Despite the current season turning disastrous, the future for the Arizona Diamondbacks remains hopeful
During a brief session with the media before Monday night’s game with Washington in Chase Field, Tony La Russa, the Chief Baseball Officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, continually expressed support for his players and their effort. Nothing new here, but concern and worry seemed pervasive.
Speaking at the close of the non-waver trading deadline, La Russa insisted the talent level for this team remains great, and dismissed trade proposals from other teams as unnecessary and superfluous. Noting other organizations wanted what he described as “core players,” La Russa said the Diamondbacks were not about to part with their future.
That remained pretty much in concert with what general manager Dave Stewart told reporters at the trade deadline approached, and the direction taken by manager Chip Hale. Clearly, there is little disagreement in respect to the nucleus of this team. The fact the club is going through a tough season, and losing seems to be the norm rather than an aberration, difficult times is, at this point, are almost taken for granted. Still, La Russa came to the defense of his players, and explained and why the organization rejected numerous trade offers.
“It’s in our interest to hang on to all the guys we feel is the future,” he said. “Sure, we had calls on many players, but we feel the talent is here. Look, no one likes losing, and the more you lose, the tougher it gets to win.”
Given the expectations back in spring training for this team to complete on an elite level, the antithesis was the result. Coming into Tuesday night’s game with Washington, the Arizona Diamondbacks were 43-63, 20 games under .500, and their record of 7-22 since June 25 is the worst on the majors. Plus, their inability to win at home (17-36 before Tuesday’s game) remains an important factor in the club’s season-long free-fall.
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At conclusion of the trade deadline, the Arizona Diamondbacks made only two trades, and both involved relievers. In dealing Brad Ziegler to the Boston Red Sox and Tyler Clippard to the New York Yankees, the Diamondbacks essentially became sellers, and these move clearly disrupted a fragile bullpen. As a result, a door may have opened for others.
“This is a prime opportunity for guys to step forward,” La Russa. “It’s a chance to compete.”
Among players drawing interest during the trading period was pitcher Shelby Miller. Despite languishing in the minors and possessing a disappointing 2-9 record and a 7.14 ERA, Miller drew consideration attention. In his major league 2016 record, Miller has no victories at home, and a bout on the disabled list.
In his support of Miller and his potential, La Russa pointed out that the right-hander has, “a substantial up-side.” Clearly, the Arizona Diamondbacks, as an organization, do not wish to lose their character after trading Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson, two position players, and Aaron Blair, a starting pitcher, for a very unproductive Miller. Patience seems the Diamondbacks’ calling card in regard to Miller, and the organization is willing to wait for what is hoped to be a major transformation.
Going forward, the bullpen looms as the biggest concern, but as La Russa pointed out, and despite the current malaise, the spirit and strength of the players remain strong and vigilant.
On Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks named outfielder Mitch Haniger of Triple-A Reno and Mobile left-hander Josh Taylor as the organization’s players-of-the-month for July.
Haniger, at 25-years-old, hit .402 (45-for-112) with 13 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 28 games in July for the Aces. He led the PCL in average, hits (45), runs (30), extra-base hits (25), total bases (93), home runs, RBI, slugging pct. (.830) and OPS (1.279). He was acquired by Arizona from the Milwaukee Brewers on July 31, 2014 along with lefty Anthony Banda in exchange for outfielder Gerardo Parra.
Taylor, who is 23 years-old, went 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA (5 ER in 30.2 IP), 22 strikeouts and 4 walks in 5 starts in July. The southpaw tossed his first career shutout in his debut with Mobile on July 5. That was after earning a promotion from Single-A Visalia. He was acquired by the Diamondbacks from the Phillies on July 5, 2015 along with righty Chris Oliver and future considerations in exchange for future considerations.