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…
…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…
…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…
…oh, oh dear God…
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.
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