Hello, AZ Snakepitters! I'm Twitch, a lifelong Diamondbacks fan, and this is my debut article.
I'm disappointed with the direction of our team's going. Baffling decisions, squandered funds, and an indecisive front office over the last several years have resulted in a legendarily horrific season. Our small market team spent nearly half our budget on studs like Cody Ross, Trevor Cahill, and Miguel Montero (combined 2014 WAR of -1.7). We once had Gosewisch bat fifth in the lineup. Our front office made trades with no clear goal in mind. Kirk Gibson instilled neither fire nor passion in his ball club and our famous "grit" was more like a number 1000 polishing cloth than a number 36 belt-sander. The Diamondbacks, NL West punching bag and MLB laughingstock.
How do we get back to being contenders? How do we get back what's been blown away, like a burp in a hurricane?
Looking back over the last season, it's obvious that we have overpaid for poor performance (Trumbo, Cahill, Hill, Arroyo, Ross, Montero) and age (29, 27, 33, 38, 34, and 31, respectively). We've been on the losing end of too many trades, and with the coming of new management, there seemed to be an opportunity for a new approach. I hoped that Dave Stewart would be a rational GM, in the mold of Theo Epstein or Billy Beane, who would build through the drafts, save money, and spend wisely. He did go out an get Yasmani Tomas, so frankly, he earns my respect for that. But it still didn't mitigate my despair over the last trade he made.
When I heard that Stewart gave up Andrew Velazquez (.290 batting average, .367 OBP, 50 stolen bases) and Justin Williams (.351 batting average, .403 OBP) in exchange for Jeremy Hellickson (.1 WAR, 82 ERA+, under team control for two years), I saw the same old, same old: a front office not making the right moves to better the team. I'm tired of making excuses for general managers who eel-flop all over the boat, ultimately leaving our team in worse shape than before. I'm bitter that our team has no apparent plan; we're not going all-in on free agency, nor are we rebuilding, nor are we building through the draft, nor are we trying to trade well. Nothing. We are rudderless.
We need to clean house and start anew, before we wreck any hope we have of competing in the future. Desperate times call for extreme measures.
I got so fed up, I decided to make a list of ten trades the Diamondbacks could make--right now--that would push the reset button. Because we are (obviously?) in a rebuilding phase, I set out some goals for the next several seasons:
Phase One (next 2 seasons):
- Reduce our payroll. Add value overall by subtracting.
- Find younger, promising players who will be under team control and/or inexpensive for several years. Obtain these by trading for top prospects in the first phase, focusing on those with skill sets that project well, and those with some major league time.
- Move out older, underperforming but valuable veterans to clubs looking to make a run over the next 1-2 seasons.
- Commit to developing talent in our young players at the major league level. This will be the key to our success. Minimize free agent signings during this phase to save money and continue the youth movement.
- Accept that the next 2-3 seasons will be difficult for fans.
Phase Two (Seasons 1 + 2, but accelerating through seasons 3 + 4):
- Rebuild our minor leagues via the draft; we'll get some spillover during this first round of trades.
- Continue to save money by avoiding free agent trades and getting older obligations off the books
- We should start doing better as our players improve. I anticipate second place in the division during this time.
Phase Three (somewhere around season 4)
- Use the money saved to buy missing pieces in the free agent market as we get ready for a pennant run.
If all goes well, we'd have a younger, better team, a better farm system, and a reduced payroll. I've include the trades, an explanation of why we'd make it and they'd take it, and an estimation of the likelihood that the trade would happen.
Here is the first trade I would make. I'll lay out the remaining nine in the next several installments.
Trade #1: Diamondbacks trade 2B Jamie Westbrook (A) and 2B Tyler Bortnick (AAA) to Brewers in exchange for RP Jeremy Jeffress (MLB)
Probability Meter: (60%)
This is an under-the-radar move that would immediately benefit our team. Jeremy Jeffress tossed up a 1.88 ERA, 203 ERA+ and a 25:7 K:BB ratio.
He has better numbers than Aroldis Chapman. Plus, Jeffress is only 27--only a few months older than Craig Kimbrel or Chapman. The reason this bullpen ace is so unheralded is because he is a journeyman, having pitched for three teams already, including two separate stints with the Brewers. That, and his legal troubles with marijuana. He is a three-time violator of the minor league drug of abuse policy, serving both a 50 and a 100 game suspension. He also has juvenile epilepsy. His value is understandably pretty low, which is why giving them two minor league position players should do the trick. Westbrook is a 19-year old second baseman who did pretty well at single-A, considering his age, and Bortnick, at 27, really struggled in the hitter-friendly PCL. However, both players add depth, and Westbrook, in particular, should intrigue the Brewers enough to pull the trigger on this trade.
Intrigued? Fasten your seatbelt for tomorrow's ride.