D-backs assistant GM expects bounce-back seasons from Escobar, Marte
There’s no question that the 2020 Arizona Diamondbacks were a disappointment on multiple fronts.
Despite the hype of free agent signing Madison Bumgarner and the return of All-Star Ketel Marte, the D-backs finished dead last in the NL West with a 25-35 record.
“It’s been pretty well documented some of the struggles that we had both offensively and on the pitching staff,” D-backs assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday. “I think when you have 60 games, people put pressure on themselves and I think they’ll be able to pace themselves a little bit differently.”
Sawdaye expects to see a bounce-back season from the Diamondbacks in 2021.
A couple key contributors to that will be third baseman Eduardo Escobar and Marte, the latter of whom is in conversations with the team about where he will be used defensively this year.
“When we talk about bounce-backs, it’s probably just getting back to being themselves, and I think one of the guys for me that’s really important to our team is Eduardo Escobar,” Sawdaye said. “I think Eduardo’s energy, the way he plays — I think both offensively and defensively he just wasn’t there last year and I think he’d admit that it just wasn’t the same year.
“I think Eduardo missed probably a couple home runs by inches early in the season. I’m not sure if all of a sudden that starts to kind of weigh on you, but I just think having him back, he brings a lot to our team and I’m excited to see it and he looks unbelievable right now. Body looks great and a lot of energy, so we’re excited about him.”
When it comes to Marte, the All-Star has said he’d prefer to stick to one position so that he can achieve a personal goal of winning a Gold Glove. From a voter’s perspective, the Dominican would’ve been classified as an outfielder in 2019 but an infielder in 2020. The irony behind that is Marte was an NL All-Star selection as a second baseman in 2019.
But it’s because of his versatility defensively that the D-backs find themselves in this situation, which manager Torey Lovullo says he will always favor whichever defensive matchup gives the team the best chance to win.
“He had a great season in 2019 and everybody was really concerned about moving him to center field,” Sawdaye said. “He told us, ‘Tell me where you want me to play and I’m ready for it.’ And he’s never once expressed any frustration about being moved around.”
The D-backs assistant GM pointed to the likes of Dodgers’ slugger Cody Bellinger, who has been deployed at first base and in the outfield under manager Dave Roberts.
“He’s open-minded to it,” Sawdaye explained of Marte. “Again, one of our big things is to make sure Ketel is comfortable with a lot of what we talk about and that’s before we thrust something on him — we have conversations with him. He’s always been great from the beginning and I think he likes the fact that we can count on him in different positions.”
Looking across the division, the Dodgers won the 2020 World Series and hit free agency aggressively with the signing of Trevor Bauer. They and the San Diego Padres made huge splashes this offseason to keep themselves atop the MLB conversation of the most talented rosters.
But Sawdaye isn’t in the business of keeping up with Joneses — at least not in the offseason. Instead, the assistant GM would rather wait to see where the team is and what it needs during the season. In recent years, the Diamondbacks have had no fear of making moves at the trade deadline.
“I think it’s well documented that we’re in the NL West with two powerhouses,” Sawdaye said. “When we walked into 2017, everybody basically counted us out early on and we were able to stay in the race and then went on and got what we needed at the deadline, and I think that helped thrust us over the edge and got us to the playoffs. … I think 2020 was a bit of an aberration.
“I think we have an opportunity to bounce back. Am I saying we’re going to unseat the Dodgers and Padres on Day 1? No, but it’s 162 games, it’s a long season and a lot can happen. Going out to get that and winning the offseason isn’t necessarily our goal. I think it’s just playing, playing to win every day in 162 games, putting ourselves in a position to go get it — hopefully we are going to be able to go get that in the middle of the year.”