Thursday, November 18, 2010

Changing a Culture in Arizona

Kevin Towers now has the responsibility of rebuilding the Diamondbacks after what was by every measure a terrible season. The D-Backs have already parted company with Adam LaRoche and now there are rumors of Justin Upton being shopped. While it's clear that changes had to be made, is it necessary to tear this team down and start over? And if so, what prospects are there that it can happen quickly?

The Upton rumors make sense when you think about it from Tower's perspective. There are no quick fixes in house for the Diamondbacks. There isn't the kind of talent in their system to come up and make a difference in their level of play. If Towers can get four talented prospects for someone with Upton's upside, then you have to consider making such a deal. The problem is that Upton could still develop into a superstar. He's only 23 years old and though he hasn't made the impact that was expected, there is still plenty of time for him to do so. Trading the one player on the team with that much latent ability is risky, especially if the talent Towers acquires doesn't develop.

The Diamondbacks have two big problems. They strike out too much and set a record in that category in 2010. The other is pitching. There really is a weakness behind Kennedy and Hudson in the rotation and the bullpen was an utter mess. It would make sense for Towers to focus on pitching prospects if he is serious about trading Upton, particularly one or two players that can step up to the big league level right away. Enright is useful, but this observer just doesn't see him being a third or fourth starter in the big leagues. It seems imperative for Towers to go after one of the starters on the market such as Pavano or de la Rosa. The latter makes a lot of sense after pitching in Colorado, another franchise that seems to play in a more offensive setting. When you have a ball park and a franchise in an area that is conducive for balls carrying, you need power arms. That's why the Schilling/Johnson combo was so successful for the D-Backs in 2001.

And yes, the D-Backs need to do something about their volume of strikeouts. There has to be a quandry in the plans of the team when it comes to Mark Reynolds. He was useful he at least hit .250 with all that power. But when he has a Rob Deer-type season, what will he be able to do next? He isn't that great a fielder and there has to be concern that he's done as much as he is going to do as a hitter. They can't go through another season like the last one.

The D-Backs have already unloaded Adam LaRoche, another strikeout prone offensive player. Trading Upton would be ridding the team of another bunch of strikeouts. But LaRoche didn't really have that bad a season. But there are plenty of first basemen on the market. The Diamondbacks should be able to land one of them. Lance Berkman would be a great fit here. He gets on base and he can hit for as much power as LaRoche. They would want to stay away from guys like Carlos Pena. They already have enough trouble with high strikeout, low average types.

There is also plenty of bullpen arms on the market. The big unknown is how much the Diamondbacks can spend. They had fiscal problems a few years ago and they have been losing attendance at a steady clip. How much resources will Towers have to go out and get help? But as the Giants showed in 2010, a few under-the-radar, low budget types can make a huge difference if you get lucky enough.

It would seem that a core of Young, Drew and Johnson are all set. Gerardo Parra did not have a good season and has put together two lackluster seasons in row. That has to be disappointing in that he was successful in the minors. He has no power and has never shown any at any level. But he used to steal bases in the minors and then stopped. So though he is a good fielder (especially as a corner outfielder), what else does Parra offer? The D-Backs should probably consider going in a different direction.

Brandon Allen could be an effective big league hitter if given the chance, but again, he is a high strikeout guy. If the D-Backs are trying to get away from that, Allen won't help the program. There really isn't any other up and coming options that will help the D-Backs on offense.

Finally, this Fan is concerned about Kirk Gibson as the leader on the field. Someone like Gibson seemed like a good idea last year when A. J. Hinch was fired. But the team did not show any spark under Gibson and their record over the rest of the season did not improve at all. Gibson really didn't have the experience to take over a team full time but now this is his team. The Fan isn't sold on that fact. Again, you would have thought the D-Backs would have fared better after Hinch was fired. Is Gibson the right guy for this club? Time will tell.

After losing 95 games, the Arizona Diamondbacks don't appear to be an easy fix. They don't have an abundance of internal options and they don't have an abundance of money. Towers has his work cut out for him. But again, the team has no where to go but up. Personally, this Fan thinks they should hold on to Upton for one more season. There is reason to believe that his problems last year were at least partially due to his health. Towers may feel like he has no choice. The new GM has his work cut out for him.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

I know the Red Sox are very interested in Upton. If I were Theo Epstein, I would be willing to part with Ellsbury and Kalish in a package deal, but not both of them because they'll need one of them moving forward. I'd also be willing to part with Casey Kelly, Jed Lowrie, and Felix Doubront. I would not part with Daniel Bard.