Congratulations to J.J. Putz on a fine MLB career that saw him dominate the best hitters in the universe for many years. Putz has officially hung up his spikes, and as Nick Piecoro wrote on Friday, he has taken a position as a special assistant to CEO Derrick Hall. It looks like Putz will work a bit more on the business side of things, but he may work with pitchers in some capacity as an instructor, and he indicated to Piecoro that he has an interest in baseball ops or scouting. The front-office-by-committee has a wide array of guys for a wide array of situations.
In addition to talking about the possibility of installing a humidor at Chase Field, we talked on Episode 4 of The Pool Shot about some trade rumors, specifically those involving Miguel Montero. I hit on that in the last roundup, but we have some extra insight now, also from Piecoro.
From Piecoro’s piece, we learned that Dave Stewart has pretty much counted out the D-backs from the Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields sweepstakes. But the team is looking to add pitching, and Stewart has Japanese starter Kenta Maeda on the radar in case he’s posted this winter. Stewart has had trade conversations with other teams that involves “pretty good pitching,” which is interesting. Piecoro determined that the shortstop surplus wasn’t involved in those conversations, and I agree with Piecoro that that means the D-backs may be talking pitcher for Montero. Stay tuned, I guess — the only big mistake that the team could make would be acquiring another Bronson Arroyo type for the hell of it as its only significant move of the winter.
Last week, I somehow missed an excellent interview with Chip Hale by David Laurila of FanGraphs. Make sure you go read it, as there’s no better way (thus far) to get to know the new guy who is likely to play a non-trivial role in our lives for at least a few years. Really enjoyed the Tom Kelly background and learning Hale’s approach to the game. From the piece:
Even your big hitters have got to drop one down every now and again to keep teams out of the shift. Late in a game maybe, down by three or four runs, they’re playing this huge shift, so why not just put one down and get on and start a big rally?
Sounds good to me. We need more data on people doing this to get a good analysis going, but I suspect Hale is right, and I’d like to see it. More:
As an organization, we’re not going to be able to spend like some of the teams in the league, so we have to think out of the box a little bit. I think that’s important and Tony La Russa has always felt that way. He was hitting the pitcher eighth, so he’s willing to listen and try different things.
Cool! This is highly reminiscent of a point made by Buck Showalter, also in a Laurila interview. Sounds like Hale is willing to be convinced, and it bears repeating: anyone advocating for something “cutting edge” has the burden of persuasion. Hale also noted that while you have to realize that it’s tough to move relievers out of customary roles, because that’s how they’re conditioned and they’re used to it. But even then, Hale seems open:
…maybe it’s the sixth inning with the bases loaded and you need a guy to get you out of it, to preserve a win. My opinion is we could have a bullpen where everybody has pitchability. Lefties and righties have roles, but they all should have the ability to pitch…If we can develop a pitching staff where we’re confident — and they’re confident — they could pitch at any time, I’d really like to see that.
I’d really like to see that, too. We’re going to start hearing more and more about the Diamondbacks’ vaunted stash of relievers with plus stuff, and it seems that the team will move away from signing veteran relievers for prominent roles. That’s a great change. But Hale’s suggestion could also be a great one — with so many young guys coming up, maybe there’s a chance to kind of mold their expectations from the get-go. That would be fantastic. And finally:
You learn everywhere you go and (in Oakland) it was from Bob Melvin, from Billy Beane, from David Forst and Farhan Zaidi to Dan Feinstein and the minor-league people. You learn different things and you have to take everything into account in your decision-making. If you don’t, it’s just like going to college and getting a masters or PHD and not using what those people taught you.
How excellent is this? Again, highly reminiscent of the Showalter interview. Hale is open to being convinced, perhaps to the point of trying to set people up in the front office to help convince him. We talked about this on Episode 3 of The Pool Shot at length, but I do expect Hale to bring some of the Oakland success in defensive shifting to Arizona, for one example. Effective platooning is up there, too. Color me excited, guys.
On to the links:
- The voting is in on the National League Rookie of the Year Award, and since we already knew the three “finalists,” the results are not a huge surprise. You’ll recall that I thought Ender Inciarte had a strong bid for first, but he finishes a lowly fifth. We knew Jacob deGrom was likely to win, and the voters seemed to remember Billy Hamilton‘s strong start to the season. Inciarte had the worst possible luck with his case; not only did he come up relatively late, but he struggled in his first month. Nonetheless, Inciarte finished so strong that he was arguably worth more than deGrom and definitely more than Hamilton. That Kolten Wong got fourteen third-place votes to just four for a player worth about two wins more is embarrassing, but it’s nice to see that four voters looked up some end-of-season statistics. I guess Kolten Wong was just too famous. Anyway, kudos to the BBWAA for spelling Wong’s name wrong on their web site.
- If you’re feeling bad for Ender Inciarte, go RIGHT NOW and vote at Snake Pit.
- Like the Hale interview excerpted from and linked in the main text above? David Laurila struck again over the weekend with some cool profiles of several players who have changed roles or positions. That stuff is extremely interesting in general, but this piece was more so because one of the players featured is Peter O’Brien. Well, well worth your time.
- Really nice article from azcentral.com’s Zach Buchanan last week on the three relievers the D-backs have pitching in the Arizona Fall League. No editorializing, just check it out, and you’ll know more about three guys who are going to matter soon. Sounds like we will hear more and more about D-backs relief prospects. And, oh, we talked about the article and Jimmie Sherfy, Kaleb Fleck and Enrique Burgos on Episode 4 of The Pool Shot, if you’re interested (did I mention we have a podcast?).
- Derrick Hall did a twitter chat last week, and you can get the “transcript” here. Hall made no pronouncements about player positions or acquisitions, but he did note that after outrighting Jordan Pacheco, the team still hopes to retain him somehow. A minor league deal would seem to be the only way, in light of 40-man concerns. Hall seemed optimistic, but not unreasonably so.
- The D-backs worked out Yasmany Tomas at third base, according to his agent. Interesting idea, but unless they’re thinking that Brandon Drury, the presence of Drury and Jake Lamb make that a slightly square peg in a round hole. Perhaps the team will explore moving one of those guys in the near future — third base is not an easy spot to fill right now in the league.
- If you’ve listened to The Pool Shot or would like to, please go visit the podcast at iTunes, either by clicking that link or searching in podcasts for The Pool Shot. We’ve been overwhelmed by the amazing response so far, and we love how it gives us a chance to just hang out with you with some D-backs chat. At the moment, we’ve got tons and tons of topics lined up, but we can always do more, and it’s a long offseason. Drop us a line on twitter if you have something for us to talk about on the podcast, or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh, and a positive review on iTunes would…not be unwelcome. Thanks!
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