In what is likely a precursor of a larger front office shakeup, the Diamondbacks have parted company with Vice President of Baseball Operations De Jon Watson. Watson was in the second season in his job, after serving for eight years in the Dodgers organization in player development. He was brought in by Tony La Russ and Dave Stewart when they took over in the desert. Watson was responsible for drafting Dansby Swanson, who La Russa and GM Dave Stewart sent to Atlanta in the disastrous Shelby Miller trade.
La Russa stressed that this decision does not affect either his status or that of Stewart, saying that their performance is currently being “evaluated” by CEO Derrick Hall and the D-Backs ownership team. “When we’re 20 games under .500, I felt if you’re looking at the front office, the most responsible person, it would be me….[The] stuff I’ve been taught hasn’t contributed enough. We’ll wait and see how the decision comes. I’m ready to go forward if they’ve seen enough.”
Watson’s contract, like La Russa’s and Stewart’s was scheduled to run out at the end of the season. Each also had an option that was scheduled to be exercised (or not) on August 31. The Diamondbacks decided to hold off on that. Watson, understandably antsy about his employment status in 2017, was released from his contract to give him extra time to latch on elsewhere.
La Russa also laid the groundwork for how the D-Backs front office might work if he and Stewart were kept on, saying, “We’re thinking about if there’s a possibility of consolidating a little bit about responsibilities if we go forward. As we’ve worked through a couple of years, there’s more communication like I’m having with scouting and player development, and Stew is having the same. It’s not that there’s not a role for someone like De Jon, but that’s a possibility that there’s some duplication.”
It’s remarkable, both because it’s barely English, and also because, at a time when most front offices are beefing up, Tony La Russa wants to streamline his. It underlines, yet again, how massively unqualified both La Russa and Stewart were for the jobs they were given, and why the Diamondbacks are a laughingstock in Major League Baseball.
Left unanswered, I suppose, is whether the Diamondbacks don’t actually need as many player development staff because they plan on trading the rest of their prospects away for broken pitchers or for salary relief.