ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Diamondbacks’ Mike Hazen: ‘We have more opportunity to acquire players’ than in past

Dec 6, 2023, 5:32 PM | Updated: 7:12 pm

Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen...

Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen responds to questions during the Major League Baseball winter meetings Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

(AP Photo/George Walker IV)

The winter meetings have been far from action packed, but that does not mean no movement is happening with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ pursuits to improve the roster.

General manager Mike Hazen told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Wednesday there is a lot of activity under the hood at the annual gathering of MLB decision makers and agents, but there is tight competition in the trade and free agent markets.

The Diamondbacks have yet to sign a major league free agent, filling a need at third base by trading for Eugenio Suarez. Managing partner Ken Kendrick told Burns & Gambo after the season the D-backs can invest money earned from their World Series run back into the club, and Hazen said his opportunities to add differ from previous offseasons.

“We have more opportunity to acquire players, I’ll leave it at that,” Hazen said. “It is different than we’ve had in years past. So I think that’s a good, obviously a very beneficial position for us in the front office to be in. It gives us more opportunity to not chop off parts of the market that we would have in the past. We are in a different area of the market than before.

“We’re not tipping the scales like some of the big boys are necessarily, but we definitely have more opportunity in front of us, so we’re excited about that. There’s been a lot more conversation. Not a ton has happened here. That’s not surprising either. I would imagine as things go on coming out of the meetings, there will be more stuff to happen.”

Shohei Ohtani’s free agency and trade talks for Juan Soto have hung over the meetings, although Hazen said he didn’t buy that one player is holding up the entire market.

Hazen sees more teams with expectations to win next season, creating a competitive environment he feels is good for the sport but makes completing deals tricky. But the slow moving market means there are still plenty of names available for Arizona’s different needs, such as a starting pitcher and middle-of-the-order bat.

“It’ll probably spread the players out a little bit more, that probably benefits us,” Hazen said. “If we’re in a fairly flat environment, I think that’s our best opportunity to have things like our coaching and our young player performance and improvements mattering that much more during the regular season and into the playoffs.”

Diamondbacks offseason needs

As for specifics with Arizona’s roster, Hazen said he’s looking for the best available starting pitchers, not necessarily focused on handedness.

Arizona has three projected starters set for next season who are all righties: Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt. Ryne Nelson, Bryce Jarvis and Slade Cecconi are in the mix and also throw right-handed, while Tommy Henry and Blake Walston are southpaws.

As for bats, the D-backs are more open to a full-time designated hitter after filling third base.

“Obviously, it’ll depend on the actual person we were to sign,” Hazen said. “We have maybe two moves but probably one bullet to fire given what we have to think about with pitching. … Where that comes at this point, we don’t really care, which I think is good.

“In the past, we haven’t had the flexibility to say that, we would have been steering to a left fielder and having to use the DH spot to move guys around or create the platoon at third base we have been doing … Now that we have third base settled, it helps us to be able to say we can take the best hitter available, the guy who is gonna sit in the middle of our lineup, hopefully, and whatever position he plays is fine.”

Designated hitter types on the free agent market include J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner, while power-hitting outfielders Jorge Soler and Teoscar Hernandez fit the mold, as well. There is also the option of trying to bring back either Tommy Pham or Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Arizona’s outfield is left-handed heavy with Corbin Carroll, Jake McCarthy, Alek Thomas and Dominic Fletcher.

The winter meetings in Nashville near their end, and there are a lot of moves to fit into the final two-plus months before spring training.

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