The last-place D-backs haven’t had the season they hoped for, and the man who helped construct the roster addressed the team’s present and future.
Dave Stewart, the general manager of the Diamondbacks with 16 years of MLB playing experience, spoke with Doug & Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Tuesday, following Monday’s trade deadline on which the D-backs didn’t make any deals.
“I didn’t – quite frankly – think we were going to make a lot of deals,” said Stewart. “We don’t have, in my opinion, a lot of players that we would like to move. We got to the deadline looking at the possibility of moving (Tyler) Clippard, moving (Daniel) Hudson, and if there was something else that made sense, we’d listen.”
The D-backs did trade Clippard the day before the deadline, sending him to the Yankees for one prospect, but they held on to Hudson. Some expected Arizona’s top brass to do more on Monday, considering the team is in last place in the NL West and 20 games under .500.
But Stewart said his core group of players this year will remain in place for at least the start of next season. So can the D-backs’ woes be blamed on a bad roster, or a lack of leadership?
“I think that there’s growth in our clubhouse,” Stewart said when asked whether he had sufficient leadership among his players. “We don’t quite have it yet, at that level – or for that matter, at any level to this point. It’s because the kids are young, they are learning how to be major league players, and the core of guys that are capable taking on that leadership role, they are doing it. From day one, I see improvement in that area to this point.”
Stewart was also queried on whether his team took the poor performances personally.
“I think they do take it personally,” he said. “I would probably like to see them take it a little more personal. But I think it’s really really difficult for each one of those guys in the clubhouse to come to the ballpark with expectations to win a baseball game, and for the results to end up as they have and not take this in a personal manner.”
Effort is seen ‘in phases’
Whether players take the losses personally or not, the D-backs GM said he notices a “let down” among players when one person’s mistake spoils a teammate’s good performance. He did, however, note that there was effort from his players.
“I think you see [effort] in phases. I can sympathize with them because I’ve been in their position, both offensively and defensively,” Stewart said. “But that’s how the sport is. I think that these guys go out optimistically expecting to win baseball games, and then there’s failure in one phase of our game or another, which can cause let down.”
One area of “let down” for both players and fans is the pitching, which has struggled tremendously in 2016. Heading into Tuesday, Arizona’s 5.00 ERA would be the worst mark in franchise history if the season were to end.
Shelby Miller has been a part of that pitching nightmare.
‘We were on the right track’ in trading for Miller
Stewart admitted that he had questioned whether the Miller trade – in which he sent two prospects and a budding outfielder to the Braves – was a mistake. But now, he says he stands behind his evaluation of the former All-Star.
“I think that our evaluation was good of this guy, he’s had a great track record, there’s no indication or sign that he pitched or performed this way, how did this happen,” Stewart said. “That’s just part of being conscientious of your job and wanting to do the job well. We do believe that Shelby Miller is going to be the pitcher that we brought here in the trade, and we’re just waiting for him to show some progression in Reno and we’re going to get him back here, and hopefully in the upcoming years, he’s going to be able to help this team.”
Miller, who holds a 7.14 ERA in 2016, was demoted to Triple-A Reno in July. But on Monday’s trade deadline, teams were interested in the 25-year-old right-hander.
“I was not surprised at all that once we sent him to Triple-A, we were going to get some calls, and we did,” Stewart said. “We got tons of calls. I think we heard from about 15 teams, and that in itself tells us that we were on the right track when we traded for the young man. He’s just gone through some difficulties with mechanics, and probably he’s suffered from a little confidence – his confidence has been hit. Were we close? No, we were not close to sending Shelby Miller anywhere.”
Though Stewart pointed to mechanics and confidence with Miller, Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer Tony LaRussa claimed last month that Miller had a “health” issue and was doing something “ill-advised as far as his diet.”
Chip Hale must prove he can lead the team
As players like Miller underperform, questions have been raised about second-year manager Chip Hale’s ability to lead the team. Stewart was asked whether his team needs to win more games for Hale to keep his job for a third season.
“I think we need to see signs. We need to see signs that he can get these guys on the right track, that these guys are capable of playing for him and doing what it takes to win baseball games under his leadership,” he said. “The key to this whole thing is leadership, how you lead the guys, and making sure the guys believe in you. I think we do need to see some signs of that, and we’re going to be looking closely.”