The Arizona Diamondbacks at a crossroads.
Like most Major League baseball franchises in the mid to small markets, D-backs players have struggled since the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out all non-media revenue during the 2020 season that has been cut short to 60 games. Losses in 2020 and 2021, when attendance at Chase Field was canceled or greatly reduced, came to more than $100 million.
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Meanwhile, the 25-year-old stadium and the mobility of its retractable roof remain an issue. D-backs took over operations and maintenance a few years ago in the settlement of a lawsuit against Maricopa County. In return, the team got the right to search outside downtown Phoenix for a new location.
Club president Derek Hall said that research has been put on hold Athlete In a recent exchange of text messages.
At the same timethe state legislature passed a bill last year that would allow D-backs to apply up to 9% of new user fees on tickets, concessions and merchandise to borrow money for a $500 million renovation of an existing stadium.
No decision has been made as to whether to act on this matter yet.
“We’ve been in wait mode,” Hall said when asked about the progress of upgrading or replacing the stadium.
D-backs face multimillion-dollar repairs, which include replacing the cables on the retractable roof during the holiday period. Due to safety issues for those inside the stadium, the team was unable to open or close the roof immediately before or during matches this season.
“We improve the stadium every year through capital expenditures,” Hall said. “The ceiling will be an expense and a priority, but none of these maintenance needs will prevent us from improving the product in the field.”
Even as the team started to bounce back onto the field with a group of fast and exciting young players, attendance barely returned to pre-COVID levels. D-backs, on the far edge of the 12-team expanded picture, average 19,415 to 71 appointments on the 48,519-capacity ballpark, which ranks 22nd in the MLB. In 2019, they averaged 26,334 for the full schedule of 81 home dates and ranked 17th.
The financial pressure is at least part of the reason why this season’s player payroll has reached $82.9 million for welfare tax purposes, according to Spotrac, which ranks 26th in the MLB. Their committed salaries for next season are $59.7 million before filing arbitration, potential deals and contracts with the free agent. That gives them plenty of wiggle room under the luxury tax threshold, which will rise marginally from $230 million to $233 million next season.
The big question is whether the D-backs will use them, given the previously mentioned pending stadium issues that will come to a head when the lease expires in 2027. They are Values by Athlete $1.36 million, 25th of the 30 MLB teams.
“We’ve kept revenue at a steady pace and always give it back to the team,” said Hall, adding that managing partner Ken Kendrick and Associates “didn’t put a penny in their pockets.”
“Building a young team through international signings and engagements gives us more flexibility to pursue free agents to complete the roster.”
The current D-backs are hungry, having recently won nine of 13 against the San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox — all teams vying for an accessory berth. They blew up an early lead 5-0 and lost 6-5 in the ninth inning in San Diego on Tuesday night.
Additionally, they had back-to-back National League players of the month in Merrill Kelly and Zach Gallen; It’s the first time this has happened to a D linebacker since Randy Johnson and Kurt Schilling did it in 2002, a year after the club won their only world championship, defeating the New York Yankees in seven thrilling games,
They’ve only played in the playoffs four times since then, the last in 2017. Meanwhile, their National League Western rivals – the Los Angeles Dodgers, Padres and San Francisco Giants – have spent huge amounts of money.
With Labor Day gone and gone, the Dodgers are running away with the division title for the ninth time in the past 10 years and with an MLB-tops payroll of $265.5 million. Padres, in contention to make the playoffs for the first time in a full season since 2006, had $219.4 million. The Giants, who suffered a sharp rebound to the average after last year’s franchise recorded 107 wins, brought in $156.5 million.
At least ten of the top 14 teams on the payroll are vying for the playoffs this season. Of the six teams that lead their divisions, only the Cleveland Guardians do more with less, running the Central American League while spending $66.6 million.
Unless the linebacker D starts spending money, how do they plan to compete?
“I won’t predict where we’ll go in the off-season, but we need to improve our roster,” general manager Mike Hazen told reporters last week during an outside interview session. “How it happened, I don’t know yet. I haven’t gotten there yet. Whatever other teams in our division do, they do. It doesn’t change the expectations we have for ourselves.”
Hazen was signed away from Boston after the 2016 season, and linebacker D won a wild card game with the team he inherited on his first try. The D linebacker has since deteriorated as he tore up the team.
Thirteen players from the 2017 squad are still contributing to the majors to some degree. Noteworthy is Paul Goldschmidt, the first All-Star player to win the Triple Crown this season with the St. Louis Cardinals, heading towards the NL Central title. Goldschmidt traded in 2019 when the D-backs refused to meet their contract requirements.
The Cardinals sent bowler Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly to the Diamondbacks and they signed Goldschmidt for a five-year, $130 million extension. That sounds like a bargain considering that the Dodgers and Padres have given up-and-coming players – like Mookie Betts, Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. Contracts worth $300 million and above.
If the D-backs can’t pay the likes of Goldschmidt, can they afford to sign expensive, high-impact free agents now looking for three times that amount of money?
“I can pack it up and go home if I act like that,” Hazen said. “It will be a problem. That is what it is. We will be competitive.”
Hazen, who has just picked coach Tore Lovolo’s option for next season, added that “there are no excuses”, and that he and his staff can’t “take more Mulligans”.
This, of course, has not yet been determined.