When you go out and spend $206.5 million on one player in the offseason, people tend to notice you.
That’s what the Arizona Diamondbacks did last December, shocking the rest of Major League Baseball by signing free agent pitcher Zack Greinke to a massive deal that gives him the highest per-season average salary in baseball history.
With Greinke in the fold, the expectations for the D-backs were raised substantially for 2016.
“That’s good and bad, right,” D-backs CEO and president Derrick Hall told Doug and Wolf Tuesday morning as part of Newsmakers Week on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “You want the expectations to be high, yet you know the way we like to play. We’ve said it year after year, we like to fly underneath the radar and just sneak up on people. This is one of those years where some are going to pick us to win — most are not.
“I like that. They’re focused on the Giants and Dodgers, and they should be. The Dodgers have won this division the last couple of years. The Giants win the World Series, it seems, every other year. We’re going to have to prove ourselves last year.”
Looking internally, Hall says he likes what the front office did this offseason.
“You look at our team last year, and the big holes we had to fill were starting pitching and maybe one more reliever, and we’ve addressed those issues,” Hall said.
In addition to the Greinke signing, the D-backs traded for right-hander Shelby Miller in a deal with the Atlanta Braves that cost them outfielder Ender Inciarte and top prospects Aaron Blair and Dansby Swanson. Earlier this month, they signed veteran reliever Tyler Clippard to bolster their bullpen.
Those moves haven’t been universally regarded as good ones by those around MLB and Hall is fine with that.
“Now people are trying to find problems with our team, or other holes and they’re saying ‘well, maybe their bench doesn’t have that much depth’ or ‘maybe they still need some relievers,’ that’s great. Keep focusing on other teams and think that we have weaknesses.”
Of course, the D-backs heap expectations on themselves for the upcoming season, now that they’ve added Greinke, Miller and Clippard. But is it a case of “playoffs or bust?”
“We’re certainly shooting for it,” Hall said. “We’d like to make the playoffs this year, we’d like to win the division. I think it’s going to be tough to win this division this year. You hope that one or the other Wild Cards or both Wild Cards come out of the division, but when you’re going head-to-head, it’s difficult to come out of there with two or three teams that have over 90 wins.”
The road will be tough, undoubtedly. But just because the Diamondbacks look like they’re in win-now mode doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the case, according to Hall.
“We’d like to get to the playoffs,” he said. “But it’s not just about this year. You look at it, and it’s a five, six, seven-year deal. People look at some of these trades that we’ve made — we’ve brought in an equal number of players that we’ve sent out in all these deals.
“And we have reduced payroll in other areas so we could create flexibility and spend it elsewhere. Yet, the average age of the guys we’ve sent out in every one of these deals is 28. The average age of the guys coming in — same number, equal number (of players) — is 22. So we’re also building toward the future.”