Snake Charmers: Expectations for D-Backs 2015 Season

2014 was a season that the Arizona Diamondbacks have done everything in their power to forget. With a few exceptions where certain players excelled in their given opportunities such as David Peralta, there wasn’t much to be excited about for this organization.

The end of the season brought the inevitable winds of change for a team that finished last overall in MLB. Management adjustments by TLR and crew led to Kevin Towers being replaced by Dave Stewart at GM and the always gritty Kirk Gibson moving on to make way for new manager Chip Hale. They also added Joe Carter to their all-star management roster as special assistant to Dave Stewart and De Jon Watson from the Dodgers’ front office as senior VP of baseball operations.

With pitchers and catchers preparing to report in less than two weeks, we are now faced with the reality of what to expect from this team in 2015. And at this point, there is nowhere to go but up.

Having been heavily criticized in the past for a lack of a cohesive game plan when it came to free agency, the D-Backs seem to have a vision on where they want to go with this roster, and that vision is to build for the future.

This offseason, we saw Arizona invest heavily in young, top tier talent who were widely being pursued by other teams with open wallets. The acquisitions of Cuban prospects Yoan Lopez and Yasmany Tomas surprised many considering that Arizona was a team actively trying to spend less rather than more. At one point in November, even Dave Stewart thought they may be out of the race for Tomas.

But that wasn’t the case. The D-Backs signed the 24 year old third baseman to a 6 year, $68.5M deal, and then followed that up by signing Yoan Lopez last month. Arizona is taking a high dollar yet calculated risk on both of these players, but D-Backs executive De Jon Watson seems very confident in the ability of both of these young prospects.

Watson, having been with the Dodgers for a number of years as a director of their player development, has been aware of both players’ potential and the interests from larger market teams. The signing by Arizona of both Cuban players was not only a surprise but it’s also an encouraging suggestion that this organization is willing to gamble in order to make this team competitive in the near future.

The shadows of 2014 will loom largely over this year still, with Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo both being out until midseason recovering from Tommy John surgery. Add in that reliever David Hernandez is still recovering from the Tommy John surgery he had and Brad Ziegler is coming in to Spring Training hoping he will be ready for Opening Day after having micro fracture knee surgery, and it’s easy to see that the road ahead for the D-Backs is a long one.

There are still question marks for Arizona behind the plate and in the outfield. Can Gosewisch be the full time catcher? Will the team miss Montero’s production? Considering the difference in their contracts, it made sense to move Miggy since Tuffy only hit 12 less HRs and batted .225 vs Montero’s .243 in 2014. The D-Backs did sign veteran catcher Gerald Laird to a minor league deal to both be a backup for Tuffy and to assist with the development of players like Peter O’Brien in the system.

Arizona is also preparing for Arbitration Hearings with both Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed, something the team has not done since 2001 with catcher Damien Miller. Mark Trumbo has filed at $6.9 million and closer Addison Reed filed at $5.6 million, with the D-backs coming back at $5.3 million for Trumbo and $4.7 million for Reed.

Both players had subpar seasons in 2014. Trumbo had to overcome a stress fracture in his left foot as well as some learning curves in playing the outfield, and Reed simply became unreliable in close game situations as a reliever and a closer. The deals will get done one way or another, but there may be some lingering resentment should either of these cases go to hearing.

With the Dodgers and Giants still being powerhouses in the NL West and the Padres coming on strong with a number of free agent signings including top pitching commodity James Shields, 2015 is going to be a tough year for the Diamondbacks. Management seems to have reasonable aspirations as we learned when we spoke to Tony La Russa at the GM Meetings on his expectations for this team in 2015. “I would be absolutely broken hearted if we don’t have a winning record next year, which is 82-80. I really believe that’s realistic. But 82 is not going to get you into October.”

La Russa expanded on why it’s important to have realistic expectations for the organization. “What you don’t want to do is give – whether it’s a player, a pitcher, or a team – unfair expectations. Because the pressure of being unfair makes you do less, not more.”

Arizona begins its quest for redemption on February 18th when Pitchers and Catchers report to Salt River Fields for the start of the 2015 Spring Training season.

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