Diamondbacks hoping to be ‘hardcore buyers’ at MLB trade deadline
Jul 10, 2023, 5:00 PM | Updated: 5:08 pm
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen had two goals in mind for the 2023 season during spring training: be buyers at the trade deadline and play meaningful baseball in September.
The D-backs are approaching both marks, as they enter the All-Star break in a neck-and-neck race with the Los Angeles Dodgers atop the NL West at 52-39.
The trade deadline is three weeks out on Aug. 1, and Hazen told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Monday he hopes to be aggressive without going over the edge.
“I’m hoping we finish off these next two weeks and we’re hardcore buyers,” Hazen said.
“We’re going to be willing to make trades, to add to this team if it becomes available, but … there’s a difference between being aggressive and being reckless. I don’t think it serves the organization short or long term to be reckless. I do think it serves the organization to be aggressive.”
Hazen said the Diamondbacks have an untouchables list, but that term is relative based on what gets offered. He made a point that teams don’t win World Series based on their farm system rankings.
His agenda still includes finding more pitching, which has been a common theme from D-backs executives speaking publicly this year.
“I still think back-end relief and adding a starter are probably two things that we are going to least set out on the agenda,” Hazen said.
Entering the break, Arizona’s pitchers have produced 6.8 bWAR (wins above replacement) which ranks No. 18 in baseball, according to Baseball Reference. The bullpen is No. 11 at 3.2, but there is a stark difference in effectiveness between low, medium and high leverage situations for many of its arms.
For example, Andrew Chafin has had an impactful season as one of MLB’s busiest relievers thus far and owns a solid 3.16 ERA. His opponent OPS in low leverage spots is .506. That jumps to .756 in high leverage, though, which Baseball Reference defined as situations where dramatic swings in win probability are possible.
The starting rotation will get a boost with Merrill Kelly (blood clot) set to return after the break if all goes to plan. But Arizona assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye made the point to Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke last week that relying on young arms who have logged more innings than they’re used to can be challenging down the stretch.
Hazen did not leave the offense off the hook, either, noting a recent dry spout.
“On the offensive side, I think what I’ve seen is the top of our lineup has driven a lot of our success over the last month, that’s fine, they’re all playing well,” Hazen said. “I feel like the bottom part of our lineup has to pick it up a little bit, because our run scoring over the last two weeks has really fallen off. That can’t be a continuous trend. … We’re still trying to find that mix, where there’s offense at the bottom of the lineup that’s going to supply runners on base when that top comes back up.”
The D-backs boast the seventh-highest scoring offense in MLB this season, fourth-best in the National League behind the Atlanta Braves, Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds. Since June 28 (11 games), they have scored the second-fewest runs and are 4-7.
It’s a small sample size, but Arizona’s games have not looked the same, something manager Torey Lovullo touched on after Sunday’s 4-2 loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“When we have an all-field approach and kind of stick our noses into the at-bat and put the bat down on what is not the pitch we’re looking for, we create a lot of traffic,” Lovullo said. “I think the traffic the past four to six games has not been what I’m used to.”
Third base (0.4) and designated hitter (0.7) are the two positions that account for the lowest WAR on the team this year.
Hazen said he’d rather find solutions in house rather than use resources that could go toward acquiring pitchers.
If the D-backs decided an external solution is needed, the GM noted that there are places to look.
The MLB landscape remains seller friendly, especially in the National League.
Only four of 15 clubs are further than seven games out of a playoff spot: Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals and Colorado Rockies.
This complicates the deadline outlook, Hazen said, but a lot can change over the next couple weeks.