Diamondbacks’ Mike Hazen addresses roster needs after World Series loss
Nov 2, 2023, 3:55 PM | Updated: Nov 3, 2023, 8:43 am
(Arizona Sports Photo/Alex Weiner)
PHOENIX — The offseason came abruptly for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday after falling in the World Series to the Texas Rangers in five games. Now general manager Mike Hazen has to turn his attention to 2024.
He said on Thursday that his club’s October run to the Fall Classic highlighted its strengths with a young corps that stepped up to the big moment. But the D-backs’ 84-win regular season showed the room for growth going forward.
Hazen’s goalposts for success have moved from wanting to buy at the 2023 trade deadline and playing competitive baseball down the stretch to getting back to the postseason in 2024.
To do that, Hazen expects internal improvements from the group of players under 25 years old — outfielder Corbin Carroll, shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, outfielder Alek Thomas, catcher Gabriel Moreno, pitcher Brandon Pfaadt and shortstop Jordan Lawlar.
“I thought the biggest area we were going to move forward in improving our on-paper wins was going to be our young players and their development,” Hazen said.
“A lot of that happened this year. That’s not to say external additions (won’t) need to happen to continue to improve and make even bigger gains, but I still think with the group of 21-23-year-olds we have … another big jump for this team will happen with continued development of that group.”
For external needs, his top priorities will be taking a look at starting pitching and right-handed bats given Arizona’s now free agents.
Diamondbacks need starting pitching
Hazen said he chased every starting pitcher on the trade market ahead of the deadline but regrets not getting a deal done. He did not want to send off Thomas or Pfaadt, who were difference makers in the postseason.
“Were there other avenues that we could have pushed by adding more prospects into deals where it didn’t include those guys? I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to those things. But I know I didn’t get a starting pitcher. And that’s on me,” Hazen said.
The Diamondbacks went into the postseason relying on three starters and needing bullpen games to piece together series. They won one in the NLCS against the Phillies, but Game 4 of the World Series was a disaster in which the Rangers took a 10-0 lead.
“It’s kind of painful to sit here and talk about this after getting bounced from the World Series and feeling like what happened in Game 4 isn’t 100% on me,” Hazen said. “You make the decisions you make.”
Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Pfaadt are under contract for next year and 2025, counting Kelly’s team option.
Drey Jameson will be out for at least most of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but the D-backs still have a group of other young options. Ryne Nelson started 27 games this season. Tommy Henry — who missed the final two months with an elbow injury — started 16 games. Slade Cecconi got his feet wet in the majors, as did Bryce Jarvis.
Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen says starting pitching will be an area of focus this offseason. pic.twitter.com/ryfsZjxeRk
— Arizona Sports (@AZSports) November 2, 2023
The Diamondbacks also moved on from veterans Madison Bumgarner (four starts) and Zach Davies (18 starts) for lack of performance.
“I love our young rotation, I do,” Hazen said. “Having three rookies in our rotation creates a lot of uncertainty on a night to night basis because that’s just young starting pitching in this league, it is one of the hardest things to do is to be a young starting pitcher in this league. So yes, having veterans in that rotation matter.”
There are some big names on the free agent starting pitcher market.
Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery and Clayton Kershaw are all unrestricted free agents. Eduardo Rodriguez has an opt-out. Michael Wacha, Alex Cobb and Charlie Morton have club options. Marcus Stroman, Andrew Heaney and Seth Lugo have player options.
Diamondbacks right-handed bats hit free agency
Three Diamondbacks starters in Wednesday’s lineup are hitting free agency: outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., outfielder Tommy Pham and third baseman Evan Longoria.
All three players joined the organization within the last calendar year after Arizona had a deficit in right-handed power in the batting order.
“Love the team that we had this year, the culture that was created, the guys we have in our clubhouse, the veteran guys in our clubhouse were a major piece to that,” Hazen said. “But I’m not allowed to talk about free agents at this point moving forward.”
Longoria is undecided on whether to keep playing at 38 years old. Pham, 35, said he wants to play five more seasons and expects to have more suitors than when he signed with the Mets last offseason.
Third base was statistically the weakest spot for the D-backs with -1.9 wins above average. Jace Peterson and Emmanuel Rivera remain options for 2024, but that could be a position to watch this winter, especially if Longoria does not return. Perdomo has played there, too, if starting him and Lawlar together at some point becomes a reality.
Hazen expects Lawlar to develop into a star after getting a taste of MLB in September and October.