GM Mike Hazen: D-backs mulling options in sluggish free agent market
J.D. Martinez remains on the free agent market with reports indicating the Arizona Diamondbacks remain attached to the possibility of him returning.
D-backs general manager Mike Hazen and his staff can’t bank on that. They can, however, use this slow free agency market to vet multiple options — including Martinez’s unlikely return — in the free agency and trade markets.
“The offseason has certainly gone a little differently than years past,” Hazen said while visiting Doug & Wolf’s Newsmakers Week on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “We are looking to find the best possible solution. And it could come in many different forms. So like I said, you have to stay engaged with any and all different options until things become official somewhere else. We will continue to do that.
“That’s through dialog, that’s through ideas that we have that maybe through new trade ideas that pop up on a daily basis — teams are still engaged trade-wise deeper into the offseaon than we’ve ever had before.”
Hazen feels good about where the roster stands a day before pitchers and catchers report at Salt River Fields.
At catcher, a 2017 midseason trade to acquire John Ryan Murphy and the offseason addition of Alex Avila have made up for the free agency loss of Chris Iannetta.
A bullpen that was patched together last spring is facing turnover once again.
Outside of the admitted hole in the outfield that could be filled with Martinez or otherwise, Hazen said he feels confident about the D-backs’ roster makeup.
“We won and lost on our starting pitching last year,” he said. “I think that’s how we’re still built. I think that’s where our money’s going to be made.”
AN OPEN BULLPEN
Hazen expects that his second year on the job will go similarly in terms of constructing the Diamondbacks’ bullpen.
A year ago, Arizona entered the regular season with pitchers like T.J. McFarland and Tom Wilhelmsen making the roster after signing to the spring roster on a minor-league deals.
This year could go similarly.
The difference: The D-backs don’t have a closer already locked in like Rodney was a year ago.
“I think we feel pretty good about it. I think we still have some work to do,” Hazen said Monday. “The bullpen is some unique culture and organism all to itself.
“Going into the season, we’d like to have two closers. You get into situations where you go on winning streaks. If you have a decent-sized winning streak, your closer is going to get pushed and your set-up guys are going to get pushed pretty aggressively during those periods of time.”
Former starter-turned-reliever Archie Bradley figures into the mix somehow despite the team expecting he’ll be stretched out like a starter to begin spring.
Hazen, however, isn’t so sure Bradley becoming the best, most consistent reliever automatically makes him a closer.
“He does so many different things back there. I think getting trapped into the thought that your best reliever is your closer is a little bit of an antiquated way of looking at your bullpen. Not that we’re dismissing the role of the closer,” Hazen told Doug & Wolf.
“How we get there, how we end up there isn’t necessarily predetermined. Where Archie fits … Archie wants the ball to help the team win in leverage situations.”
MILLER COULD RETURN IN JUNE
Starting pitcher Shelby Miller underwent Tommy John surgery in May, and while he could be throwing off the mound as soon as March, Hazen said the team will be cautious and need to hold him back.
“Shelby’s in peak physical condition right now,” Hazen said. “I think what happens when you get to months 10, 11 and 12, you feel so good and you want to start pitching right away.
“I think we’re going to end up slowing him down. I still think we’re probably talking June-ish area where we see him, but he’ll be pitching before that.”