All-Star Paul Goldschmidt and semi-slugger Mark Trumbo in the middle of the order. Trumbo, like Thomas, is best suited at first. But since Goldschmidt is so good, Trumbo has to play (below average) left field to get his at bats. This is an NL team with three first basemen in the lineup… all of whom hit right handed, by the way.
Until recently, Arizona had a solid left handed middle of the order bat too, Miguel Montero. But they traded him to the Cubs in a salary shedding move, something that seems strange given their GM’s apparent lackadaisical attitude towards payroll.
Of course, it’s possible that the Diamondbacks don’t see any of the problems with their roster because they don’t evaluate players using fancy and unreliable things like numbers. Stewart’s quote about James Shields preferring to play in Arizona because they are a ‘true team’ almost can’t be believed. When people say that ‘almost every team in the majors uses some sort of advanced scouting or player analysis,’ apparently it’s Dave Stewart’s team that necessitates the ‘almost.’
Given the success of Billy Beane, Andrew Freidman, and the Red Sox’ sabermetrically based decisions–AND THAT TEAM IN THEIR OWN DIVISION THAT USED ADVANCED STATS TO WIN THREE OF THE LAST SIX WORLD SERIES–Stewart and the Dbacks must be willfully blind to avoid this game changing tool.
In fact if I were Shields, or any free agent for that matter, the prospect of playing for a team that handicaps itself intentionally would scare me. (Assuming, of course, I wanted to win.)
I have no idea what the Arizona Diamondbacks are doing, but I’m really excited to find out.