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D-backs’ commitment to winning shows in spending, payroll figure

(Arizona Sports Photo)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It didn’t take long before Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen took the fork in the road toward buying.

The D-backs won a lot early in Hazen’s first season on the job, leading the team to pursue win-now trades. Securing J.D. Martinez’s services was the biggest move for the postseason chase, and Arizona made the playoffs before advancing and losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.

Entering the second spring training of Hazen’s tenure, Arizona remains a buyer after going deep — and ultimately falling short — in the Martinez free agency pursuit.

Before the Boston Red Sox signed Martinez for five years and over $110 million, the Diamondbacks ranked second in MLB with a salary total that increased only short of the World Series champion Houston Astros.

Arizona’s payroll jumped by more than $27 million comparing the 2018 pre-spring training roster to the one that opened the 2017 season.

“There’s been a consistency throughout this offseason, that there is a desire to continue to add to a group that we feel confident in, and (D-backs owner Ken Kendrick) has pushed that every step of the way,” Hazen said Wednesday when asked about the spending.

“I think as evidenced by other negotiations we’ve had with free agents and the trades that have come to fruition, I think you can see what the different things … how they could have possibly played out financially. We’re lucky to have an owner willing to push the limit to win.”

Last season, Arizona entered Opening Day with a payroll of around $93 million, the 26th-highest in MLB, per CBS Sports. Hazen was candid about how to approach roster moves; how the season went would dictate if the D-backs would be buyers or sellers midway through his first year on the job.

Now, Arizona looks like it’ll enter 2018 with the biggest payroll in team history.

After the signing of Jarrod Dyson and trade to acquire Steven Souza Jr. this week, Hazen confirmed to reporters that the team’s salary figure was on the upper-end of the spectrum between $125-130 million.

Per Spotrac.com, the total salary figure sits at $130,370,000, including Shelby Miller (disabled list) and the minor-league deals that could be locked in for pitchers Antonio Bastardo, Jorge De La Rosa and Kris Medlen if they earn roster spots.

Not including the $5.85 million potentially owed to the minor-leaguers, Arizona ranks 16th in payroll, according to Spotrac.com. On top of pay increases to returning players, the pursuit of veterans like catcher Alex Avila ($4 million), reliever Yoshi Hirano ($3 million) and likely backup outfielder Dyson ($3.75 million) are costs that weren’t there heading into 2017.

Some of the increased salary is due to Arizona leading the majors with 14 arbitration-eligible players receiving pay bumps. Last year, nine D-backs made more than $2 million each. This year, that number has increased to 15.

Generally, Arizona has retained the most pricey players on the roster.

Ace Zack Greinke again counts $34 million toward the payroll number, while Yasmany Tomas will make $13.5 million. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt will make $11.1 million, more than $2 million more than he did a year ago.

Center fielder A.J. Pollock ($7.75 million) and starting pitcher Patrick Corbin ($7.5 million) round out the top-5 highest-paid Diamondbacks.

Following the Souza trade on Tuesday, the Diamondbacks don’t anticipate any more major moves. Barring new opportunities popping up or injuries forcing their hand, they feel confident this is the roster that could contend in the regular season — and that there’s enough flexibility to spend more if it’s called for.

“The heavy-lifting is done,” Hazen said Wednesday.

Unofficially, spring is here

The D-backs opened spring training with a 6-2 exhibition win over Arizona State on Wednesday at Salt River Fields.

None of the Diamondbacks’ veterans made an appearance, but minor league depth players like Jeremy Hazelbaker, Christian Walker, Rey Fuentes, Ildemaro Vargas and Kris Negron saw limited action.

Walker led the D-backs with two hits and two RBI.