The Arizona Diamondbacks’ new front office regime have established their gameplan from the day they arrived, and it’s no different after their first offseason: Play the long game.
The D-Backs, who finished last season with a record of just 72-90, made more moves in the offseason to sacrifice their current on-the-field product (which admittedly was not up to par as constructed anyhow) for future benefit.
One such move took place when the D-Backs moved corner infielder Li-Jen Chu and Pitcher Jefferson Mejia to Cleveland for the number 48 overall prospect, 2B Eric Anderson and 1B Danny Badger who the team seems to be high on.
Chu last season for the Diamondbacks under the new management was not a regular in the lineup. He was a replacement for 3B Jeff Young, 1B Art Sherrod and was part of the teams catching rotation alongside Jonah Heim after the team traded Oscar Hernandez at the deadline. Mejia was initially the teams 5th starter but his production slipped heavily towards the end of the season as he finished with a 5+ ERA and only 3 quality starts in 27 starts and was eventually moved to the bullpen in the final month of the season. Being able to get a top 50 prospect in Anderson and a 1B in Badger with potentially 40 HR upside for 2 players that fell out of favor with the new regime so quickly is pretty impressive.
Speaking of pretty impressive, let’s take a look back at the Oscar Hernandez trade that took place for the team at the end of July.
Oscar is undoubtedly an elite player both offensively and defensively, but with a young developing team around him what is the upside to him being on the team? Sell a few more jerseys? Sure. Get a few more people into the park 81 days a year? Absolutely. But for the baseball product, the difference was maybe being in contention for the worst record in the league without him vs maybe being in contention for the 8th pick with him, so what is really the benefit of hanging onto such a valuable asset?
Or is that the case? At the time of the trade, Arizona sat at no.29 in the MLB in win % ahead of only the Yankees. When the team moved Oscar it was assumed that the team would bottom out and maybe even fall below the Yankees in the standings and receive the number 1 pick in the 2021 rookie draft. However, that was not the case. A bit of maneuvering around the roster including callus of a few prospects, lineup changes including Isan Diaz at leadoff, and revised situational strategies that saw the team balloon up to 1st in the NL in stolen bases helped the team improve a full 10 wins over their previous pace and went from the 2nd worst team in baseball all the way up to the 23rd team in the final standings — all the while adding multiple top 10 pitching prospects including he no.7 overall prospect and multiple MLB level players under team control.
Now, is a 23rd finish in the standings great? Of course not. But does the team have a nice foundation to build upon already at the MLB Level? They absolutely do. Great building blocks at the top of the lineup in Isan Diaz, Jeff Young and Joe Young who will compliment an eventual superstar that the team does now lack post-Oscar.
A superstar is the toughest thing to attain in the sport, though and being a small market team that has a history of not breaking the bank in free agency under owner Ken Kendrick certainly doesn’t help matters. But can the superstar be waiting in the wings of the D-Backs farm system? It’s hard to guarantee the likes of a superstar in this sport, but the D-Backs continue to raise their odds of growing one in their farm system by stocking up on top 100 prospects.
Can Arizona stack the odds in their favor with asset accumulation? Or will this long term approach cost the team both their immediate and future trust from their already deteriorating fan base?