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As '20 nears end, D-backs' Hall eyes future

@SteveGilbertMLB
September 27, 2020

As the 2020 season winds down to its final day for the D-backs, the discussions are only beginning in the front office. Saturday night’s 10-3 loss to the Rockies at Chase Field dropped the D-backs to 24-35, a far cry from where they planned on being when the 60-game regular

As the 2020 season winds down to its final day for the D-backs, the discussions are only beginning in the front office.

Saturday night’s 10-3 loss to the Rockies at Chase Field dropped the D-backs to 24-35, a far cry from where they planned on being when the 60-game regular season opened with much optimism on July 24 in San Diego. It is now guaranteed that Arizona will finish in fifth place in the National League West.

Box score

As for what next year will look like for the D-backs, that’s what the team’s front office will spend the weeks ahead trying to figure out. Part of that will involve managing general partner Ken Kendrick and team president/CEO Derrick Hall sitting down with general manager Mike Hazen and his staff.

“We're going to have to spend the next couple of weeks really looking at what went sideways this season and how we can get back on track,” Hall said. “It’s been a disappointing season, obviously, for everybody, including the front office and ownership, as it has been for the players and coaches, because our expectations were so high.”

One of the questions that Hazen and his staff have wrestled with since prior to the Trade Deadline on Aug. 31 is how much stock should they put in a 60-game season, given that it’s a small sample size compared to the typical 162-game slate.

While that matters when it comes to how the D-backs evaluate individual players, it’s not looked at as a justification for their losing record.

“We really can't blame it on 60 games, because the other 29 teams all had the same conditions, the same schedule, the same number of games,” Hall said. “So, we really have to answer some questions as to what did go wrong. I don't think we can blame any one person. I don't blame the manager [Torey Lovullo]. I don't blame the coaches; they've all worked hard. I don't blame the players; it's not one player’s fault.

"We just had such a bad start and really dug that hole. It looked like we were getting out of it for a while there when we were a couple games over [.500] close to the middle of the season, and then fell behind again. It's been head-scratching; it's been difficult to put a finger on it. We’re going to have a lot of soul searching and a lot of questions to answer this offseason.”

As with all teams in baseball, the shortened season and absence of fans in ballparks has diminished the D-backs' revenues for 2020. Whether that changes in '21 depends on what happens with the ongoing pandemic, whether fans are back in the stands and if so, how many are allowed in.

The D-backs' payroll looked to be in the $120 million range this past Spring Training, and that almost certainly will have to come down in 2021.

“It's hard to pinpoint where our payroll will be at this point, just because it's going to be fluid,” Hall said. “You know, we're having to -- not just us, but every other team as well -- we’re having to plan for different scenarios of revenue, different scenarios of attendance. It’s going to take some time before we know exactly what that direction will be and what the payroll will look like. I can't put a number on it yet.”

The D-backs made several moves at the Trade Deadline that reduced payroll for this year and next year when they dealt left-hander Robbie Ray to the Blue Jays, outfielder Starling Marte to the Marlins and closer Archie Bradley to the Reds.

Those deals also brought in young talent for Arizona. It got infielder Josh VanMeter, who has been getting playing time and went 1-for-4 with a run scored on Saturday. It's also allowed for young players such as Daulton Varsho and Pavin Smith to get in the lineup down the stretch.

Hall said that Hazen was not given any orders to reduce payroll prior to the Trade Deadline deals.

“I'll never forget Ken's exact quote to Mike was, ‘Look, don't feel pressured to move any payroll,’” Hall said. “He said, ‘At the end of the season, if our payroll and our roster are exactly the same as it is today, I'm not going to lose any sleep.’ I think that was important to make sure these guys knew we were OK. Don't feel any pressure, don't do anything you wouldn't do that you don't think is in the best interest of this ballclub, not only now, but for the future as well.

"I applaud them for making difficult decisions, for working tirelessly during that Trade Deadline and really kicking the tires with so many teams. But there was no pressure, no plan to do so.”

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.