PHOENIX, Ariz. – Regarding each team assembled here at the general manager’s meeting, the goal is essentially the same.
We need to get better and compete for a world championship, represents the common refrain.
For the Diamondbacks, this is certainly the case but there appears to be, as well, a greater sense of urgency.
Sure, each team desires get better and the world champion San Francisco Giants are trying to stay on top. Like former Dallas Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry told listeners, “there’s only one winner in his league and everyone else is a loser.”
While this is the first such event for Diamondbacks’ GM Dave Stewart, he appears easy in working the room and confident that the team will find ways to improve.
“I still don’t know how we lost 96 games,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “Really, we have to play better and improve in all areas of the game.”
In covering a variety of topics with reporters after a round of morning meetings with the other 29 GMs, Stewart continually repeated his mantra for this off-season. That’s the quest to improve the pitching rotation.
Conceding the Diamondbacks’ eight position players are ready to make important contributions, Stewart indicated the priority is pitching. Conversely, he would not rule out trades and pointed out the strength of his hand as a plethora of quality middle infielders.
“We realize to get a quality player or players, we will have to give up some quality,” Stewart said. “My job is get (manager Chip Hale) something he can handle. I can tell you that right now, we’re not shopping any players.”
That would include catcher Miguel Montero, who has three years remaining on an original 5-year, $60 million contract. While Stewart said the Diamondbacks are not actively pushing Montero out of the desert. If a team expresses interest, he said, Arizona will listen.
“I’m ‘old school,’” Stewart said. “(Montero) is not raising concerns so, right now, there are no concerns.”
Regarding a potential line-up change, Stewart said he had a few conversations with Mark Trumbo about moving from left field to right field. If this happens, it could open up left field for Endar Inciatre and keep A. J Pollock, considered a rising star in the National League, in center field.
For now, Stewart seems to affix the blinders and focused on obtaining a pitcher.
One rumor circulating this week at the GM meetings is the Diamondbacks’ interest in Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays. The Diamondbacks and Braves have been mentioned as possible suitors but for the Diamondbacks to acquire Hellickson that would have through a trade. Not a free agent until 2017, Hellickson was injured most of last season and missed the first two months due to arthroscopic surgery in his right elbow.
With that limited playing time, Hellickson went 1-5, 4.52 ERA in only 13 starts for the Rays. Earlier, Hellickson fell off the radar screen and posted a disappointing 12-10 record during 2013 the season and posted a 5.17 ERA.
Perhaps a similar fit could be Kyle Kendrick, a free agent, who went 10-13 in 32 starts for the Phillies this past season. If the Diamondbacks go after Kendrick, they would not lose any player through a possible trade. Then again, Stewart says he is willing to part with players who will bring improvement to both the major and minor league level.
“I like to say that we’ll get that pitcher and hope the loss is not too great,” Stewart said. “Pitching is a priority and we have to keep chasing it.”
Alan Trammell, former Diamondbacks’ bench coach to ex-manager Kirk Gibson, has found a new home.
After let-go by the current Tony La Russa regime, Trammel landed back with his old team, the Detroit Tigers. Trammel, who spend 20-years in the majors with Detroit, joins the Tigers’ front office as a special assistant.
“When you think of great Tigers, you think of (Ty) Cobb, (Al) Kaline and Trammell,” said Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski. “You always think of Tram as a Tiger and we are happy to have him back.”
While Trammell was active in pre-game preparation with the Diamondbacks, and involved in hitting ground balls to infielders for hours on end, he will shed the old English “D” and blue trim for important, front office responsibilities.
“(Trammell) be in uniform during spring training but his role will change,” Dombrowski pointed out. “He loves being on the field but he will move around for us. He’ll spend time with teams at the minor league level, do some p.r. work, and assist with scouting.”
Trammel spent five years assisting Gibson in Arizona and agreed to manage the Diamondbacks for the final three games of the season against St. Louis. That was after Gibson was fired, immediately packed and left the area.