Can Dave Duncan impact the Diamondbacks pitching staff?
It's a great move for the Arizona Diamondbacks to add Dave Duncan to the organization. According to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, he will be a special assistant to D'backs general manager Kevin Towers and a pitching consultant for the organization. It is a coup for the Arizona franchise, one which has seemingly fallen on tough times over the past year.
Bringing in someone with Duncan's pedigree can only help the D'backs in the short term and long term, if he is allowed input using his experience developing young pitchers. Duncan most recently worked with Tony La Russa and the St. Louis Cardinals, retiring after winning the 2011 World Series in order to tend to his dying wife, Jeanine. Duncan has been out of baseball the past two seasons tending to his wife's illness until she passed away this past summer.
The Cardinals right now are the model organization in baseball, a team with a fertile farm system producing young starting pitching and hard-throwing bullpen arms while making smart free-agent decisions and retaining the right pitchers. It's the reason the Cardinals find themselves in playoffs time and again, even with the departure or La Russa and Duncan.
Duncan is said to be directly involved with the selection of the team's next pitching coach, a key position for the team. Arizona is in the process of interviewing for a new pitching coach, and hopefully it can be someone that can forge a great working relationship with manager Kirk Gibson while utilizing Duncan's years of pitching coach experience as well.
The D'backs fired former pitching coach Charles Nagy at the end of this past season. Nagy was a convenient scapegoat for a team that finished 81-81 for the second season in a row and looked to have the majority of the pitching staff underperform and regress to the point of giving up the third-most earned runs in the National League in 2013.
Pitching development is something Arizona has struggled with recently as a franchise. Pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs has stalled at Triple-A and has been unable to stick at the major league level. Pitchers Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy have both struggled to pitch effectively and they are on the books for over $19 million in 2014.
Top pitching prospect Archie Bradley is expected to reach the majors as early as next April if he shows he is ready during spring training. It is incredibly important to the short-term success of the franchise that Bradley is successful in Arizona's rotation.
Whether it's Nagy's fault or whether the D'backs overestimated their pitching talent, Arizona needs to find away to close the gap between themselves and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Arizona has made ill-adivsed pitching trades that included trading away Jarrod Parker, Max Scherzer and Trevor Bauer. Ian Kennedy, the pitcher who was acquired for Scherzer, was unceremoniously traded this past summer because the D'backs couldn't fix his struggles.
It was a startling fall for Kennedy, a pitcher who was 21-4 in 2011 and was traded to the San Diego Padres less than two years later for next to nothing in return other than relief prospect Matt Stites. Successful teams don't normally get in the habit of trading controllable 28-year-old starting pitchers.
This is a crucial winter for Towers to show he can rebuild the D'backs on the fly and have them return to contention in 2014. Towers is on the hot seat after the D'backs declined to pick up his contract option, meaning he is on a one-year deal for next season.
If Duncan can help Towers pick the right players and help develop the young pitching, this could be the biggest move of the D'backs offseason.