Big Diamondbacks news came out of Phoenix yesterday as Nick Ahmed and the Diamondbacks came to an agreement on a 4-year/$32.5 million extension for the slick fielding shortstop, keeping Ahmed in Sedona Red through the 2023 season. After the news broke, the team held a presser in which both Mike Hazen and Nick Ahmed discussed the extension and also baseball in general. Up first, was Mike Hazen.
On when and how the extension came about:
The team had internal discussions about the possibility going back a ways. However, the work in earnest on getting an extension done started roughly ten days ago. With Ahmed’s arbitration hearing set for Wednesday, this was the time to get things done.
From a practical standpoint, this extension protects the team from having to toy with moving Ketel Marte back to shortstop. Marte has moved off of short and after two seasons, it would not be fair, or in anyone’s best interests to try and slide him back into the position had Ahmed left.
This extension leaves Archie Bradley as the only player set to go to an arbitration hearing. Hazen had no comment to give on how things with Bradley were playing out.
On Nick Ahmed, the player:
When asked about Ahmed as a player and why this extension at this time, Hazen was lavish with praise for Nick Ahmed, praising him as one of the hardest workers on the team. He also talked about Ahmed’s clubhouse leadership. “He’s the best defensive shortstop in baseball. You guys have all gotten a chance to watch day in and day out. We just felt like what he does for our team, having him in our clubhouse for four years, having his leadership, having him sort of anchor that infield that we can build around and position around from there, those were all important factors to us.”
As for expectations moving forward, the team will continue to work with Ahmed on his hitting. Ahmed has been very receptive to coaching and it has shown with his improved success from one season to the next. While Nick has some things he is set about, things that he feels works for him, he has found how to work with the coaches to get the most out of his game and there is hope for continued success and improvement moving forward.
On creating a winning culture:
Roster continuity is important. Its difficult to entice winning free agents to sign with the team if the team cannot even keep the winning players it already has. Roster turnover makes it harder to build a winning product. Then there is also the team’s responsibility to the players. “It’s good for the players, ...many have merely stated that they want to have opportunities to win. And I think that becomes our responsibility to provide those opportunities. And part of (that is) being able to look around, I think, and feeling like we’re going to try to do everything we can every year to make the playoffs, I think we have to back that up a little bit in terms of saying and thinking that there’s going to be continuity on our roster.”
On Chasing the Dodgers and Los Angeles being the prohibitive NL favorite:
The Dodgers deserve every bit of praise being heaped on them. The Dodgers’ performance over the last five years has proven that they are the team to beat. This winter is no different. The Dodgers have again found a way to improve on an already impressive team. It’s up to the Diamondbacks to go out there and to win the games to dethrone them. That’s one of the reasons for trying to run out a competitive team every season. Trying to line up one competitive window opening with another one closing doesn’t work. “We don’t do these things to wait around and see if our competition might trip up. That’s not how I look at doing this job. This is about us continuously making ourselves as strong and as good a team as possible, year in and year out.”
Up next was Nick Ahmed.
On making the decision to forego free agency and sign an extension:
While it was a difficult decision, both Ahmed and his family really like it in Arizona. Ahmed likes what he has achieved here in Arizona and didn’t really want to play anywhere else. While reaching free agency is an important milestone, so is finding the right fit between player and team. Both sides were able to come together on what they consider to be fair value moving forward, that trumped testing the free agent market.
On staying in Arizona:
Ahmed truly likes playing in Arizona. It helps that his family is very comfortable here in Phoenix and enjoys living here. The community is kind and supportive. There are plenty of things for the family to do both during the season and in the offseason. The culture is nice. There are plenty of wonderful places to eat as well. Ahmed’s family being happy where they already are played a large role in his choice to stay through signing an extension.
On the timing of the extension:
Going into the offseason, Ahmed expected to find himself testing free agency. Free agency is something that players work hard to achieve and it is the best opportunity for a player to finally reap the rewards of years of hard work and dedication. Ahmed’s opportunity to take his shot at free agency was just on the horizon and looked to coincide with a large turnover of Arizona’s roster. But then the team began to make moves, shaping the roster not only for 2020, but for future seasons as well. Arizona’s front office was assembling a competitor and also establishing a roster designed for sustained success. “I don’t know if I would have been able to be comfortable making a decision knowing the state of the team at the beginning of the offseason. Just seeing what Mike Hazen and company have done to help improve our roster and improve our chances, not only this year but for multiple years to come, is very attractive.”
The team stepping up by signing Madison Bumgarner and trading for Starling Marte, along with investing money in the roster for this season and for the future, combined with his family’s love of staying Arizona made the decision to extend now, one that made too much sense to pass up.
It seems pretty clear that this was a match developed from mutual comfort. Mike Hazen clearly believes that the team is clearly better off trying to attract good players to come and play in Arizona by first making sure to keep the good players the team already has. Sustained success is the name of the game and finding players that buy into that is important. While the team is indeed getting older, the pipeline is filled with young talent that will help to reset the aging curve as the next wave of impact players arrives. It seems fair to expect that those that arrive and play up to their potential will be targeted by Mike Hazen for their own extensions, much like Ahmed and Peralta were this winter.
I don’t think it can be overstated how important the moves made to bolster the roster this winter were to helping shape Nick Ahmed’s decision to sign an extension rather than test the best shortstop free agent market in history; joining Andrelton Simmons (coming off a hefty extension of his own), Didi Gregorius, and Marcus Semien. By stepping up and taking responsibility for putting together a competitive team, Hazen was able to convince a key member of the franchise to throw in with Arizona, rather than chasing a “better opportunity” elsewhere. We are now seeing what it looks like when Arizona is able to sell itself as one of those better opportunities, the Dodgers’ last seven NL West titles notwithstanding.
Here’s to four more years of Nick Ahmed, during which he supplants Stephen Drew and cements himself as the best shortstop this team has ever had.