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Dave Stewart: ‘My gut the whole time said I shouldn’t move Dansby Swanson.’

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Former Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart appeared on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday to reflect on his time with the team. Stewart talked about the difficulties he faced in his role and expressed regret for trading top prospect Dansby Swanson. From MLB Network Radio’s Twitter:

The full interview can be heard here.

Swanson was taken by the Diamondbacks first overall in the 2015 draft. Six months later, the club sent him to the Braves along with outfielder Ender Inciarte and pitching prospect Aaron Blair. They got starter Shelby Miller and minor league pitcher Gabe Speier in return. It’s a trade that was widely ridiculed at the time and still is to this day. Miller went on to have a horrendous season, finishing 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA. He battled mechanical issues which caused him to drag his fingers on the dirt on his follow-through. Blair struggled with the Braves, but Inciarte won a Gold Glove Award and Swanson lived up to the hype in a small sample size of 38 games.

The Swanson trade was not the only blemish on Stewart’s record with the D-Backs, however. The club traded pitching prospect Touki Toussaint and veteran Bronson Arroyo to the Braves for infielder Phil Gosselin. The trade was basically a way for the D-Backs to shift Arroyo’s salary to the Braves. Stewart downplayed Toussaint’s importance by suggesting he can’t even hit 96 MPH anymore. Well, Toussaint hit 98 MPH in a start for the Braves’ Single-A affiliate in Rome shortly thereafter.

There was the Zack Greinke contract. Greinke was 32 years old when he inked a six-year, $206.5 million contract with the Diamondbacks in December 2015. Signing a player in his mid-30’s to a six-year contract worth in excess of $200 million isn’t the wisest of moves, many can tell you. And Greinke went on to have his worst season since he was a 21-year-old with the Royals back in 2005.

Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, signed to a six-year, $68.5 million contract, was been worth -1.8 WAR in two seasons, according to Baseball Reference. The D-Backs have baseball’s worst minor league system, ESPN’s Keith Law says. The Diamondbacks undoubtedly would have ranked a fair bit higher with Swanson, Blair, and Toussaint still in the system. The organization has habitually resisted embracing technology and analytics.

(Update: As FanGraph’s Eric Longenhagen notes, there’s also the $8.27 million Yoan Lopez deal. Most scouts were not very high on the Cuban right-hander. The signing put the Diamondbacks over their pool allotment, making them unable to sign any other international free agents for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods. Lopez left the team twice, most recently with the intent to retire, but he returned in August to pitch for the team in rookie ball. The Diamondbacks also left $1.7 million in draft money unspent in 2015.)

Stewart blamed the Diamondbacks’ upper management for hamstringing him, and he also blamed injuries for the team’s poor results. It might very well be true that he had pressure from above to make some of the unfortunate transactions they made. But part of the job of being a GM is being the public face of a team, which means receiving most of the accolades when things go well and bearing the brunt of the blame when things go poorly. Furthermore, this is not the first time Stewart has been salty since leaving Arizona. In October, after he was fired, Stewart said, “Quite frankly, I’ve got better things to do. I just got to figure out what to do next, but really, I’ll be just fine.” He called his firing “almost a relief.”

Based on everything that’s come out about the failed Stewart-La Russa regime, it sounds like there was a lot of dysfunction in the Diamondbacks’ front office. Now it’s Mike Hazen’s turn to try to fix it.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.