ESPN’s Keith Law: Diamondbacks’ ‘front office is a laughingstock’

Aug 18, 2016, 3:12 PM | Updated: Aug 19, 2016, 11:23 am
Arizona Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart and chief baseball officer Tony La Russa are on the hot seat....
Arizona Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart and chief baseball officer Tony La Russa are on the hot seat.
LISTEN: Keith Law, ESPN senior baseball writer

The Diamondbacks’ record, salary dumps that have cost them prospects and talent-bleeding trade packages to acquire supposed stars have put their front office on the hot seat.

ESPN’s Keith Law compiled an evaluation on the D-backs’ woes this season in a column calling for the team’s “Reign Of Error,’ led by chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and GM Dave Stewart, to come to an end.

The La Russa/Stewart Reign of Error has been as mistake-filled as any front office regime in the last five years, with most of their gaffes becoming public embarrassments to the organization, contributing to the perception around the sport that Arizona’s front office is a laughingstock, falling well behind the rest of the industry in its processes and capabilities.

But beyond poor talent evaluation and questionable trades — which in part have been covered here and here — some of the more well-reported examples of why the team may be ready to relieve its front office leaders were laid out by the MLB analyst.

The basics of those issues is this: La Russa and Stewart have shown they may not understand fundamental transactional rules, especially when it comes to the international bonus pool and draft.

The Diamondbacks failed to spend up to their full allotment of signing bonuses in (the 2015 MLB Draft), leaving $1.7 million on the table, money they could have spent on players without penalty. That’s equivalent to forgoing an entire first-round pick, all because of poor planning. Most teams will take at least two or three players with high bonus demands later in the draft for just such a scenario — if they have money left over from their pools after they sign their picks in the top 10 rounds, they go spend it on one or more players from later in the draft. The Diamondbacks didn’t do this. They just pocketed the money to the detriment of the farm system.

Law said the most egregious example of the D-backs’ incompetence has come in evaluating and signing pitching prospect Yoan Lopez.

Not only has Lopez twice considered quitting the sport altogether after (in Law’s opinion) being overpaid to join Arizona’s farm system out of Cuba, but the Diamondbacks also wildly mishandled his signing.

Arizona seemingly did not understand — or care about — the rules for signing international players.

The Diamondbacks didn’t understand the international bonus pool rules, and thus were unaware they would have to pay an $8 million penalty on top of Lopez’s bonus AND would be prohibited from signing any July 2 free agents for the next two signing periods until after Lopez’s deal was official.

Arizona’s front office apparently has missed the devil in the details.

According to multiple sources, in early 2015 (La Russa) tried to make a trade with another team that would have violated MLB rules, and the GM of the other team had to explain to him that such a move was not allowed.

La Russa’s contract ends after 2016 while Stewart has an option for 2017 that must be picked up by Aug. 31.

La Russa made a legecy as a manager. Stewart was an agent and in the years of baseball’s analytics movement was never part of a front office, Law points out.

Maybe that doesn’t say anything about their abilities to evaluate prospects. Fairly, since they began running the baseball team in 2014, La Russa and Stewart have gotten value out of trades for players like Rubby De La Rosa and Jean Segura. Of late, it appears they might’ve been right in their evaluation of slugger Yasmany Tomas.

But when it comes to front office management, the lack of a resume does more to explain misunderstanding the intricacies of legal trades and maneuvering the international bonus pool and MLB Draft rules.

Law has a hard time finding reason to trust the duo as managers of an MLB franchise when neither La Russa nor Stewart can repeat the details of their own contracts.

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ESPN’s Keith Law: Diamondbacks’ ‘front office is a laughingstock’