With August on its way out, the baseball season has entered a period of introspection for those outside of the playoff picture. Some are fun and scrappy enough to serve as spoilers, but others are so far away from relevance that they are considering clearing house.
The Diamondbacks are one of these teams, with hints of a massive front office change starting to surface. It's not hard to see why. Last week, Keith Law penned a brutal, but fair, piece explaining in great detail how chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and GM Dave Stewart had not just failed, but done so in an embarrassing and potentially corrupt manner. In our own Front Office Survey here at MLB Daily Dish, the Diamondbacks' front office team finished dead last last week as well. Despite this, a seemingly deluded Dave Stewart told Jon Heyman, "I think I've done a pretty good job."
Today, in a less than politely written column, Bob Nightengale outlined how Stewart, La Russ, and assistant GM Jon Watson may all be in danger after only two years at the helm.
Now, with an Aug. 31 deadline looming to exercise the options on Stewart and Watson, with La Russa’s contract expiring after the season, the Diamondbacks are considering firing the trio, according to a high-ranking executive with direct knowledge of their plans.
The Diamondbacks, who spend more energy worrying about their image than perhaps any team, are now on the verge of becoming the game’s laughingstock.
The wonky end of burning it all down is that La Russa and his squad did try to make a few moves that the team stopped from happening (barring of course the $206.5 million deal to which they signed Zach Greinke). Promotions, management decisions, and a potential trade of Shelby Miller to the Marlins were at different times all halted by the organization for fear of how it would make the franchise look. Whether those moves would have been the right thing to do or not, it is counter-productive for a team to blame the front office for doing (or not doing) the right thing when they seem so willing to stand in their way.
As Heyman points out, not all of the trades Stewart has pushed through have been horrible - though many have caused some head-scratching. It was the current administration that acquired shortstop Jean Segura from Milwaukee (The team’s current BA leader at .318 with an. 838 OPS), a move that had a Sports Illustrated column question Stewart's motivation--a desire for offense--when, in their words, Segura was "an awful hitter."
On Stewart's watch, Arizona also brought in a couple of starters in Rubby De La Rosa (Currently on the 60-day DL, but only gave up more than two runs in three out of eleven starts this season) and Robbie Ray (who has a 3.16 ERA in seven second half starts). Stewart seemed especially proud of De La Rosa being a "power arm" and Ray, who has shown improvement since being acquired in December 2014, was hardly considered a slam dunk at the time of the deal. There have been prospects brought in to restock the farm as well, but the dealing of No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson in the aforementioned Shelby Miller
massacre deal with Atlanta tends to stand out, especially now that the Braves promoted Swanson to the majors a few days ago.
Over 20 games under .500, it makes sense for Arizona to be questioning just about anything, especially after appearing to take some steps forward in 2015. The mistakes have been egregious and widely-broadcast, but the sample size is small. Regardless of who gets blamed for this mess--Law said that all three executives are "unqualified"--it's clear that somewhere in the flow of their franchise, the Snakes have been tied in a knot.