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Burns: D-backs need to stay relevant

D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall remains bullish on the future of the Arizona Diamondbacks. “Do I think we can contend?” Hall responded “Yeah, I do.”

A wonderful and ambitious thought for certain. One that is roughly similar to the dieter who thinks they’re going to shed 20 pounds in seven days. Or the guy who expects to meet the “one” days after he gets dumped by his long time girlfriend.

This team lost 97 games last year. 189 in the last two years. Contending this year is a nice thought, but……

The truth is that I don’t need the D-backs to be contenders this year. I want it to happen of course and I suppose in this division anything is possible. But I won’t be disappointed if they don’t contend for the division championship.

What I need is for the Diamondbacks to be relevant this year. To go into June 1 with hope intact. To go into August with meaningful games remaining on the schedule. Even that might be too much to ask but for now, that’s where I set the bar.

For that to happen I’ve identified three guys who will play a large role in the turnaround.

Justin Upton is first and foremost. How does he react to a new front office and in particular the surprising trade rumors that surfaced this off-season? Upton has been singled out as the future of the organization for the last several years. Whether they actually intended to trade him or not may not even matter anymore. It always struck me as a move designed to get Upton’s attention. Did it? He’s only a year removed from one of the most tantalizing years a player his age has ever had. Time for Upton to tantalize yet again.

J.J. Putz might have the most important job of anyone on the roster. Fix a bullpen that was historically bad last year. A tall task. Kevin Towers reputation as a bullpen builder is based on his belief that you work backward. Start with the closer and go from there. Nobody needs Putz to be perfect; not even the best closers can make such a claim. But the best ones do have a short memory, something we all need after last year.

Daniel Hudson had an incredible year last year. He was one of the few parts of this team that actually demanded your attention. As bad as the D-backs were last year, that’s hard to do. I look at the Diamondbacks rotation and I see a lot of depth. A lot of guys who look like #3 starters….which has pluses and minuses. But if Hudson can replicate his season from a year ago (7-1, 1.69 era) he will emerge as an ace on a staff that appears to be lacking one at the moment.

If those three players or even two of those three players breakout for the Diamondbacks, they could be a team exciting to watch late into August, perhaps even September. But as we all know, it takes more than three players to rack up close to 100 losses in back-to-back seasons. So they just as easily could be packing it in by mid-June, another lost season in the road back to relevancy.