Between May and October 2014, the Arizona Diamondbacks hired Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa as Chief Baseball Officer, former pitcher and player agent Dave Stewart as General Manager and former major league infielder and Athletics’ bench coach Chip Hale as manager. The team revamped its front office with good baseball minds, and the baseball world expected great things.
The team’s first significant move after the hirings was a three-team trade that sent Didi Gregorius, a shortstop who is curently playing very well, to the Yankees and sent pitcher Robbie Ray and infield prospect Domingo Leyba to the Diamondbacks. They added Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas on a major league contract as well. The team finished 79-83, 15 wins above their 2014 total. The team seemed poised to jump into a strong position in the National League West, provided that they made the offseason moves to strengthen their mediocre starting pitching.
La Russa and Stewart delivered, signing Dodgers ace and superstar pitcher Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206 million dollar contract, and acquiring rising star Shelby Miller in exchange for outfielder Ender Inciarte and a prospect package headlined by their 2015 first overall pick, Dansby Swanson. At 31 years old, Greinke was fresh off of a historically strong season that saw him post a stunning 1.66 ERA and 200 strikeouts. Miller had posted a 3.02 ERA with 171 strikeouts, as a young and controllable arm. The Diamondbacks surrendered a significant amount of their prospect capital that had been accumulated over the past few years. The deal was widely criticized, but pundits praised that ownership had approved such significant moves.
The 2015 season had seen ownership force the front office to send pitcher Bronson Arroyo to the Braves with another former first rounder and top prospect Touki Toussiant to cut salary (this came six months after signing Yoan Lopez, an inferior pitching prospect for $16 million and taking on international signing restrictions to make the deal). The move to sign Greinke signified a change in the commitment level of the Diamondbacks ownership, and the Miller move caused pressure to win now. An additional offseason move brought young shortstop Jean Segura from the Brewers sending out infield prospect Isan Diaz.
The team has regressed to levels similar to their 2014 season, which prompted the front officshake-up in the first place. Shelby Miller tanked, posting a horrifyingly bad 7.14 ERA in 14 starts and was demoted to AAA midway through the season. Meanwhile, Swanson was promoted recently to the majors and fellow prospect Aaron Blair has spent time in the major leagues as well. Blair has struggled, albeit at a level that isn’t much worse than Miller’s 2016 season. This is considered one of the worst trades in recent baseball history. Jean Segura broke out to become one of the top shortstops in baseball, but it was not enough to salvage a season that also saw meltdowns and inconsistencies from their expensive ace, Zack Greinke. Yasmany Tomas has turned out to be a strong bat, turning it around during the 2016 season, but has not shown enough defensive ability to survive in the National League. Essentially the franchise has seen crippling interferences from ownership (pushing for trade of Bronson Arroyo) and botched trades, like the Shelby Miller deal by a front office that was decorated but not experienced within their specific roles.
It was rumored that the team turned down a trade of Shelby Miller to the Marlins in exchange for three young pitchers due to ownership involvement, in an attempt to save face. Ownership also reportedly has faith in manager Chip Hale and is unlikely to dismiss him before the season is over. The Diamondbacks can improve their position and become a contender, but ownership needs to clear out their front office and provide a strong commitment to winning over all else.