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.