What was it about Joc that made him somebody you wanted to sign?
One, I’ve always appreciated the energy and competitiveness and the hit ability from across the field. Seems like he’s worn us out. You know, he’s been in the division for so long, we’ve seen him all the time - it’s good to have him on our side. From a roster construction standpoint, I think bringing Lourdes (Gurriel Jr.) back and getting Eugenio (Suarez), filling in a lot of that right-handed, middle part, our lineup was getting very, very right-handed and he does an incredible job of hitting righties. It felt like the division was gonna stack up pretty right-handed dominant. I know there’s still some lefties out there that could change that complexion a little bit. But for the most part, we felt like this was gonna be a good fit in the middle. Keep Corbin (Carroll) and Ketel (Marte) where they need to be; keep Alec (Thomas) and (Geraldo) Perdomo where they need to be. This was just a good fit for us.
Do you feel Joc is is primarily only going to start against righties? Or how do you see the vs. LHP component of the DH spot shaking out?
Yeah, we haven’t really made any final determinations on that stuff yet. I know two of the things that we talked to Joc about was, he wants to prove to us that he can play in the outfield, and face some lefties. We’re gonna see how he does. I mean, this is a competition in every way, shape and form in terms of us seeing where we’re best suited. Torey is gonna deploy the rosters as it needs to be deployed. But I’m interested to see what those competitive thoughts will turn themselves into coming into camp.
I know he’s primarily DH’d in the last little bit. So we’ll see where all that takes us. We obviously have a very competitive roster in terms of what could happen from a playing time standpoint. I think if it didn’t go that way, and we were fitting at bats in for righties, I think depending on who the back-up catcher is, (Gabriel) Moreno could potentially see some time there, (Emmanuel) Rivera, as we’re currently constituted, and then there’s still potential opportunity externally, too.
Just how pleased are you with the job you’ve done here in free agency and how much Better is this roster than last season?
I don’t know how we did, honestly. I mean that’s not for me to assess. That’s for you guys to assess. That’s for seeing how our team comes out and plays to assess. So I don’t really get into that game. I think we’re probably on a similar footing to where we ended the season last year. I think we’re probably stronger in the DH spot from where we were in the entirety of last season. I think in the last month or so, last six weeks of the season and into the playoffs, I think we improved it. But I think for the whole season, I think we’ll be in a better spot in that one position. I think we’re a little bit deeper, I think our younger players are gonna be a little bit older, which is good - hopefully continue to see maturation there. I think the bullpen’s a little deeper than it was starting last year, so we’ll see where that takes us. Obviously, the division has only gotten more difficult, but that was fully to be expected.
Do you think you are done adding from an offensive standpoint or are there still more moves that are possibly out there for you?
We’ll see. Off-season is not over yet. We still think there’s some holes that we need to continue to build out - bench-wise, maybe looking at some of the right-handed options potentially at some point. We talked about spending some attention on the bullpen, building out some depth there. So still working to continue to improve the roster, any way we can. When the offseason is over then then we can sit back and assess that. It’s hard to say that we’re done. We’re not done in the sense that we’ve done a lot of the big stuff, but I still remain hopeful that there’s more ways for us to improve this team.
You mentioned that you had gotten pretty right-handed. Did that make a left-handed DH a priority or did it just kind of work out this way?
I think in the end that became more of our internal communication, as we started to shift our attention away from the pool of guys that we could have gone after, and more into “Okay, if we’re gonna build this roster, if we’re gonna deploy the line-ups, how is that gonna actually look? Where is that gonna come down?” There’s a lot of good players. We just felt like the way Joc handles righties, and how he underperformed his potential last year [gives] the opportunity for a significant bounce back. I think a year from now we could be looking at a completely different narrative around Joc, and that’s what we’re buying into. We believe he’s a great fit for our team and our clubhouse. We feel like he’s going to add that element from that side of the plate, for a lineup that was starting to skew fairly heavily right-handed.
Did you guys conclude that there was a decent amount of bad luck for him? It looked like a lot of the batted-ball stuff was pretty good.
Yeah, a lot of the batted ball stuff is pretty good. His expected numbers are pretty significantly separated from his actuals. Yeah, we think he can really hit. So that’s what we’re buying into
Do you have any other theories as to why there was such a big gap there?
I think sometimes coming out of the Bay Area, that environment can be a challenge. We go and play there and it’s a challenge. I think offensively at times, I think the conditions can be extreme for offensive players, But other than that, we’re just always really appreciated the approach. I think the thing other than his ability to hit, is that he grinds out at-bats. He gets on base and that’s a big feature for what we’ve tried to continue to employ for years, and he fits right into that role.
What do you feel are some of the roster construction ramifications from this? How limited do you feel like he’s going to be defensively and what is this going to require on your bench?
That I don’t know yet. We’ll see what happens through spring training, We have enough young players and enough depth around the diamond, both offensively and defensively, left- and right-handed, that our roster is going to be able to be put together however we need. We’re gonna have a decent amount of flexibility and we’re gonna have a decent amount of depth and so I feel pretty good about that. I’d like to see Joc, like to see Alek step up versus lefties, frankly. That would help us in some ways with the roster construction piece to it. I believe those things can happen. But if they don’t or they don’t come as quick as we need them to, then we’ll have options to counteract that. Like I said, unless all the remaining lefties end up in the National League, the National League is gonna skew fairly right-handed.
Do you guys feel that’s the case for the other two divisions as well?
I shouldn’t have said it that way. I meant more the division, It’s hard for us to pin down exactly how important that could be, with teams that you only see six times a year and you may end up missing two of their starters anyway, with how you play the rest of the league.
What’s it been like to build this roster coming off the World Series, and then the commitment from ownership - they talked about spending more, but to do it is a different thing, right?
Yeah, we’re very appreciative that we’ve had the opportunity to go out and improve our roster. I think when you get those opportunities, I think Ken and Derek have made it fairly clear to us that, when the team was in a spot where it deserved to be reinforced externally, that they were going to do that. And they have, I think, in a significant way. I don’t know what the final number is going to be, but I’m assuming we’re going to carry one of our highest payrolls ever into Opening Day. Like I’ve always said with payroll, I don’t really care what it is or how much it is, it’s nice to be able to add some of these players from outside.
Because we saw it at the deadline, I think it matters in the clubhouse incredibly, that those guys see the commitment that’s being laid out there. I know being down, even in the training room on a daily basis, you can hear how appreciative the guys are. That doesn’t mean you’re going to win any more games. We need to go out and play good baseball. We need to be able to go out there, and get back to right where we started last year, which is really focusing on day one of spring training. That’s going to be the biggest challenge we have coming off last season.
What was the deciding factor? I’m sure you had some other places you could go: what drew you to Arizona.
I think it’s a really great fit for me and my family. They came up with such a historic year. It’s a young group of guys that are hungry, that play the game the right way. The coaching staff seems incredible, made a high standard throughout the whole 162 (games). So I don’t think it’s any fluke what happened. Yeah, I’m just so really excited to be a part, and try to help out in any way that I can with a lot of their young talent.
I want to talk about the history: kind of interesting to battle these guys for years, and now join them, and this young core get over the hump.
I don’t know. I think it’s kind of common, it seems like, for players to stay in the division that they have played in for a while, because you gain a lot of respect for your opponents. You see how good they are, when you play them, what, nineteen times. You get real familiar with the cities. But, yeah, this is a special group of Diamondbacks baseball. They’ve always done little things right, but now they’ve added to these young superstars that are changing the game - stealing bases, hitting home-runs. They’re electric out there, and I want to be a part of it.
Mike Hazen was telling us earlier a couple of things you talked about during the process: showing you could hit lefties and showing you could play in the outfield. How did the opportunity here play into your thinking?
Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of good outfielders that you guys have. But I think one of the main reasons is first base/outfield coach Dave McKay. I’ve got to know him over the years and I’ve heard so many good things. I’ve seen him help a lot of guys steal a good amount of bases, that aren’t necessarily speedsters. I’ve seen them make huge improvements in the outfield, with some guys that weren’t as good, and I’ve seen him really lock in some of the guys that are more skilled out there. So even if I don’t get a lot of opportunities in the game and on the field, I’ll be putting the work in with him and when the opportunities present itself, make the best of them, then go from there.
What was it like to watch their run last year in the World Series? What did you notice?
Some people handle chaos, better than others. And to take down the Dodgers, an incredible team, and the Phillies - I think it’s being able to adjust and adapt to certain situations and changes. When you’re down a little bit, somehow your guys stick together. It’s a core group of guys that really are tight. So there’s no one person that’s leading the way. All 26 guys pulling on the same string with one common goal, and I think that’s a lot more powerful than having a lot of superstars on your team. You can really tell that they have that, and they leave their egos at the door, while having fun doing it. So it looks like they have a lot of fun when they’re on the field, and like I said, I’m excited to be a part of it, try to help in any way.
The D-Backs run was terrific, and the challenge of trying to get back there, it’s not always easy. As a two-time World Series champ, what are some of the things you can bring from that perspective?
Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, everyone says you just want to win the World Series, but there’s a lot of steps that it takes to get there. They also came really close - I mean, they got as close as you could get - and you just want to build on that. Sometimes I think if you win the World Series, then you slump the next year. When you lose, I think it adds to the hunger of wanting it even more. It kind of reminds me of the Royals a few years back: when they lost, then they came back and won the next year. This is a group that is very capable of doing that. I’ve been in a lot of playoff games, and I guess I understand the chaos that goes on and can help anyway I can. But they didn’t really need much help. They were as close as you can get to winning, so it’d be nice to help him them put it over. But we’ve got a lot of work to do.
What do you think about what the Dodgers have done and what other teams are doing to compete there?
It looks like the Dodgers really want to win, they’re doing everything they can to win, and they have a higher payroll than most, to be able to do that. And I respect it. I think it’s good for the sport. But at the same time, I’ve been a part of a lot of those teams. Just because you have the highest payroll, you have the best team on paper, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to win and you’re going to win the World Series. I do think it’s good for the sport, but that’s why you play the games.
Just a one-year deal - is that sort of the way forward for you?
I was really looking for a one-year deal. I’m comfortable with them. I kind of enjoy, I guess, the flexibility I can’t have if I didn’t do that. You only get to play this game for so long, and it would suck to sign up to a long-term deal, in a place that you don’t want to be. You’re giving away years of such a small window, that you’re either frustrated or in a spot that you’re unhappy. I like to choose what spots, where I think it’s the best fit - physically, emotionally, mentally, everything, family, all that - to make the best decision possible, and those variables change year-to-year. There was a couple (of multi-year offers) but my agent and I told him we’d rather not go down that route and we just wanted the one-year deal.
How much did Torey Lovullo play in your decision to come to the valley?
Yeah, I got to do a Zoom with Tori and he seems like an incredible human, a great baseball mind. I like to do a lot of research. Baseball’s a small world, and everybody knows someone. So when I ask around, everyone loves this guy. Every single person would run through a wall for this guy. Sometimes that’s a little tough, especially for a manager, because they’re not necessarily everyone’s best friend, because there’s only eight positions. Sometimes some guys think they should be playing and whatnot, but I’ve heard he handles everything he communicates really well, He wants to win, he’s smart, so I’m really looking forward to playing for him, picking his brain, learning from him.
Your splits against lefties has been very good before last year. Any thought on what might have happened?
I don’t know, I don’t really look at numbers much. I’m just going to get with the hitting coach and figure out the best game-plan, and win that one at-bat. Then move on, get with them again before my next at-bat and figure out what’s best for that at-bat. I don’t get too much into the results of it, knowing that I’ve prepared, I’ve done everything for myself for the best position to succeed. Yeah, results are hard to get, but I just kind of stick to that process of doing everything I can to put myself in the best position. Then move on and continue to do that over 162 games or 500 plate appearances. It’s a pretty big task, but we enjoy doing it. It’s how you stay sane, I think!
How much was Arizona and Phoenix and proximity a factor?
We’re building a home out there, and it should be done kind of soon. But a lot of people say it’s really cool to be able to be at home and stay at home. The weather was kind of a factor, not going to lie, so that’s going to be interesting. 120 degrees summers - haven’t done that!