Diamondbacks looking to be aggressive in competitive starting pitching market this offseason
Nov 8, 2023, 7:59 PM
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SCOTTSDALE — A key point of emphasis at the General Managers Meetings this week in Scottsdale has been starting pitching in what will be a competitive free agent market.
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said the plan is to be aggressive in bolstering the rotation after going through a postseason needing to lean on bullpen games in longer series.
“Pitching always rules the game and always has,” Hazen said on Wednesday. “We need pitching to add to what we’re doing. We’re going to be involved aggressively, hopefully, in both the trade and free agent markets.”
Hazen said he and his team are further along in evaluating the free agents than possible trade targets. October would typically be his time to call around and feel for who could be available via trade. This year was different with the Diamondbacks reaching the World Series.
Agent Scott Boras — who has several starting pitching clients who entered free agency — said on Wednesday several teams have inquired about adding multiple starters.
“I would say that on the pitching Autobahn, it’s pretty much mach schnell,” Boras said.
Whether that was a Blake Snell — Boras’ client — pun or simply a colorful way to say he expects a fast-paced pitching market was unclear, but his point stands that a lot of teams will be in the game. The Padres, Dodgers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers, Reds and Orioles are only a handful of teams with expressed desires to add starters.
Snell, Aaron Nola, Jordan Montgomery, Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman and Eduardo Rodriguez are some of the more accomplished names looking for deals, as is 25-year-old Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Nola and Snell received the qualifying offer, which has draft implications.
“It’s a supply and demand thing and there’s a lot of teams looking for pitching,” Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller said.
Hazen feels the D-backs are working with a solid base of Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt, noting he would like a steady hand to compliment them more than a bounce-back project but is keeping an open mind.
“I would prefer to have somebody, given the team that we have constructed right now, we can bank on,” Hazen said. “But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t take chances on guys … I think we have to stay flexible and engaged in the entire market.”
Shelling out for free agents has always had its risks, and Hazen said his front office consistently evolves. He made a point in April and reiterated it on Wednesday that just because the Madison Bumgarner contract flopped, that does not mean they won’t be aggressive in free agency again.
“Your processes around how you’re evaluating are constantly changing. You do that with trades, you do that with free agents all the time,” Hazen said.
The D-backs released Bumgarner after four starts this season with another year left on his five-year deal.
Arizona has not agreed to a contract longer than two guaranteed years with an outside free agent since Bumgarner ahead of the 2020 season. Zach Davies has been the only major league free agent starting pitcher to sign with the D-backs since then.
But the Diamondbacks are in a different spot coming off a pennant win with making the postseason again a goal for 2024.
The D-backs are also looking at third base, right-handed bats with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Tommy Pham hitting free agency and catcher depth behind Gabriel Moreno.
“The core of this team up the middle, atop the rotation and bullpen is in a good spot,” Hazen said. “It’s a lot different than where we’ve been in previous years. But we still have a lot of work to do.”
The GM Meetings conclude on Thursday. Free agents can sign with anyone at this point in the offseason.