The Arizona Diamondbacks have already been crowned the winners of the baseball offseason. What exactly does that mean? Well, the Diamondbacks made huge short-term improvements to their roster and, on paper, look better than they were last season.
[2016 Yahoo Fantasy Baseball is open for business. Sign up now]
While all of that might be true, winning the offseason doesn't guarantee success in the regular season. Sure, the Diamondbacks have upgraded at some crucial spots, but there are still some massive holes on their roster. There are certainly scenarios where everything comes together and the team makes the playoffs, but there's also a chance one small thing goes wrong and it all comes crashing down.
The early projections released by Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs seem to think the latter. Despite their upgrades, the Diamondbacks are projected to win 78 games according to BP. FanGraphs is slightly more optimistic, pegging Arizona to go a disappointing 80-82.
One person who isn't all that excited about those projections is, unsurprisingly, Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart. During an interview with Jack Magruder of Today's Knuckleball, Stewart went so far as to call those projections "a joke."
Here is the relevant passage:
Q: Why do you think there are people who want you to lose?
Stewart: “I think the way that we do things. We’re a baseball team here. We believe in our team and how we play the game. I just think, in everything, there is always everyone who doesn’t want to see you do well. Obviously, anybody who says we can only win 78 games, they’re either not thinking or they’re not believing that what we have here is a team that’s capable of winning more games than that. So when I say that there are people out there who do not want us to win, that’s a prime example of that. To think we will only win 78 games? That’s a joke.”
That's just a small snippet of the interview. Stewart has a lot more to say about the team's projected win total, and the whole thing is worth a read if you're into that sort of thing.
It's worth noting that the projections put out by BP and FanGraphs come from a system, not from a writer or group of writers. The writers at those sites can ultimately disagree with what the projections say, and some at BP already have after the Kansas City Royals received another low win total.
[Elsewhere: David Ortiz has a request for Yankees fans during his final season]
The Diamondbacks are not the Royals, though. While Arizona has made big improvements, contention is no guarantee. The team has an exceptional core with Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin, but some of their spare parts are lacking.
The rest of the infield is fairly worrisome. Nick Ahmed, Chris Owings haven't performed at the plate during their brief careers, and Jean Segura hasn't been an effective hitter since 2013. Third baseman Jake Lamb is also unproven, and outfielder Yasmany Tomas had a rocky rookie season. On top of that, the team is hoping strides made by outfielder David Peralta and catcher Welington Castillo stick.
When you consider the recent history of many of those players, it's no surprise the projection systems are bearish on the Diamondbacks. The system isn't suddenly going to project any of the infielders to break out after they haven't shown that ability in the majors, and it's going to be skeptical of Peralta and Castillo since they performed in a relatively small sample.
While Stewart, and likely many fans, will disagree with those numbers, there's at least some logic behind the projections. And, ultimately, Stewart shouldn't really care about what the projections say.
If Stewart truly believes he's built a team ready for contention, he'll let the team's play prove him right when the regular season begins. If he has the same fears as some skeptics, it's not like he's going to express those publicly.
Still, it makes for a fun narrative. The Diamondbacks already have a reputation as an old-school, gritty franchise. Stewart's comments will rile up a certain sector of analysts, while locals will have their fandom strengthened with this underdog approach. That's going to make the club more exciting and polarizing heading into spring training.
[Elsewhere: Josh Hamilton will start the year on the disabled list]
Stewart has done it again. Before games are even being played, he's found a way to make Arizona the talk of the sport. The Diamondbacks continue to win the offseason.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
- - - - - - -