The GM's Office: Arizona Diamondbacks

How I'd fix the Diamondbacks 

April, 18, 2014
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Mark TrumboMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsMark Trumbo is a square peg on the Diamondbacks' roster.

Entering the season, many people saw the Arizona Diamondbacks as a .500 team with an outside shot at the playoffs. After a 4-14 start, those postseason odds seem remote because not only is this team losing, it's getting crushed -- with a run differential that would be comparable to the '62 Mets if prorated over a full season.

The D-backs have made a lot of mistakes in recent years in their attempt to mimic the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, teams that have thrived by targeting "high-character" players. The difference is that Arizona did this at the expense of talent, something Boston or St. Louis never did.

For example, the trades of Justin Upton and Adam Eaton were both made with team chemistry in mind, but those players are better than the guys who replaced them -- Mark Trumbo and A.J. Pollock. And the D-backs also had to give up Tyler Skaggs in the Eaton deal, a quality young starter they could desperately use right now.

So what should Arizona do? A lot of fans probably want to see GM Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson fired, but I don't think that is the solution. They were both recently given contract extensions -- terms were not disclosed -- but they have good continuity with president Derrick Hall and owner Ken Kendrick, and continuity is a virtue.

I'd like to think that Towers and Gibson can learn from recent mistakes and start rebuilding the team with talent as the priority. The good news for the D-backs is they have some intriguing trade assets.

Trade bait

Looking at Arizona's roster, four names jump out to me as trade candidates: Aaron Hill, Martin Prado, Miguel Montero and Trumbo.

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Shin-Soo ChooJoe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsThe Texas Rangers might have wildly overpaid for free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
When a general manager makes a trade or a free-agent signing, he must always have significant justification for why the move was made. This could include:

• Scouting reports
• Advanced metrics and analytics
• Medical reports
• Evaluations of makeup and character
• Financial considerations
• Roster structure
• Team needs to wants

Most GMs will provide owners with at least 20 pages of documentation supporting any significant move. By the time everyone evaluates why the decision was made most of the organization should believe the move was made in the best interest of the organization.

However, after all the preparation and analysis is done, the decision is right only until something goes wrong. That could be an injury, a decline in performance, a personal problem that changes the player’s focus, a change of vibe in the clubhouse or even a change of league or position that all of a sudden makes the move go wrong, leaving the club with nothing but regrets.

Of course, anyone who's ever been a GM, president or owner would love to have a mulligan or two during their careers. Looking at this year’s offseason moves, here are the five that will backfire, either by season’s end or sometime in the next few years.

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Chris OwingsJoe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsIt looks like Chris Owings -- not Didi Gregorius -- will be Arizona's Opening Day shortstop.
This week we checked in at several camps, including the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics. We continue our tour through the Cactus League, with a couple of stop in NL camps, both of which are located at the gorgeous facility in Talking Stick, Ariz., that is shared by the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. Let's look at the buzz surrounding their spring camps thus far:

Arizona Diamondbacks

• I'm hearing that Chris Owings will be the everyday shortstop.

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10 guys scouts are raving about 

March, 10, 2014
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Ryan ZimmermanGreg Fiume/Getty ImagesRyan Zimmerman's shoulder is finally healthy, which should help him at third and at the plate.

While you never like to put too much stock in spring training performance, there is no question that scouts, coaches and execs take notice when a player looks particularly good during camp. I'm not talking about the stat sheet, but rather their actions on the field, which could be anything from their swing, to their fastball, to the way they move.

Here are 10 players who have evaluators excited this year.

1. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals

Zimmerman is taking some grounders at first base this spring, but that is only to give the Nationals more lineup flexibility when a left-hander is on the mound. He looks great at third this spring and his arm strength has returned. This will allow him to once again play a deeper third base and restore his inclusion within any Gold Glove conversation. More important for fantasy players, with a healthy right shoulder for the first time in years, they should anticipate a return to his 2009 numbers.

2. Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants

Around the trade deadline last July, Belt made some significant changes at the plate.

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Every year at spring training there is a lot of focus on the star players who switched teams, with Robinson Cano being a prime example this year. However, what I am most excited about for this spring is the chance to scout some of the game's top rookies.

It’s fun to watch young players develop in real time, and to see if they can do enough to convince their managers and GMs to take them up north. It’s a time when the game’s best evaluators get a taste of just how good some young players can be.

So here are 10 rookies I am looking forward to scouting during spring training. And trust me, just getting the list down to 10 was not easy.

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Arroyo gives Arizona flexibility 

February, 7, 2014
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The Arizona Diamondbacks came into the winter hoping to acquire an ace, and they were rumored to be involved in trade talks for David Price and Jeff Samardzija, and they also pursued Masahiro Tanaka. Unfortunately, they were never able to get the No. 1 starter they coveted, but they did make sure to acquire a starting pitching, signing Bronson Arroyo to a two-year, $19 million deal that features an $11 million club option and a $4.5 million buyout if the option is declined.

Although not a front-of-the-rotation starter, Arroyo is incredibly consistent, and he gives the D-backs a lot of flexibility in their rotation.

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Post-Tanaka moves that will happen 

January, 22, 2014
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As you have probably heard by now, Masahiro Tanaka has agreed to a seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees. As Buster Olney noted Wednesday morning, this won’t necessarily set off the free-agent dominoes, but the deal does have serious implications for the suitors that missed out on Tanaka -- the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels -- as well as the remaining free-agent pitchers.

Here’s how I see things playing out from here.

1. Angels and D-backs will battle for Garza

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The missing link for every NL team 

January, 14, 2014
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Clayton KershawAP Photo/Jeff RobersonThe Dodgers likely will cease chasing Masahiro Tanaka after Clayton Kershaw gets his extension.
For the vast majority of major league teams, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training exactly a month from now. Usually teams are simply fine-tuning their rosters, whether it's that last utility bench guy or an additional bullpen arm.

But with teams from both leagues waiting on the fate of free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, many teams still have significant moves they must make to shape their team into a championship club. What is the missing link for each team? On Tuesday I will focus on the National League teams and Wednesday I’ll present the American League.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks

Missing link: Top-of-the-rotation starter
Solution: Sign RHP Masahiro Tanaka or Ervin Santana or Matt Garza
Both general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson’s option years for 2015 were not picked up, leading Towers to admit that both are on the hot seat to win this year. Every move they’ve made this offseason has involved trading future assets for win-now results. With this type of pressure on him, Towers knows the best way to keep his job is to add an elite starter.

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BeltranAP Photo/John MinchilloWith FAs like Carlos Beltran, it will be tough for the Yankees to stay below the tax threshold.
Some big free-agent names were signed over the holiday season, but that doesn't mean the market is dried up. With many teams waiting on the final destination of Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka, several quality free-agent pitchers remain, as well as some trade possibilities.

Plenty of big moves are still likely to come. So, here are my 10 bold predictions of the rest of the offseason. Not all are personnel related, but most will have significant impact on teams or the game itself.

1. New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels go over the luxury-tax threshold
The Yankees have worked hard over the last couple of seasons to try and keep their payroll below $189 million dollars for this season, and the Angels have worked diligently this offseason to do the same.

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10 moves that still need to happen 

December, 17, 2013
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Matt Garza, C.J. WilsonGetty ImagesMatt Garza might look pretty good in the Angels' rotation with C.J. Wilson.
This has been a wild offseason so far, with blockbuster trades and free-agent signings taking place even before we got to Orlando for the Winter Meetings. Yet, with two weeks left in 2013, the free-agent and trade markets still have a lot of unfinished business.

As I look around the league, I can see 10 more moves that make a lot of sense and should to get done for their teams to remain viable contenders for 2014. Let's take a look:

1. Los Angeles Angels | Move: Sign free-agent RHP Matt Garza

The Angels have worked hard

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Offseason grades thus far: NL 

December, 15, 2013
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Curtis Granderson AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCurtis Granderson went across town and helps the Mets' outfield substantially.
On Saturday, I graded every American League team based on the moves they have made thus far this season, and today we move to the NL.

While the free-agent class wasn't as exciting in years past, we've seen some bold trades that should change the baseball landscape in 2014 and beyond. (Teams are listed in order of their grade, by division.)

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Four trades for Jeff Samardzija 

December, 3, 2013
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Jeff SamardzijaJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJeff Samardzija's trade value is at its peak right now. Should the Cubs trade him?
Should the Chicago Cubs trade Jeff Samardzija?

Certainly their priority is to re-sign their ace right-hander to a long-term contract. However, if they enter the winter meetings without closure to negotiations with Samardzija, don’t be surprised if they deal him. As the rumor mill has probably told you by now, Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer also have been checking the trade market to find out which avenue is best for their long-term goals.

With a free-agent market thin on top-of-the-rotation starters, Samardzija is arguably better than what’s available, including Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo. After Japan and MLB agree on a posting system, you possibly can add even Masahiro Tanaka to that list.

However, the Cubs don’t have to trade Samardzija -- they control him for two more seasons and have the ability to move him at the July trade deadline or next offseason. However, as we discussed with Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price, the 28-year-old Samardzija is entering his prime, as his trade value will likely never be higher.

Samardzija pitched a career-high 213 2/3 innings this season, finishing with a 4.34 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He has a nasty fastball in the 93-96 mph range, which he also cuts in the low 90s, with a hard slider (84 mph) and nasty split-finger fastball (also 84 mph). The repertoire says he should be a top-of-the-rotation type starter and in a new environment should reach that potential this upcoming season.

To deal him, however, the Cubs have to receive a significant package in return. And since their system is flush with elite hitting prospects but few pitchers, they would be looking to add elite arms in any major deal. So here are four trades for Samardzija that would make sense for the Cubs. If they can’t get this type of return, they should just hold on to him.

1. Baltimore Orioles trade RHP Kevin Gausman straight up

The Orioles’ window to win a World Series title with their present corps of stars will close over the next two seasons. And without a top-of-the-rotation starter, that’s going to be difficult.

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George SpringerBrace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty ImagesGeorge Springer is three homers away from joining the 40/40 club.
Despite the minor league season being almost complete, the education and training of some young top prospects isn’t necessarily over. With major league rosters expanding in September, it's a great time for clubs to get a first glimpse of their top prospects to see whether they are ready to be a part of next year's 25-man roster.

Here's a list of the top prospects I would bring up in September.

George Springer | OF | Houston Astros


Springer’s power/speed combination is one of the best in all of minor league baseball, illustrated by his combined slash line of .303/.414/.611, 37 home runs and 43 stolen bases between Double- and Triple-A. It’s been a mere two years since the Astros selected Springer, now 23, as first-round pick from UConn. He really impressed me in the Futures Game in July, and think it’s time he became an every-day player for the Astros.


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Grading the GMs at the deadline 

July, 31, 2013
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While many people are going to say this year's trade deadline was a bit of a dud, there were still plenty of deals made. Here's the way I would grade how every GM did leading up to the deadline, but please keep in mind that sometimes standing pat is the best course of action, and some GMs who did very little still received good grades.

So here are the grades for every GM, with the teams listed in alphabetical order.

Kevin Towers, Arizona Diamondbacks

This was a team that I thought should stand pat, but they did make one notable move, shipping Ian Kennedy to San Diego for Joe Thatcher, pitching prospect Matt Stites and a competitive balance draft pick. Kennedy once looked like a potential No. 2 starter, but he's had a terrible year and would have been the odd man out in Arizona's deep rotation next year. Thatcher is one of the best situational lefties in the game, and he will come in handy against Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in September, when the D-backs face the Dodgers seven times.

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Cliff LeeAP Photo/Matt SlocumNow it's just a waiting game for Cliff Lee as to whether he will be traded by Wednesday.
With the clock ticking down to the major league trade deadline, there has been some activity the past two days, and we're bound to see some more between now and 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.

So I decided to handicap the odds of these players being traded and which teams they’d best fit based on what I’m hearing from around the front offices. You can bet any movement that happens will somehow involve one of these guys.


Starting pitchers

Jake Peavy | RHP | Chicago White Sox | Odds: 75 percent
The White Sox have been demanding prospect packages far beyond what the Texas Rangers gave up to the Chicago Cubs for Matt Garza. Although the White Sox should get slightly more than the Cubs got for impending free agent Garza -- because the acquiring club would be getting an additional year of control of Peavy in 2014 -- their asking price still must come down if they want to move him.

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