Hey Diamondback fans,
I posted a blog at the beginning of the baseball season advocating for Kevin Towers and the organization's new "direction". However, I failed to address what reasonable expectations could be for this season. While the season is not over, the Diamondbacks are 9.5 games back of the NL-West leading Dodgers and 6 games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the final wild card spot. The Dodgers have played great baseball largely in part due to the resurgence of such players as Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez. They have made a mockery of the National League, and all despite the fact that arguably their best player, Matt Kemp, has been sitting out for the better part of three months due to nagging injuries. Should the Dodgers return to full strength, they are without a doubt legitimate title contenders. They are developing a reputation as the "Yankees" of the west with a seemingly unlimited supply of player salary capital. However as the Yankees are demonstrating now, that is not always the best course of action to facilitate long-term success.
I argue that the Diamondbacks have put themselves in a far better position from a player-development and future growth standpoint. With progressively increasing salary cap flexibility, the Arizona Diamondbacks are in a perfect position to place themselves among the ranks of the Dodgers with several key acquisitions via trade. While I will not address those potential acquisitions, the Diamondbacks have the ability to shed excess personnel in order to strengthen key areas of need. There is an extreme excess of starting pitching depth (although some of which has been cleared with the trade of Ian Kennedy at rock-bottom prices) both in the major leagues and minor league farm system. There is an excess of outfielders, and a strong foundation for the makings of an elite infield both offensively and defensively. For a team that is experiencing a rebuilding phase, the Diamondbacks have fared exceptionally well.
While some may argue that the Diamondbacks were "buyers" in the offseason with the free agent signings of Eric Chavez and Brandon McCarthy, I argue that this only indicates management's ability to rebuild a team that can simultaneously contend within one of the strongest divisions in baseball. The Diamondbacks sold their best player, and best pitching prospect for pennies on the dollar in the offseason. While Martin Prado and Didi Gregorius are no doubt major league starters and above average infielders, they do not have nearly the same upside as a Justin Upton and a Trevor Bauer. However, the benefits of shedding such players that do not embody the organizations structure cannot be seen on paper. Justin Upton was the face of the Diamondbacks franchise and they are currently on pace to win four MORE games than they did last year. Now it is impossible to say where they would be had they kept Upton, but they certainly did not regress when compared to last year's team.
If the Diamondbacks can be this successful during the final stages of a rebuilding process, imagine the return on investment a young core around Kirk Gibson can provide to a team that has multiple expiring contracts and increasing revenue trends into the future. Kubel is on his final year, although we are now paying him not to play for us, and all other free agent acquisitions are relatively short term deals i.e. Brandon McCarthy, Eric Chavez, Heath Bell, and JJ Putz. Arguably all of these players are expendable and some of which are no doubt overpaid. However should those players be replaced with exceptional acquisitions, the "baby" backs could make some noise in the NL West at time when the Dodgers will have declining players and increasing salaries in the near future. The Diamondbacks are perfectly poised to make a push for the NL Championship.
While Kevin Towers has not made the best decisions regarding free agent and trade acquisitions, the farm system and young core of talent among the team is one of the best in baseball. That core will soon peak at a time when revenue and available salary for player acquisition's peak as well. Kevin Towers has all the cards, he just has to play them right.