Fresh off a very disappointing 2016 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks have fired general manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale, the club announced Monday afternoon.
Hopes were high for Arizona entering the spring of 2016. They were coming off a 79-83 season in 2015 and added ace pitcher Zack Greinke via free agency in addition to trading for 2015 All-Star pitcher Shelby Miller.
Instead, the second year with both Stewart and Hale couldn’t have been more of a disaster.
La Russa paused when asked what he thought of the industry reaction. He said he understands the attention the trade received, particularly since the club had given up another first-round pick, pitcher Touki Toussaint, earlier in the year. But he questions the perception that everyone in baseball disliked it for the Diamondbacks.
“How many front offices, if you polled the other 29, how many would have questioned it or said it was a bad deal?” La Russa asked. “At the same time that we were hearing the criticisms, I was also hearing from people that I knew personally saying, ‘Hey, man, we know where you were coming from. We were interested in Shelby, as well.’
“I would always like to know who criticizes it. There are some people that I have a ton of respect for and there are others I don’t have the same level of respect. If it’s somebody I have big levels of respect, then I would be bothered. If it’s not, then I’m not.”
No mistake has loomed larger than the constant stream of errors around Cuban right-handed pitcher Yoan Lopez. The brand-new front office reached to sign him for $8 million after the 2013 season, even though it appeared that he was priced by other teams at about one-tenth that number. The Diamondbacks didn’t understand the international bonus pool rules, and thus were unaware they would have to pay an $8 million penalty on top of Lopez’s bonus AND would be prohibited from signing any July 2 free agents for the next two signing periods until after Lopez’s deal was official….
The Lopez disaster had a ripple effect a few months later, when the team packaged 2014 first-round pick Touki Toussaint, a very high-upside but raw teenage pitching prospect, with the injured Bronson Arroyo in a “Weekend at Bernie’s” pairing that allowed Arizona to shed much of Arroyo’s dead money, but at the cost of a significant prospect.
Stewart’s unfamiliarity with the rules hasn’t just applied to the international pools. According to multiple sources, in early 2015 he tried to make a trade with another team that would have violated MLB rules, and the GM of the other team had to explain to him that such a move was not allowed.
The trade of Brad Ziegler incited some unexpected controversy when unnamed executives complained to a couple reporters that their teams offered a better package (or packages) for the reliever. And one exec even told Peter Gammons that he suspected that Tony La Russa only did that allegedly bad deal with the Boston Red Sox’s Dave Dombrowski because those two worked together with the White Sox three decades ago.
Seems like an unlikely reason to make a deal, but that’s what they allegedly said.