Instead of bringing politics into baseball, I think it’s time to one-up the level of discourse that continuously leads denser segments of the population into lectures about sticking to sports. Today, I’m going to bring religion into the mix. Let’s talk for a moment about original sin. Original sin is the Christian belief that through the sin of Adam, the whole of the human race that has descended from him bears inheritance to the consequences of his actions. In essence, the consequences of the sins of the father are passed down to the children.

By the way, feel free to direct all of your “well, actually” comments or general rage about this column on Twitter to @OutfieldGrass24.

Anyway, like I was saying, this concept of original sin is one that the Diamondbacks’ new front office is probably finding all too familiar. Through no fault of their own, they’re inheriting the sins of the past front office, and good Lord are there many. If Adam ate the forbidden fruit, then Dave Stewart might as well have consumed whatever was left on that tree.

Indeed, this is a franchise seriously in limbo. The farm system is arguably the worst in baseball – which is rather incredible since all of nine months ago, the Angels system was considered to be the worst one ever during the prospect era – the bullpen doesn’t seem to inspire confidence, and the depth still remains an issue. The projection systems that Dave Stewart railed against last season again have the D-Backs tagged as a 77-win team. Though for a franchise in flux, the Diamondbacks head into 2017 in a fairly unique position compared to the other teams with poor metric-based outlooks.

Sure, the team could win 86 games and cross their fingers hoping that’s enough to eke out the second wild card spot. However, when the realistic ceiling is a visiting spot in a play-in game, that’s not a very good spot to be in. Regardless, it seems a bit off that a team that has four players projected to eclipse the 3 WAR mark seemingly has no chance to contend, barring near-divine intervention. A core of Goldschmidt, Pollock, Greinke, and Ray is one that should probably be on a contending team. None of the teams below the Diamondbacks in the projected standings have more than two players projected to hit 3 wins in value. Even the division favorite Dodgers have only four players who project over 3 WAR – granted one of them is the best pitcher in the game. That’s a lonely place to be with seemingly no way out. The team isn’t good enough to outright contend, but there is still enough there that it’s tempting to shuffle things around and try. What’s more, there’s still enough promise and control left with this core that a full tear-down doesn’t seem totally appealing either. Obligatory disclaimer: 3 WAR is an arbitrary mark and WAR is a rather imperfect statistic, but the point remains. In the most likely universe, despite a rather solid core of players, this is a team that will be closer to contending for a protected draft pick rather than a playoff spot.

How does a team get to that spot? How can a team have a solid core four and not be expected to make the playo…

1

…okay, he was really only a raw power prospect with some concerns about his body, but everyone was dying to sign Cuban players back then…

2

…and sure, they may have bet all their international pool spending on one guy, basically handcuffing themselves for two more signing periods in the process…

3

…oh, oh dear God…

4

….

All right, all right, I won’t legislate out Dave Stewart and Co.’s trades and signings beyond that. However, this all speaks to how this team ended up where it is now. In 2015, it seemed as if the team had maybe tried to assemble a defensive oriented team, highlighted by a stellar defensive outfield of Inciarte, Peralta, and Pollock. The team lead all of MLB with 69 defensive runs saved and was third in baseball in UZR. Then came the offseason and Inciarte left and it was clear the front office didn’t actually have a coherent plan. It’s not a stars and scrubs team, it’s a stars and black holes team. And in their prideful yet feckless pursuit of acquiring players that they seemed to like for no discernible reason, the previous front office ignored basic understandings of how trade markets work, either didn’t comprehend or ignored the rules and consequences of engagement in the international market, and had no regard for the present and future value of prospects – they were just a means of instant gratification at the expense of the future. As a friend recently said to me, “say what you will about Kevin Towers, but at least he had a vision.” Really, I see that as the primary sin of the previous front office – the lack of vision. It’s seen in all those moves listed above and it’s seen in the depthless and most awkward team inherited by Mike Hazen and the gang.

2017 is here and it looks like the band is back together for one more tour. It’s tough to blame the front office for doing this – they inherited a mess. In no world would it have made sense to sell everything off at the collective nadir of their value, and really, there was no world where this team could plug all the holes. They run a limited payroll with some big financial obligations in an offseason with almost no available talent and a farm system currently in the ICU.

So where does the team go from here and what does this all mean in terms of 2017? It’s hard to really say. Maybe Mike Hazen was able to plug a few leaks this offseason and the team is bound for some positive regression in terms of pitching. If that happens, it’s quite possible this team could reach the upper limits of their potential and sneak into a playoff spot. Realistically, some of that could happen – they are projected to be 8 wins better than last year. Or maybe this is a season of trying to recoup value for Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke and moving some guys at the trade deadline. At the very least, the fans should be able to take comfort in knowing that a steady pair of hands is now steering the ship.

The ship is afloat, barely, but things aren’t great. They haven’t been in quite a long while with this team. Front offices don’t get to enter this world in innocence with a blank canvas. They often inherit the mistakes of those who came before and eventually make mistakes of their own that the next person in line receives. Here’s hoping in 2017, the new front office discerns a vision for this team and that they are critical and humble enough to realize and correct any mistakes they make along the way. The last front office only basked in theirs.

 

18 Responses to How the Diamondbacks Landed in Baseball’s Toughest Situation and Don’t Have a Clear Way Out

  1. Bob Cayne says:

    Great State of the Zoo analysis. Some unanswered questions remain: Where were Derrick Hall and Ken Kendrick during the mud slide? Hall may be an excellent administrator in many ways, but he is the team’s president and approves trades. And how could he allow the depletion of the minor league system? Give him a cheerleader outfit and take away his desk.

    Hall is so engrossed in rah-rah that he misses the total effects of hires and trades. Stewart had no general management experience whatsoever, yet Hall hired him. He was an agent, for Pete’s sake. We had an agent in the ownership at one point, didn’t Hall learn from that disaster? LaRussa had stellar years in the dugout but was never in the front office running a baseball operation. Hall hired them both and sold Kendrick a bill of goods. Good grief, the top two baseball men went through on-the-job training.

    Words fail me when it comes to Kendrick. He’s a disaster.

    • Lamar Jimmerson says:

      You can blame Hall and KK for hiring TLR, but TLR hired Stew. That was all him.

      In their defense, they didn’t give the regime the “tiebreaker” year that Stew thinks was his right.

      Also, in their defense they just made a great hire in Hazen. And I’ll bet he’s here for a good while.

    • Kelvin says:

      These are good points. Hall and Kendrick do deserve some blame for entrusting the team to TLR and Stewart.

  2. Larry Person says:

    I think your assessment of this team as “depthless and most awkward” is hyperbole. Sells articles. Gets you listed on MLBTR page. But overstated. My evidence? If it is truly that bad, then Hazen wouldn’t have hesitated to blow it up immediately. Hazen could have sold short on everybody and blamed the previous regime. And he would have gotten away with it. Despite what you say is a totally hamstrung position, I think Hazen has total control and could have done that IF he assessed the club’s situation the way you have. But he didn’t, or at least he hasn’t up to this point. I know, you will counter that he needs to get something for whatever assets there are on the team, but I say he would have moved at least one of them if he felt this was a hopeless predicament. Instead, Hazen sold high on Segura to get SP help (I think it was a great trade!), and he patched together some multiple bullpen arms, and stuck with the solid position player core that already exists, plus added a few veterans for depth. I think this team will be better than .500 and Hazen will build from there.

    • Kelvin says:

      That very well could be the case. I can’t say what Mike Hazen is thinking or what his honest assessment is but from where I stand, I don’t believe calling the team depthless and most awkward is hyperbole. I listed out in the fifth paragraph why I believe this to be the case. Maybe to expand a little more though, four of the eight starting positions are projected to be worth less than 1 WAR for the whole season. Take projections for what you will, but when half of your positions are projected to be near-replacement level, I think that’s a decent argument for a team being depthless. Add in the questions around the rotation and the bullpen and I believe it’s an argument that follows. Of course, you may disagree with the projections and that’s perfectly fine. I can only speak to where I’m coming from however.

  3. coldblueAZ says:

    “By the way, feel free to direct all of your “well, actually” comments or general rage about this column on Twitter to @OutfieldGrass24.”

    Why direct it to Jeff? YOU wrote the column.

    Perhaps you could have started your drivel with IMHO.

    • Kelvin says:

      ““By the way, feel free to direct all of your “well, actually” comments or general rage about this column on Twitter to @OutfieldGrass24.”

      Why direct it to Jeff? YOU wrote the column.”

      It was clearly a joke.

  4. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    More theology metaphors, as far as I’m concerned!

  5. LEE KING says:

    What bothers me most about the D-backs future is Greinke ….He could toss 20 no hitters a year,for the remaining 5 years of his contract and they would still have 142 games left with minimal pitching talent to win an adequate number of games to overtake the Dodgers and Giants…in the meantime, he is given about 30% of the team’s payroll.. precluding a lot of other improvements..and that..according to the press, is all on KK ..

    • Larry Person says:

      OK, let’s deal with reality instead nostalgia and hypotheticals that never were and never will be. How good or bad is this team that Hazen inherited? Offensively? Very good to excellent. Last year, with Pollock and Peralta lost for virtually the entire season and Goldy having a slightly “down” season, the D’backs were the 5th best NL team in most offensive counting categories. What to expect this year? Improvement on those counting numbers. Segura is gone, but a healthy Pollock alone makes up for that loss. Beef is gone, but a healthy Peralta off-sets that loss. Add in a slight uptick from Goldy and the full emergence of Lamb and Drury, and it’s a no-brained to envision an improvement from the offense. Defense and pitching were at or near the bottom of the league last year. Realistically, both can’t go anywhere other than up from bottom dwelling status. When we stop re-hashing how bad the FO has been and actually look at the team on the field???…it’s not as bleak as all the teeth gnashing D’backs fans suggest.

      • Larry Person says:

        More on the defense and the pitching. Defensively, everyone points to the bad outfield defense. The D’backs used a SS, a 2b/3b and a catcher in the outfield last year. Duh!!! Anybody recall that they will be replaced by Gold Glove All-Star Pollock in CF and Peralta back out there as well? Along with a fourth outfielder who will actually be an outfielder? Plus the return of Ahmed from injury, will improve the defense from last year whether or not he starts. And again, one of the worst rated defenses cant help but improve. They don’t have to be the best like they were two years ago, but I fully expect them to be closer to the best than closer to the worst defense this year.

        The pitching? Again, from dead last no where to go but up. For the starters, the addition of Walker adds depth to the rotation. So one or two can stink it up again this year, and we have someone better than Chacon, Escobar, et al to step in. For relievers, we have a good mix of veterans now added to the emerging youngsters, with plenty of depth. Last year, we had a pretty set group, and when they failed we didn’t pull the plug on them quick enough, so the team suffered. I think there will be a short rope this year. Plus, if the starters go deeper, the bullpen won’t be as exposed and over-extended. Again, it won’t take much improvement to move up out of dead last. Nor will it take much improvement for the offense to carry middle of the road defense and middle of the road pitching to playing meaningful games in September!

      • Bob Cayne says:

        The rare spring air brings visions of a 110-44 season … oh wait, that was the 1927 Yankees.

        Somebody hose me down with ice water.

  6. BobJ says:

    This was an excellent assessment of our current state of disrepair. However, rather than focusing on Stewart and LaRussa, let’s go back one more generation. We would not be in this mess if we had hired Jerry DiPoto instead of Kevin Towers. Towers was not as bad as Stewart, but he did bring in Mark Trumbo, clearly an AL only player in the Tomas mode, and it cost us Adam Eaton. DiPoto has become an excellent GM, and is credited with turning Seattle into a possible playoff team this year. My contention is that if we had DiPoto running the show instead of Towers, then Stewart/LaRussa, we would be exponentially ahead of where we are now. Picture no Tomas, no Shelby Miller, Dansby Swanson in a Dbacks uni, Adam Eaton in right….sounds good to me.

  7. JOE MAMA says:

    Sure, the team could win 86 games and cross their fingers hoping that’s enough to eke out the second wild card spot. However, when the realistic ceiling is a visiting spot in a play-in game, that’s not a very good spot to be in.

    I will take the second wild card spot over not making the post season.

  8. Larry Person says:

    An example of a team in a worse position than the D’backs…the Padres have 54% of their 2017 payroll tied up as dead payroll, i.e. Payroll paid to players no longer on the team–35.1 MM owed to Melvin Upton Jr., James Shields, Hector Olivera and Jedd Gyorko. This sad state of affairs is precisely why I will never advocate for dumping Greinke! At best, the D’backs would save $10MM per year, but continue to pay $24MM in dead payroll. That is an untenable position to be in. No matter how bad he pitches, continue to run him out there for the rest of his contract years.

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