“We’ve always liked his ability to hit with power,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said of O’Brien. “He’s got a couple of options remaining as well. So it fits in line with what we’re trying to do going forward.”
The options mean O’Brien can be stashed in the minor leagues for the next two seasons. A former catcher who has transitioned to the outfield, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound slugger lacks a natural defensive position. But the Royals also view him as a potential flier in a possible DH rotation in 2017.
“He gives up depth,” Moore said. “And we’re trying to balance the importance of winning in 2017 and, obviously, adding as much depth as we can — not only for now, but in the future.
“He’s a young position player; there’s not a lot of supply right now. So we’re trying to acquire as much quality offensive talent as we can. And he’s a player that we’ve had our eye on for a while.”
The Arizona Diamondbacks sued Maricopa County on Tuesday, seeking to break the team’s lease at Chase Field so that it can seek financiers to build a new stadium or renovate the 19-year-old ballpark.
The Diamondbacks’ lease with the county, which owns the stadium, prevents the team from talking with outside groups until 2024, and requires the team to play in its current home until 2028.
The Maricopa County Superior Court lawsuit is the latest twist in a long-running conflict over which party is responsible for as much as $187 million in repairs and upgrades to Chase Field. The team threatened to sue last year after negotiations with the county broke down.
The county argues that a portion of the upgrades are cosmetic and the team’s financial responsibility, and that the county will have enough money over the long term to meet its share of the obligations. The Diamondbacks counter that the county-run stadium district has not set aside enough money for needed upgrades and is risking safety.
“We had plenty of opportunities to make changes,” Hazen said. “But ultimately we didn’t feel like any of those were the right thing to do for us. Some of those situations may be in the future, but right now nothing really made sense on the larger trade front. I’m not anticipating any of that changing, but you never know. Again, we feel good about where we’re at.”
As it stands, the Diamondbacks have impressive starting pitching depth, including several starters with upside – or, at least, the ability to pitch far better than they did this year. Led by Zack Greinke, the rotation also includes Ray, Corbin, Miller and Walker, with Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, Zack Godley and prospects Matt Koch and Anthony Banda behind them.
“Even having six starters I think is an advantage going into a season,” Hazen said. “That’ll be on us to figure out how to make it work. When you do have that perceived one-plus in your rotation, it’s natural to get asked quite a bit. I don’t necessarily think at this one position that’s considered excess, given how pitching staffs can be put together and utilized.”
“His defense has always been his calling card,” one major-league scout said. “His hands are excellent. His arm strength and accuracy are above average. He blocks pitches in the dirt well. He handles pitching staffs well and fulfills the pitching coach’s game plans ideally.”
The numbers back that up. Over the past nine seasons, Mathis ranks fifth among catchers in defensive runs saved. And on a per-inning basis, he rates batter than the leader—Yadier Molina.
Which direction will Arizona change to when this plan doesn’t produce a World Series championship within two years? Fortune tellers?
“(Analytics) certainly has been an area of focus for us since coming over here; I know it’s been an area of focus for (owner) Ken (Kendrick) and (CEO) Derrick (Hall) when I was hired,” Hazen said. “We want to look to strategically build this department.
“He has a phenomenal reputation, very smart, impressed throughout the interview process. He’s the right guy to help really build our infrastructure in these areas. The game is changing in so many different ways, there are so many new areas of information to explore, and he’s going to help us do that.”
Team president Stan Kasten, however, said that the Dodgers are not facing any payroll restrictions or any pressure from baseball.
“There is no mandate. There is no problem with our debt,” Kasten said. “We are continuing to operate on the same program we have since the day we walked in here in 2012. That’s building through our minor-league system while continuing to aggressively put the best team on the field that we can each year.”
Baseball issued a statement:
“The Commissioner’s Office works with all clubs to monitor compliance with the Debt Service Rule. Non-compliant clubs are asked to submit a plan demonstrating a path to compliance. Clubs are evaluated on an ongoing basis relative to that plan.
“The rule is intended to ensure the financial health of clubs relative to their ability to service their indebtedness, not to influence decisions on the player market. There are various ways to achieve compliance and there is no mandate to cut payroll.”
At last, there’s this part: Segura has two more years of team control. Haniger has the full six. And what sort of impact might be expected in 2017? We know that Segura is likely to play every day. With Haniger, that hasn’t really been decided. But to even things out, let’s consider the Steamer600 projection, which projects plays out over 600 plate appearances. Segura’s projection shows a 94 wRC+, with a 2.1 WAR. And Haniger? We see a 98 wRC+, and a 2.0 WAR. There’s plenty you could conceivably argue, but you could argue in both directions. You might really believe in Segura’s breakout, but it doesn’t seem fair to believe only in his. The same would go for just Haniger. So much of the optimism comes out of what happened in 2016, and both players had wonderful seasons.
Players who were Diamondbacks may be unfair when they tell people that the D’Backs are the team that hates players, but it’s the reputation. Think about it, then just let the front office you hired run the baseball end, while you work on the stadium and television and marketing deals. I mentioned to one of the most influential Red Sox officials that several Cubs front office members had told me they think Theo Epstein could be the CEO of almost any Fortune 500 company, and he shot back, “so could Mike Hazen. He’s the closest to Theo of anyone who’s come through here.”
Kendrick and Hall have it right. Getting to the point where you consistently compete with the Giants and Dodgers—and now that they’re over the 24 hour hype makeover, the Padres—you have to allow the process they are putting in place to produce.
Mike Hazen made his first trade as D-backs GM on Wednesday night, acquiring right-hander Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte from the Mariners in exchange for infielder Jean Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger and left-handed reliever Zac Curtis.
Speaking as someone who spent a couple years of his life working on a WAR system before WAR was cool, too many people put too much credence in WAR. Too many don’t put enough. It’s something nice to look at and works well for a lot of different questions. Despite what some think, even with the advances in technology, it will always be just a reflection of reality. And that’s OK.
“One might assume.” One might assume that, if Martin Perez’s WARs are 1.8, 1.8 and 1.9 (as they were in 2016), that Martin Perez is a 1.8- or 1.9-win pitcher. But we’ve already seen, with Ray, that one model of WAR can be wildly misleading. We’ve seen, in fact, that two can be. It’s not much of a leap to think even three could be, all at once, and in all the same ways, especially for unique players such as Zach Britton or Yadier Molina or David Ross or for players on the extremes.
The usually reliable John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports is reporting that the team will name Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo as the new manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. While there has not yet been an official announcement, the choice has since been confirmed by others, including Nick Piecoro and Jon Heyman, so it appears to be close to a done deal. Lovullo will become the 10th manager in team history.
This is no great shock: as soon as Red Sox GM Mike Hazen was appointed to the Diamondbacks’ general manager position, speculation immediately began that Lovullo would become Chip Hale’s replacement. The two men have a long relationship, going back even before Boston, to their time in the Cleveland Indians organization. Hazen also brought over Amiel Sawdaye to act as his assistant GM.
The team interviewed a number of other candidates for the position, and reports suggest the decision came down to a choice between Lovullo and Reno Aces’ manager Phil Nevin.
The exodus of talent leaving the Red Sox over the last year does not fill me with hope.
The Diamondbacks’ new-look front office continued to take shape Monday with the addition of Red Sox executive Amiel Sawdaye, who will become the club’s senior vice president and assistant general manager, a source said Monday night.
Sawdaye, who has been with the Red Sox since 2002, will be the second in command to new General Manager Mike Hazen. The two overlapped in Boston for 11 years.
Sawdaye ran the amateur draft for the Red Sox from 2010 to 2014, during which time the club selected Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Blake Swihart and Matt Barnes, among others. He spent the past two years as vice president of amateur and international scouting.
He gets to keep his red stapler and can listen to the radio at a reasonable volume.
Former Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa has decided to remain with the franchise in an advisory role under new executive vice president and general manager Mike Hazen. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reported the news Sunday as the team announced the hiring of Hazen, the former Red Sox general manager.
The decision follows the D-backs’ firing of general manager Dave Stewart and manager Chip Hale on Oct. 3. Hired by La Russa, the duo spent two seasons on the job and led Arizona to a 148-176 record.
Before the firings, La Russa met with Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick and discussed taking on a new, non-decision-making role. Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s John Gambadoro reported Oct. 3 that the team offered to retain La Russa in such an advisory role.
The former leader of the D-backs’ front office leader will report to Hazen and will “have a voice in the room, weigh in with ideas and opinions,” but not be the ultimate decision-maker, according to Gambadoro.
The Diamondbacks named Mike Hazen their general manager on Sunday, hiring him away from the Boston Red Sox, where he was serving as second-in-command to Dave Dombrowski.
Hazen, 40, spent the previous 11 seasons working for the Red Sox in a variety of roles, beginning as director of player development in 2006.
“Mike’s background is the perfect balance of scouting, player development and analytics, which will all play an important role going forward,” Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall said in a statement. “He’s a natural leader, who we feel fortunate to have been able to hire, and we welcome him and his family to Arizona.”
Sources: #DBacks also interviewed J.J. Piccolo, Kim Ng, Peter Woodfork and internal candidates Mike Bell and Bryan Minniti.
But while the ownership involvement and the obvious volatility (they’re about to hire their seventh GM in 13 years) are potential issues, the Arizona GM job is still seen as desirable by many. To reports about candidates being turned off by the seeming instability, one interested party who hasn’t been mentioned yet opined, “That’s BS. There are only 30 of these jobs.”
The Diamondbacks appear to have compiled at least a preliminary list of potential general manager candidates to take over for the departing Dave Stewart, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). In addition to a quartet of men with ties to the organization, MLB senior VP Kim Ng is under consideration, per the report.
Ng has long been discussed as a front office target for organizations, and has interviewed for top baseball ops positions on several occasions. A former assistant GM with the Dodgers, Ng would become the game’s first-ever general manager if she is hired for this or another open job.
Additionally, Arizona is looking at current AGM Bryan Minniti and farm director Mike Bell — as has previously been reported. Minniti just completed his second season in that role for the D-Backs after previously serving in a similar capacity with the Nationals. Bell has held his post with Arizona for six seasons.
Former D-Backs’ scouting guru and current Brewers scouting director Ray Montgomery is also under consideration, as is former Arizona AGM Peter Woodfork, who currently works with Ng in the league office.
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.
They can’t fire another leadership team again? Can they?
Arizona Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa is expected to meet Monday with team owner Ken Kendrick, sources say, with a decision expected soon regarding the fates of La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart.
The decisions may even come at the high-powered pow-wow. If not, then they should come soon after.
The Diamondbacks informed De Jon Watson, the club’s senior vice president of baseball operations, that he will not have his contract option picked up for 2017, the first of what could be several dominos to fall in leadership positions within the organization.
Though Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa made the announcement Sunday evening, he stressed that the Watson dismissal in no way clarified La Russa’s own situation for next season, nor that of General Manager Dave Stewart.
Both La Russa and Stewart’s jobs are being “evaluated” by ownership and CEO Derrick Hall as the Diamondbacks are nearing the end of one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. Even after beating the Dodgers 10-9 in 12 innings on Sunday afternoon, the Diamondbacks are on pace for 94 losses in a year in which they expected to contend for a division title.