Despite making fairly significant changes to the roster following their .500 finish in 2012, the Arizona Diamondbacks again finished 81-81 this season.
Franchise star Justin Upton was traded away along with second-half third baseman Chris Johnson, with Martin Prado and Randall Delgado joining the club. Starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy was brought in. Center fielder of the previous six and a half years, Chris Young, was dealt in a three-way trade with the Oakland Athletics and Miami Marlins for utility infielder Cliff Pennington and reliever Heath Bell. And those were just the major moves.
Then, the changes continued during the season. Opening day starter Ian Kennedy was sent to the San Diego Padres at the deadline for left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher and outfielder Jason Kubel went to the Cleveland Indians in August.
But the moves were of no avail — different year, new cast, same result.
The one area that was something of a constant from 2012 to 2013 was the coaching staff. The Diamondbacks only made one change in that department, letting Eric Young go and bringing in Steve Sax as his replacement.
So, after saying he wouldn’t make any “wholesale changes” to the roster prior to 2014, Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said Sunday that he likely would keep the coaching staff mostly intact as well.
“I don’t anticipate any big changes,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t begin to assess the coaches until Tuesday at the earliest.
Manager Kirk Gibson seemed to suggest something slightly different Tuesday while a guest on Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo show.
For one, he confirmed that, along with Towers, he has begun to look at the coaching staff and potential changes therein.
“This week is just a big evaluation process,” he said. “We have had conversations and we’re going to have many more. You don’t want to leave people out there if you’re going to make changes, so we’re going to try and continue to be pretty diligent on that and spend a lot of time on that.
“If someone’s not going to be back, we’ll let them know fairly quickly.”
Along with Sax, the Diamondbacks’ staff includes bench coach Alan Trammell, third base coach Matt Williams, pitching coach Charles Nagy, hitting coach Don Baylor and bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock.
When directly asked if there would be changes to the staff by the show’s hosts, Gibson employed a measured ambivalence.
“It’s possible,” he said. “I can’t really give you a concrete answer. We’ve discussed different scenarios.”
Gibson went on to clarify that he didn’t see any specific areas that needed to be addressed within the group.
“There’s nothing glaringly wrong,” he said, “yet every team makes changes and the coaching staff is no different, so that could be a possibility as well.”
Then, there’s always the possibility of a member of the staff departing. The manager addressed that, too, Tuesday.
“Some guys may want to leave as well, so you have to take that into consideration,” said Gibson.
Williams, for one, has been rumored to be a managerial candidate for offseason openings, just as he was coming into the 2013 season.
Gibson later went on to comment on a pair of other names on his crew. Trammell, who has a long history with Gibson, was one such name.
When asked if he wanted his bench coach back, Gibson didn’t hesitate to respond.
“Of course I do,” he said. “Sure.
“But, again, you have to sit back sometimes and you have to look at what’s best for the team and as you move forward there’s so many things that you have to take into consideration.”
The pair of Diamondbacks coaches spent 12 years as teammates on the Detroit Tigers before coaching for the franchise together for three years, Gibson as Trammell’s bench coach. Gibson then brought Trammell in with the Diamondbacks in 2010, when he took over.
The second specific coaching question Gibson was asked — regarding Nagy — elicited a different response, however.
The manager paused for two seconds before commenting.
“Well, I think we’ve talked about the coaching staff,” he said, reservedly.
“I’m not going to get into anyone’s names specifically. We’ve evaluated them all. We’re going to continue to evaluate them.”
Nagy’s pitchers finished at or below league average in major pitching statistics over the last two seasons, and in 2013 they allowed a league-high 176 home runs to opposing batters.
Whether the answer was indicative of anything or not is yet to be determined, but it does seem changes are due, if not based on the back-to-back mediocrity then, perhaps, based on the gradual change of tone from the weekend to Tuesday.
“In short order,” Gibson concluded, “we’ll have some announcements to make.”