Shock the World, Arizona

About 24 hours ago, it was seemingly a two-team race to sign the most coveted prize on the free-agent market: Zack Greinke. The Los Angeles Dodgers were the favorite to re-sign their right-handed ace and keep the knock-out 1-2 punch of him and fellow (multiple) Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. There were also talks in San Francisco that the Giants were trying to sign the ace. The two NL West powerhouse teams were battling over Greinke and no one was surprised.

Then the Arizona Diamondbacks came in and shocked the world.

As first reported by Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal, the D-Backs were offering Zack Greinke a monster deal to come pitch in the desert. Just how monster? Well, Greinke is going to make $206.5 million dollars over the next six years, which can pay for: my college loan debt 14,750 times, 1,894,495 Zack Greinke jerseys, 8,641 2016 Ford Mustangs, and 24,294,117 churro dogs.

But why would he want to sign with the D-Backs? After all, they have been viewed as one of the three doormats of the NL West, along with the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies. Perhaps it was the lure of the fresh new uniforms the D-backs rolled out a few days ago. Perhaps it was the lure of being able to eat a churro dog anytime he wants.

Or, perhaps, he sees what a great team the Diamondbacks are becoming.

In 2015, the D-backs ranked in the top eight in the majors in runs, slugging percentage, OBP, stolen bases, and extra-base hits (thanks to ESPN.com for the stats). In the National League, only the Rockies scored more runs. ESPN’s Aaron Boone commented last night that the D-Backs defense is on-par with the Kansas City Royals, which is a big compliment. Truly, the weak area of the team was the rotation. They did not have a number one pitcher, or number two for that matter. Adding Greinke gives the D-Backs a lot of reassurance in their rotation.

Of course, getting paid $206.5 million dollars doesn’t hurt either.

It’s kind of a surprising move for the D-Backs to offer such a high contract. They were not a team known for breaking the bank for any reason. But, signs that they were wanting to spend big money came along a few days ago when they supposedly offered free-agent Johnny Cueto a 6-year $120 million deal, which he ultimately turned down. This is a team that, for most of its young existence, has done a great job of relying on their own player development to get the job done. The problem, though, is that for the last three or so years, the players in their farm system were not ready for the big leagues until this past year. 2015 was a special year for the D-Backs because they got to see how good their farm system was. The position players were trickling into the locker room and making a big impact. With several top-ranked pitching prospects on the cusp of being big-league ready, the D-Backs are looking good for years to come. Over the last few years, they have also been shedding pay roll so they could financially make a big move like this. Now, armed with a new 20-year TV deal worth nearly $2 billion dollars, this small-market team is sending a strong message: our time to win is now and we will spend money to make that happen.

Aside from vaulting the team into the post-season conversation, the signing of Zack Greinke does so much more. This signing sends a jolt through the fan-base, showing them that sticking with the team through the lean years and the continuous rebuilding could be well worth their recent suffering. When I got that news alert on my phone last night, I got chills. I was sure I might throw up from excitement. I also began to wonder how long it will be before I can buy a Greinke shirsey. Now, maybe Chase Field will start filling up again. Now, maybe more free agents will want to sign in Arizona. As a D-Backs fan and native Arizonan, I would find myself frustrated with the constant “rebuilding” process and I questioned why the D-Backs operated with such financial frugality, even though they had money to spend. The last few years have been tough, but signings like this make me feel optimistic. That feeling I had last night was a feeling I haven’t felt about the D-Backs in a long time.

I finally felt tangible optimism.

Sure, I’ve been optimistic about this team before, but this is different. This is a feeling that the organization as a whole is turning a corner and that the next few years are going to be really fun to watch.Will they regret his contract five so or years down the road? Probably. I’ve said before it’s stupid to give pitchers over thirty more than a five year deal, but I am a post-season craving D-Backs fan. I’ll deal with it.

So, pending a physical, Zack Greinke will be a Diamondback and I can’t wait.

*****

FYI, Buster Olney of ESPN gave a pretty interesting take on LA’s position in his Insiders column today. Here’s a snippet since not everyone pays for a subscription to the Insiders columns…

“…what is odd about the Dodgers’ parting with Greinke is that, besides their monster deal with Clayton Kershaw, they don’t owe a lot of money to other players beyond 2017. In 2018, they’re on the hook for about $42 million, toAdrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Brandon McCarthy, and in 2017, they’re set to be in the last season of deals with Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Alex Guerrero.

The Dodgers, however, would not give Greinke a sixth year in their offer, sticking to a reported $155 million over five years, and when the details of the Arizona deferrals are completed, it could turn out to be that they were outbid by about $35 million to $40 million by a division rival.

The Dodgers’ front office has signaled for weeks that it wanted to go young, but now the Dodgers have to live out that vision, which will be difficult. George Steinbrenner’s Yankees learned three decades ago that a team cannot be the financial bully in the room, with fans expecting an annual shot at championship, and step away from the table for a year or two at a time. Any rebuilding effort must be made on the fly, in concert with an effort to win, and that is the challenge.

And while you can debate the merits of a giving a 32-year-old pitcher a sixth year on top of a five-year offer and walking away from a deal over the difference of $30 million, there is no debating this: Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw propped up the Dodgers last year. When either of those pitchers started, L.A. was 43-22, and when anybody else started, they were 49-48.

The Dodgers might sign a cheaper alternative to Greinke, someone like Johnny Cueto or Scott Kazmir, but now the pressure on Kershaw will be even greater, and the same will be true for first-year manager and front man Dave Roberts, whose coaching staff was already in place when he was hired. They will be the first to feel the brunt of the fans’ frustration if the Dodgers drift backward in the standings and fall behind the Diamondbacks and Giants.

But that unhappiness would trickle upward, quickly, and the politics of failure would manifest, with a course change inevitable, despite the best-laid plans of December 2015. Former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington knows all about that.

A storied franchise sold for $2 billion just lost one of the three best pitchers in baseball over the sake of $30 million or so five years from now.” 

espn.go.com/blog/buster-olney/insider/post?id=11788

 

 

 

 

 

Overreaction Tuesday…err…week.

How would you feel if I told you the Yankees were 1-4, the Rockies were 4-0, the Braves were 5-0, and the Pirates were 1-4? It would probably surprise you and if you are a fan of those teams, you are probably freaking out a little bit. Or a lot. I’m freaking out a lot. As a Yankees fan, I am totally losing my marbles over the team’s horrible start, even though I have no need to. “It is not the time to panic,” Bae-Rod reminds me. Okay, if Alex Rodriguez tells me not to panic, I’m still probably going to panic anyway, even though I have no need to.

Welcome to Overreaction Week, the week where everyone assumes their team should just give up on the season or that their team will win the World Series. It’s a stressful week for the former because no one wants to see their team spinning out of control at any point during the season. But really, how am I supposed to react when my team’s best player is A-Rod?? Take a deep breath and remember that there are still 157 games left on the season. Cool, I feel a little better, but not really.

Sometimes, it takes a little bit for teams to start clicking and for nature to take order once again. I mean, c’mon, at the rate this is going A-Rod will be the AL MVP and the Rockies will be duking it out with the Braves for a World Series spot against the Royals. Does ANY of that seem plausible? Except for the Royals, not at all. Natural order will take place once again, but we have to give it a few weeks, even a few months for teams to get their stuff together. In the mean time, fans can freak out all they want but it won’t change anything.

So, to all the broadcasters out there: STOP SAYING TEAMS ARE IN THE CRAPPER FIVE GAMES IN. I’m looking at you Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds, and Tom Verducci. You guys called the Yanks/Sox game earlier today and it was a 3-hour Yankees bash-fest. Stop it. It’s been five games. Calm down. Yes, my pinstriped boys are not great right now, but for crying out loud! Don’t say they suck until a little further in the season. If it’s the end of June and they still suck eggs, then we’ll talk.

And to all the fans: CHILL-AX. We have a nice, long season ahead of us, so let’s not freak out yet. Baseball is a funny sport and we should let it take its course before we lose our minds.

As Bae-Rod says, “It is not the time to panic”.

Rocky Mountain High-Oh-My-Oh-My

Quietly lurking in the vast dump truck that consists of three teams in the NL West is a team that no one expected to be as potentially dangerous are they are ending up being. In a division that contains the Giants and Dodgers, no one really cares about the other three teams. The D-Backs? Laughable, off to the worst start in team history. The Padres? Wait, they still exist? The Rockies? Hahah-wait. 

The Rockies? How about those Rockies.

Yes, they are only 14-12 on the season, just scraping over .500 at the end of April, but I wouldn’t heed those numbers too much. They are, after all, currently tied with the Dodgers for second place in the division. Once Clayton Kershaw comes back off the DL, I suppose that will change, but don’t count the Rockies out yet. 

With a very scary offense, this is a team that could surprise people. On their 25-man roster, 8 are batting better than .300 and 11 are batting above .250. In comparison, on the Dodgers’ roster, only 4 are batting over .300 and 7 are batting about .250. Nutty, right? Oh, and the Rockies are leading the majors with a combined batting average of .294. Who would have thought that the Rockies, a team forgotten by many, could have such offensive prowess? And let’s not forget that the bearded center-fielder Charlie Blackmon is batting a league-high .402. I know, I had never heard of him either.

Yeah, they are offensively a good team, but what about defense? Well, I am so glad you asked! The Rockies have two 2013 Golden Glove winners in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and the rest of the team ain’t that bad, either. New first base addition Justin Moreno is known for his defense, and taking over for the newly-retired Todd Helton is no easy feat. You have to hand it to the Rockies for being so reliably good on defense. 

Can this team make it into the post-season this year? I highly doubt it, and I say that because they have to climb over the Dodgers and the Giants to get there. They are very good and rather dangerous. If they can keep the same nucleus of guys next year, look out. I have a good feeling about the Rockies, I just hope I am right. I would love to see them do well.

 

 

 

D-Backs Got 99 Problems, but Trumbo ain’t One

Starting off the season 2-7 is not ideal for any team. Yes, yes, there are 154 games left, but starting off a season so badly is not exactly a great tone to be setting. It’s even worse when you start off a season in the same division as the Dodgers and Giants. What’s even worse is when you get blown out of the water by the Rockies, who had previously just been swept by the Marlins. THE MARLINS. Let that all sink in for a moment…

The Arizona Diamondbacks are off to the worst start in team history. The team is desperately trying to reassure fans that this is a bump in the road and things will turn around once the season gets going. However, fans are starting to groan and are wondering if this is going to be a really long season. Let’s face it: the D-Backs are worse than the Dodgers were this time last year, but no one is predicting the same epic turnaround. 

The most glaring problem the team has is the bullpen. With only two relief pitchers I completely trust (the awesome tomahawk throwing-style master Josh Collmenter and the new 40+ game saver Addison Reed), the bullpen is not looking good. After the leading the majors in blown saves last year, GM Kevin Towers did his best to revamp the bullpen. It didn’t work. The previously highly reliable sidearmer Brad Ziegler is struggling mightily. David Hernandez, who had a bad start to last season, was looking much better, but had to undergo Tommy John about a week ago. JJ Putz has hardly made an appearance. Lefty specialists Joe Thatcher and Oliver Perez haven’t proven themselves yet. Throw in a few other pitchers and you have yourself quite a motley crew. 

To help keep the bullpen out of the game, you want starting pitchers who can eat up innings, no problem. That is, after all, why the D-Backs went out and got Bronson Arroyo. I have faith in him. I really do. He is a proven pitcher who can eat up innings and will be good once the nerves of a team exit his system. Brandon McCarthy has pitched two good games thus far, only to have them blown by a few bad pitches or the bullpen. Wade Miley has been very good, and if he can stay settled down in the first few innings, he’ll be golden. Also, don’t forget to mention that Wade Miley can hit, too, which is always a welcome surprise. Patrick Corbin needing Tommy John was just about the worse thing that could’ve happened to this team, aside from losing Paul Goldschmidt. Corbin was the ace of the staff and highly reliable for a good outing. The other young pitchers, Randall Delgado and top-prospect Archie Bradley, struggled, with Bradley ultimately being sent back down to Triple-A before the start of the season. Delgado has all the potential in the world, but has not quite delivered. Lastly, there is Trevor Cahill who was looking for a bounce-back season this year, but had a rough spring training and rough first start. If he doesn’t come back strong, the team is screwed.

Offensively, things are not looking all that bad. Paul Goldschmidt is consistent, just coming off a 26-game hit streak and delivering RBI’s. He also gets on base a lot, with hits and walks. Martin Prado, who has been batting fourth behind Goldschmidt, has been great since the All-Star break in 2013. He has done everything he can to contribute to the offense, and let’s not forget that he is one of the best third basemen out there. And then there’s Mark Trumbo. Trumbo, newly acquired from the Anaheim Angels, has done nothing but contribute to the offense. He has had four homers in as many games and five on the season, not to mention that he gets on base with ease. You can tell he used to be a DH. Yes, he has made some poor plays in the outfield, but as long as he keeps doing what he is doing offensively, he can make as many bum plays as he wants. 

The problems are plentiful. Chris Owings at shortstop needs to work on his defensive skills a little, but his offense is productive. The pitchers need to go deeper into games and pay better attention to the batters they are facing. There is no reason they should be throwing meatballs to the same batters in the same location. They see the bullpen is gassed and need to stay in as many innings as they can. And the bullpen. Oh man, there are no easy answers to that one. Honestly, I have no idea what to do about the bullpen. I could spout ideas, but none of them would be good. Until Towers and Kirk Gibson can figure out what to do with the bullpen, the starting pitchers should pick up the slack as much as possible.

The D-Backs need to figure this out. The fans are getting upset and disgruntled. Attendance is already a problem at Chase Field and a losing team is not going to help that whatsoever. It is a shame to see players like Miley, Goldschmidt, Prado, and of course, Trumbo play so well only to have the team lose anyway. The D-Backs need to figure this out, ASAP. The NL West is too good of a division to just accept being sub-par. 

So, Trumbo, keep doing what you’re doing. The team and your fans need it.