By Cuyler Meade
Sometimes, winning the off-season can mean winning it all. Before the 2004 season, the Red Sox signed an ace coming off a huge year in Curt Schilling and a dominant closer in Keith Foulke and rode that wave of excitement into their first World Series victory since 1918.
Sometimes, however, going all-out in the offseason can blow up in your face, dooming your franchise to potentially years of expensive irrelevance. Last season, the San Diego Padres sold out to sign a whole new outfield and add multiple expensive pitchers, often at the expense of top-level prospects or young talent, and always at the expense of significant payroll. They were terrible, winning just 74 games and staring at a future with numerous onerous contracts and a dearth of farm system assets.
There’s reasonable cause to expect either outcome for the 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks, who dug deep to sign Cy Young runner-up Zack Greinke, traded away a top prospect for Shelby Miller, and made other frontline acquisitions that will significantly affect their team this season. If the moves pay off, it could be a massive franchise turnaround. If they backfire, it could mean years of regret.
ESPN Insider Pedro Gomez, for one, thinks it’ll be closer to the former than the latter.
“I think when you look at what the Padres did a year ago, they went across the board,” Gomez told Brad Cesmat of Sports360az.com in a recent phone interview. “Where the D-Backs just went top of the pitching.”
Gomez was bullish on the moves the D-Backs made, feeling they addressed needs that they couldn’t avoid addressing if they wanted to compete.
“It’s all about starting pitching,” Gomez said. “So when you’re adding a Shelby Miller and a Zack Greinke, you’re not overhauling your roster the way San Diego did a year ago. I think what the D-Backs did is much more prudent than what the Padres did a year ago.”
Few have criticized the move to shell out for Greinke, a proven ace with a track record of durability and consistency. But many critics have turned the hairy eyeball on the acquisition of Miller, a move which cost the club Dansby Swanson, the first overall pick from just a year ago and a highly touted future prospect.
But Gomez is more optimistic.
“We knew a year ago that (the rotation) was not good enough to put them in contention and I like what they’ve done,” Gomez said. “I think Shelby Miller, I know he was 3-17 (last year), but you look at the ERA: under 4. You know he was just on a ballclub that couldn’t catch the ball and couldn’t score.
“When you saw him in St. Louis, you said ‘this guy is going to be one of the top twenty pitchers in the league.’ And I think he has that kind of stuff.”
Gomez also was especially positive about the Greinke’s prospects with the team.
“Zack Greinke has already proven he can be a bona fide ace,” Gomez said. “I think he’s going to really enjoy being away from LA and being and a clubhouse that is baseball first, I think that’s why he’s here and not in LA. He’s a guy that really enjoys that. When he was in KC and had maybe his best season ever he was in a ballclub that was baseball first, and he went to Milwaukee, and it was baseball first.
“When he has tended to lose interest or not be as focused it’s because he has other issues going on around. He’s a guy who really likes to be focused on the game at hand, and that’s something that I think Chip Hale really has going on in this clubhouse, and I think that’s something that the D-Backs have.”