When Derrick Hall took over as President of the Arizona Diamondbacks he began to hold monthly online chats with the fans to allow them to ask questions of the front office. This has become a widely popular outlet where fans are able to gain some insight into the inter-workings of the team and provide feedback to those leading the team.
It is not always Hall who conducts these web chats. In the past the manager or the general manager has been put on the spot of answering questions from the fan base. This month’s chat featured General Manager Kevin Towers who took time out of his preparations for Spring Training to sit down for 30 minutes and field questions.
As was to be expected, the majority of the fans questions surrounded the roster and how it looked to be playing out. I say as expected because it has been my experiences that no matter who the Diamondbacks official is on the other end of the chat people have questions about players and the roster. The Diamondbacks could send in the guy responsible for food services and they would be answering questions about Stephen Drew’s return from injury.
The subject of Drew did come up and Towers answer was interesting. Drew is now doing baseball-related activities but in a very controlled environment. No one knows how well he will be able to perform until they see him in game action during the Cactus League. Towers was cautiously optimistic about Drew being ready by Opening Day but the message was clear that was why the Diamondbacks were so active in signing middle infielders just to be on the safe side.
Towers discussed the signing of Montero to a one-year deal and fielded questions on whether a long-term contract could be negotiated before Montero becomes a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. The two sides are very far apart on dollars but seem to be close in contract duration.
The leverage in this deal is clearly on Montero’s side. Towers discussed the major league and minor league systems and expressed concern over the lack of depth in position players – specifically middle infield and catcher. If the Diamondbacks do not have a strong young catcher in the wings they are more likely to have to shell out the money necessary to keep Montero. That being said, if Montero’s salary demands undermine the overall make-up of the roster the team may choose to make a deal for a free agent in next year’s market and let their slugging catcher walk to greener pastures.
Towers also fielded questions on the new collective bargaining agreement and how it will impact the team. Through his comments fans can expect the Diamondbacks to be more active in the International Free Agent market and should expect to see dividends from their presence in Central America.
In the upcoming amateur draft the Diamondbacks will have the 26th selection in the first round after two years of seeing their draft picks be at the top of the order. This is exciting because it means the big league club is having success but also puts pressure on the scouting department to find those diamonds in the rough at the later picks.
The team will be looking more at position players and athletes this year after focusing on pitching the past two seasons according to Towers. They are attempting to balance the bats and arms in the system and given that they have potential free agents in Montero and Drew that makes sense. It is doubtful that they will find someone who can make that kind of immediate impact but shows their thinking going into this draft.
The web chat lasted 30 minutes and fans probably could have kept him online all day if given the opportunity. Towers declined to predict where the Diamondbacks would finish this season but did suggest they expect to improve on their 94-win season in 2011. Hopefully that’s accurate and Towers will have an opportunity to do a web chat in late October after the Diamondbacks have made the World Series. A guy can dream can’t he?