La Russa expects winning record for D-backs in 2015
PHOENIX — Lest there be any confusion, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa had a strong message about the Diamondbacks’ prospects for 2015.
"I will be absolutely broken-hearted if we don’t have a winning record next year," La Russa said.
"I think it is fair to say we can win. I really feel that is realistic, but 82 (victories) is not going to get you into October. And what you don’t want to do is give — whether it is a player or a pitcher or a team — unfair expectations, because the pressure of being unfair makes you do less, not more.
"I think the message we are careful to send to our fans is we are not a patient bunch. We are not going to ask them to hang with us for four, five years."
The D-backs have several trade proposals on the table here at the general managers’ meetings held at the Arizona Biltmore, La Russa said, and on one deal they are simply waiting for the other team to respond.
La Russa did not name names, but the D-backs have made no secret of the fact they’re seeking starting pitching and have depth in the middle infield and in the bullpen from which to deal. Teams have inquired about catcher Miguel Montero, whose resume might be enough to land a No. 2 or No. 3 in a package deal. La Russa is optimistic moves can be made.
"We’ve been encouraged by the interest we’ve had in areas that we have some depth," La Russa said. "That tells me that we have a shot to do something. It’s a classic kind of situation, that’s why I’m optimistic.
"We help you win in ’15 for us to have a better chance to improve our situation. There are two or three things we could do. If all three things come through, then we would get better than 82 wins. If we can only do one, we’ll see.
"If we can just improve our pitching some …"
The D-backs are seeking starting pitchers in part because they plan to exercise patience with prospects Archie Bradley, Aaron Blair and Braden Shipley. All are former first-round picks, and all are expected to open the season in the minor leagues, possibly as three-fifths of the starting rotation at Double-A, La Russa said.
The D-backs’ middle infielders have been most in play, La Russa said. Shortstop Didi Gregorius and second baseman Chris Owings finished the season as starters, and prospect Nick Ahmed was a September call-up. The Yankees are among the teams seeking a shortstop, and they have been linked to Gregorius in the past.
"We have some infielders people are talking to us about all the time, several of them, so they must be good, not just in our eyes," La Russa said.
"Any time you’ve got a surplus of quality middle infielders, that obviously gives you an opportunity to maybe improve in areas we need to improve," D-backs general manager Dave Stewart said Tuesday.
"A position of power? I wouldn’t say that. But it does make it a little bit more attractive to try to get to where we want to be if that’s what we decide we want to do."
If Daniel Hudson, David Hernandez and Matt Reynolds continue to progress from Tommy John surgeries, the bullpen is even deeper, especially with power arms Jake Barrett, Kaleb Fleck and Enrique Burgos moving forward through the system. Fleck and Burgos have showed well in the Arizona Fall League.
Even without a major trade, the D-backs have reason to expect better things. The offense was dealt a severe blow because of injuries that cost Paul Goldschmidt two months, Mark Trumbo and Chris Owings 2½ months each and A.J. Pollock and Cody Ross three months. The D-backs did not have their projected starters on the field at any point after Trumbo went down with a stress fracture in his left foot in mid-April.
All-Star left-hander Patrick Corbin and setup man Hernandez missed the season after Tommy John surgeries in March, and Bronson Arroyo missed the second half of the season after the same surgery.
"I think (a return from) injuries is one thing," La Russa said of a reason the D-backs will improve. "I also think there were players who developed last year with opportunities."
Outfielders Ender Inciarte and David Peralta turned in strong seasons after being promoted because of injuries to Trumbo and Pollock. Inciarte developed into a top candidate as the leadoff hitter in 2015, and he finished fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting with a WAR (2.7) that was second among NL rookies. Peralta led NL rookies with nine triples and a .770 OPS.
"Those two guys are big leaguers," La Russa said.
On the mound, rookie right-hander Chase Anderson showed well when he moved into the starting rotation in early May because of injuries and ineffectiveness. He was 9-7, tied for the NL rookie lead in victories.