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Annotating MLBTR's Dave Stewart interview

Over at MLB Trade Rumors, they sat down and chatted with Diamondbacks' GM Dave Stewart about the team's off-season acquisitions and philosophy. Needless to say, it made for interesting reading: while you should go read the whole thing. let's chew over some of the highlights,

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Is your philosophy to do whatever it takes to get wins at the major league level, and a realistic shot at a World Series? Well, we’re here to win as many games as we can. The ultimate goal of this sport, which I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to achieve, is to be a world champion. Unless you’ve been a champion, you really don’t have any idea what this sport is really about. Championships are what make all sports. That’s what everybody plays for, in all sports. And so getting Zack Greinke, getting Shelby Miller, enhances our ability to do that. It makes us better. And that’s really all we’re here for.

It's always a difficult job for a mid-market team to figure out how to compete. Yes, building up a nice stockpile of prospects is sensible, but having the best AAA team in the majors doesn't come with any glory, and to be honest, nobody really cares. They help, only in that they can be leveraged into helping the team at the major-league level - whether that's by playing themselves, or being traded for pieces that will improve the team. It seems that Stewart, Tony La Russa, etc. realized that the golden gift of having an 8th-round pick turn into an MVP candidate wasn't going to last forever, and that the next few years gave us a chance we might not see again for a generation.

Yes, it's certainly a case of mortgaging the future to pay for the present, and if it doesn't work, then there could be some very lean years down the road. But with only a single post-season series in eight seasons, and our last winning record being back in 2011, I'm not averse to a spot of "go big or go home" at this point. It certainly didn't appear that the "building from within" approach was succeeding, for whatever reason.

I don’t want to be disrespectful to other teams and organizations. The Mets are a quality staff of starting pitchers. Some people will say the Giants are a quality top three. I don’t want to be disrespectful toward any organization and say we’re the best. But we will compete, and we can compete with anybody in baseball, with our top three guys. We can stand toe-to-toe with anybody.

I would tend to agree, with the important caveat that this assessment depends on both Patrick Corbin being healthy and delivering at or near a full season of  Shelby Miller living up to his potential, and being capable of taking the next step forward. Right now, we have Greinke (last season ERA+ 225), Corbin (113) and Miller (124). That's formidable, even if Greinke's ERA+ falls off by, oh, fifty points. The Mets with DeGrom (145), Harvey (!36) and Syndergaard (114) may be close, but I think we are clearly superior to the Giants, who have Bumgarner (129), Cueto (117) and Peavy (105) - Samardzija and his career 96 ERA+, never mind the 79 last year, is not the answer to any question.

Is there concern about Clippard’s fly ball rate [79 percent in 2015], especially pitching in a park where the ball carries like Chase Field? I’m not really understanding what the fly ball rate really means. A fly ball can be an infield fly, or hit to shallow center field, or make it to the warning track. You look at Tyler’s numbers last year, and even with the fly ball rate he had a nice [2.92] ERA and a good season. That’s what we’re counting on.

This was the quote provoking most derision. "A GM that doesn't understand fly-ball rates, hurhurhur." You just have to look at the comments on the article for examples. But whether Stewart's professed ignorance is genuine or not (I'm doubtful), he actually has a point. More so, certainly, than those berating him, saying Clippard's fly-ball rates will be "compounded in a small park like Chase." Because Chase is not small, and does not actually help home-runs. Last season, it ranked 21st for HR allowed; and that, with the home team outscoring everyone in the NL bar Coloradp. There were 11 more home-runs hit last year at Petco than at Chase. Fly-balls may not be so bad.

We saw Yasmany in his first year as a guy who hadn’t been on a competitive baseball field in over a year, and jumping in at the top level of major league baseball, he came in and coming in and hitting close to .280 [.273]. For most of the season, he was over .300. We didn’t look at last year as a tough season at all. He did not hit with the power that some expected he would, but we feel that’s in the making; after adjusting to the league, he’s going to be able to show his skill to hit the ball out of the park. In his first year, we weren’t disappointed at all in how he performed and played, considering the circumstances in which he came in.

Tomas certainly deserves some slack, and it didn't help that he was jerked around, assigned to the minors than pulled back up after barely a handful of games and stuffed into a position for which he was painfully ill-suited. But that was then, and this is now. Yasmany in 2016 will be the highest-paid position player on the roster, and he needs to start producing like that. The team is clearly in "win now" mode, and as a result, can ill-afford to carry passengers for the sake of their development. Just as with Rubby De La Rosa, I see potential in Tomas; but, just as with De La Rosa, there should be a short leash. The team has other options, in Socrates Brito, Peter O'Brien and Evan Marzilli.

Our focus right now is just to get to the playoffs, and if we get to the playoffs, anything can happen. I don’t think we would look at any particular result as a failure. We’re not worried about coming up short in this game, because it’s not an easy game to play. Other teams are competing just as we are to try to win. And the great thing about baseball is that on a given day, anybody can win.

I think the strong top three of our rotation, discussed above, actually makes this team one with a good build for the post-season, because the off-days built in to the schedule make the back two spots less vital. As Stewart notes, anything can happen - just ask the 2001 Mariners, who won 116 games, but didn't even reach the World Series (which may have been a very good thing for us!). It's getting past the Giants and the Dodgers to those playoffs that is going to be the tough part to me: beyond that, let the cards fall where they may. That said, given our last post-season series win was back in 2007, I'm fairly sure Ken Kendrick is looking for a better return on investment!

Don't forget to read the full interview at MLBTR.