The clubhouse transformation for the Arizona Diamondbacks is nearly complete.
With the four-year, $40 million deal that was given to Martin Prado, the D’Backs are hoping that the veteran super-utility man can be a staple in a new chapter of the team’s future, one that jettisoned players like a former 30-25 hitter in Chris Young, burgeoning star Justin Upton, and the team’s former top pitching prospect, Trevor Bauer.
Of course, teams don’t just give away talents like these for no reason, but after last season’s disappointment, team GM Kevin Towers determined that the team needed a change – a change from simply being a group of young players who got by because of talent, to a group of players who care enough to do anything to win on every pitch and every play.
Whether the team had an intensity problem in 2013 is questionable, but with Prado in the fold for the next few years, Towers got manager Kirk Gibson a player who you might say is a prototypical Kirk Gibson-type player: someone who is hard-nosed, who grinds out every play, who cares about winning down to his core, and most importantly – someone who isn’t afraid to show it.
Yes, the team is undoubtedly pleased with getting baseball’s equivalent of a Swiss Army knife in Prado’s on-field abilities, and that the 29-year old had a breakout 5.9 fWAR season is enough to hope that he’ll be as valuable as Justin Upton, the guy that the team traded away.
But, unlike Upton, Prado will also have the important role as one of the team’s clubhouse leaders, and will be expected to lead a group that also added Cliff Pennington and – surprise – hard-nosed outfielder Cody Ross.
That leadership was something that the team lacked last season, and led to what the Towers perceived to be something of an attitude problem in games. With Prado in the fold, Gibson now has a group of players whom he believes will never have an issue with hustle, or flying into walls to make a catch.
No, Prado may not be more talented than Upton. And yes, the deal could easily backfire on the Diamondbacks in the future.
Kevin Towers, though, it probably more a gut-feeling type of guy, and he had a sense that there was something intangible in the team’s culture. With Prado locked down for four years, he’ll have a player that he believes will fill that role and show the young stars exactly what it means to give a max effort in every aspect of the game.
In short, he’s hoping to have a team that not only wants to win, and wants it bad enough to show it with every play they make on the field.